Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

“TO BE A TEACHER”–poem by Erwin A. Thompson

Author Erwin A. ThompsonMy wife Ruth Thompson taught in the grade school classroom for thirty-two years. Our son Gary Thompson and daughter Julia Thompson both were awarded "Teacher of the Year" the same year in totally different settings. Our younger daughter Janet Riehl taught English as a Second Language and literature, set up a sewing center, trained Popular Theater community development workers and designed literacy curricula in Africa during her five years there. I taught basic Infantry training during World War II. One of my men that I trained met me later and said: "Sergeant, I am alive today, because of the things you made me learn!"

Teaching can be very rewarding. Even after twenty years of retirement we had ex-students come up to Ruth and say how much they appreciated the help that she gave them. The verse below is not to discourage future teachers, but to point out the expectations and some of the hazards. --Erwin A. Thompson


So you want to be a teacher--
Let's sit and talk a little while.
It's not as easy as it used to be.
You've got to "keep your cool,"
And always wear a smile.

You've heard of Solomon, I'm sure,
Somewhere along the way;
You'd better study his technique,
And don't forget to pray!

And "Job" (Long "O"), whose patience was severely tried
Should be your mentor every day.
You'll have new chapters for the book,
And don't forget to pray!

Oops, I forgot!
Separation of the Church and State.
God didn't make the world,
It just happened,
No one knows just how.

Ann Landers at your finger tips,
The social graces to endow
Into the little rascals' thoughts and deeds
Nobody knows just how.

The standard tests are vicious things,
Designed to chart the knowledge flow.
They've got to "do good on the test!"
No matter what they really know.

It's against the law to spank them, now,
To keep them on the beam.
And, Goodness! Never scold them.
You'll spoil their self esteem!

It's your responsibility ---
Before this world they roam
To teach these little rascals
The things they should have learned at home!

This is what it's all about,
When you walk through that classroom door.
Think about it for awhile, and then come back
And we will talk some more.

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6 Responses »

  1. My parents were teachers. My uncles were mostly teachers and preachers. At an early age, I resolved not to be a teacher. Of course, I married a teacher, and then many of our friends were teachers, Finally, my path led to training police officers and conducting seminars, based on my research.

    Although I was conscientious, I don't think I was a great or inspired
    teacher, just wasn't my calling.

    I like the truth of your poem.

  2. Looks like it was nailed on the head, what it means to be a teacher. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Very well written. It is the toughest job--outside of wife and mother--that I have ever loved.


  4. I like your poetry, written from the heart, .and from the horses mouth with God help When I also, feel your flow onto paper from your thoughts. They immerge very real, and special.

  5. That's very wise and mature. Yes, indeed teaching is a noble profession. I particularly like these lines:

    The standard tests are vicious things,
    Designed to chart the knowledge flow.
    They’ve got to “do good on the test!”
    No matter what they really know.

    They tersely summarize the prevailing trends in education that need to be changed for better.

  6. This is great (and so true). I taught junior high school math for five years outside of Philadelphia from 1966 to 1971 (before I went to law school) and it was the hardest job I have ever had.


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