A Poem about ‘Underperforming’ Schools, about Turning Around & Turning Out

by Bill Schechter

They say that the tests scores are too low,
Did they mention my students are hungry?
that the school is underperforming and must be
Did they say many have no fathers at home.

“turned around,” that all the teachers must be
that few parents will attend
turned out, fired, or reapply, though
Open School Night because of that
only some will be rehired. Administrators
second job, or no job, and that
who have long forgotten what a
our phone calls rarely get answered? Oh,
classroom looks like say we teachers
did the President happen to mention the drugs,
do not care enough (that I did not care),
the poverty, the gangs, the 25 students murdered

that we whine and make excuses, because
in Chicago this year? Did

we are in it only for the money,
someone perchance recall we didn’t just stay

or that we are incompetent. Some
for a year or two to burnish our resumes for Wall

even call us racists and union hacks,
Street, but made a commitment to kids, to classrooms,

and so good riddance to bad rubbish. And
in fact pledged our lives to them, for whom we
they claim Charters can do a better job, without
stole time from our own families, long evenings,
bothersome unions and crazy pay scales,
grading, preparing, plotting that they too might hope,

that test prep can better proceed unimpeded, when all
dream, smile, eat, learn, whom we not only tested

members of the “team” are stuck on the same
but hugged, or provided a shoulder to cry

dreary page, paid piecemeal, per test score, to
on (as required) or loaned money to, or went over an

facilitate (what’s called) “accountability,” so that the
assignment –was it for the 5th time?– because of illness, or absence or
kids don’t get sidetracked by music-art-drama-
language, or no textbook, or…or… or. Did
field trips-laughter or creative lessons
that phantom principal, office-dwelling total stranger,

that might take too long to think about, and
even know I was proud to be a teacher, that I gave
can even launch unintended flights of fancy,
my all, for 5-10-20-30 years, with no ambition
or burn up way too much time by
beyond these children, no desire to shuffle paper,
requiring actual real-life participation in
to hoard data, no desire to standardize souls,
but only to help children grow, to enlarge spirits,
after all, there is serious business to be done,
stretch minds against all the odds
I mean the business of education,
never mentioned in polite company.
which the businessmen will show us
The bell has rung. School is out.

how to do. So, time now for the new team

We are out.
to get down to the grim
So, tell me,
task at hand.
what’s in?