Bladder by the Bell

 

In the late 1980s my Illinois Writing Project training changed my approach to teaching writing forever. A writing workshop approach with portfolio grading displaced my traditional rote lessons, and I wrote and shared alongside my students.

Midway through the 1989-1990 school year, my frustration over a life led by bells produced the following poem.

 

 

Once again my writing revealed truth I had ignored. I hated the rigid structure of school and its command of my life. One semester my lunch period might start at 10:30 am, a plausible enough fit with a 5:30 am breakfast. Another semester, though, might make me sit until after 1 pm, forcing me to sneak a snack in during passing time. And come the end of school in late June, I often forgot to take bathroom breaks until urgency commanded them, so accustomed was I to my dependence on bells.

 

I see the humor in all this; I even saw it then. But one of the great joys of retirement is liberation from this tyranny. The first few years I refused even to wear a watch. Our system of scheduling learning in the public schools serves the masters of efficiency and uniformity, but it can be “cruel and unusual punishment” for those forced to partake in it.

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