Teaching Adolescents




Can I recall my dullness, my indifference, my distractions

When I was fifteen? Of course there were classes where

I slept even though I thought my neck erect when suddenly

My name was called and I stood up as if pushed up by a spring.


Miss Ford, five feet tall in a form fitting print dress, sang to me,

“Thirty Years War, Ronald” and she expected me to explain it

As I rocked on my thin-soled shoes. Of course before I was

Plunged into the seventeenth century, I had been dreaming.


When I began teaching adolescents, I can recall their dullness

As they sat splayed-footed, sleepy eyed, and almost indifferent

To the sounds of poems being played on old fashioned records.


There were students, though, students who could twist away

All my established prejudices; create totally new ways of seeing;

Bring up questions never before considered; letting me into their world.




Now, I grow old and I still wear tight stockings above shiny oxfords.

My coat, tie, shirt, and slacks all trim and color coded. But my facial

Skin sags and my eyes have taken on an adolescent indifference

As I know the culture drifts toward short hand speech. A mere code--


Imageless, tokens, fragments, sound-bytes, a rap wound tight with anger.

Reading essays, having to read anything seems to make students sleepy

And no longer interested in sharing deeply understood meanings. Rather,

A pretense of having read the assignments tumbles out in run-on sentences.


I have become excited about leaving the campus and reaching my kitchen

Where I can flog vegetables and olive oil while I soothe my soul with wine.

No regrets because I have experienced great joys of teaching and learning.


I guess I have become a classic case of a burned out teacher who no longer

Appreciates the students’ struggles which moved my skills in the past. No

Comprehension of how loose and marginally coherent media can replace words.



                                                                                                  Ron Ballard