Daily Post / On Writing / Poetry / The English Teacher

What Did I Miss?

On this late Wednesday evening, I have been absent from a high school classroom for three days. I resigned at the end of November, choosing not to return for the start of 2013, or as teachers mark time, the second half of the year. Waking up leisurely and lingering over coffee in a quiet, restful house, puttering about in jammies for longer than I should admit — it’s like summer break, but in January. Odd. And oddly exhilarating. But something’s missing. Books, conversation, drafting and revising, finding something new in the great old literature, and discovering old ideas in the brand new offerings — well, it’s been my life for so long now, that re-shaping my days to fit a new me will take some time.

So, while I wait, wondering and searching for ‘what’s next,’ I am going to walk into a new classroom on Monday morning. A university setting this time. Students just a bit older than my previous lot. Maybe a bit sharper, maybe a bit duller, maybe just the same as students anywhere, any time. Some eager, some disdainful, some filled with ideas, and some uncertain what they should think. Writers. Readers. Thinkers. Some who will ask, when they weren’t paying attention, when they weren’t in the classroom…

Did I Miss Anything?

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here

we sat with our hands folded on our desks

in silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth

40 percent of the grade for this term

and assigned some reading due today

on which I’m about to hand out a quiz

worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course

has value or meaning

Take as many days off as you like:

any activities we undertake as a class

I assure you will not matter either to you or me

and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time

a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel

or other heavenly being appeared

and revealed to us what each woman or man must do

to attain divine wisdom in this life and

the hereafter

This is the last time the class will meet

before we disperse to bring the good news to all people

on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present

how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom

is a microcosm of human experience

assembled for you to query and examine and ponder

This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

gathered

but it was one place

And you weren’t here

From Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993, 1993 Harbour Publishing Copyright 1993 Tom Wayman.  All rights reserved.

I can hardly wait to share this poem on Monday. In a gathering place called a classroom, where learning might just break out.  I’d hate to miss it.

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