Getting to Know Mohammed

Today’s Ethical ELA Open Write prompt by Allison Berryhill is to write a poem about a student. I had a hard time writing today; I have so many students on my mind. I have love and appreciate them all. They’ve been patient with me. I tried lots of poems on, but nothing stuck. Now, finally I decided on a found poem from my journal entries, all these lines were written during the first weeks of school that very first semester. When I started, I had been in this new culture for one week, trying to cope with jet lag and just figuring things out. I started teaching mid-year and was assigned to teach English to kindergarteners, a grade I had never taught before.

January 2014
Getting to know Mohammed R.

Overwhelmed
Wondering if I made a mistake
Lost all my confidence
Out-of-control
Literally running around
Dread coming back
I need to fail forward
Today was better
Snacks in the teacher’s lounge
I don’t know how to eat them
Daily reminders I’m in such
A different place
There are a few moments of hope
each day, but more often just
painful learning events and despair.
Today was different. One class came in
And I almost made it in delighted control.
Learning? Who knows? Manners, yes.
Toilet? Water? Ball? I can’t understand them
when they say these words, and these are some
of the only words they say and know.
My only Arabic is just
the letter ط (tah) and shukran.
I had a dream the students and I were
engaged as a learning community,
it was a powerful gift,
But the gap between what is
and what may be in the future is wide.
Just when I think (knocking on wood)
that the day is going well,
Another class comes in and kicks my butt.
Sweetness—Mohammed R.
wanted to sit by me at recess.
Today was a day of hope—
Al Raja School means school of hope,
but is it really?
Is there hope, Lord?
I actually liked this day.
I was able to read a story and
they all listened,
they seemed to understand.
We went to the zoo today.
Mohammed R. whispered in my ear,
“I know a funny word.”
“Oh, what’s that?” I asked.
“Bananapants!” he laughed.

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