Note to the Teacher on the First Day of School - National Council of Teachers of English
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Note to the Teacher on the First Day of School


I have been a teacher for over 23 years. I have been a mom for almost 20 years. At this point, those two personas are completely intertwined, which I think explains why the following poem resonated with me.

“Note to the Teacher on the First Day of School” was written by Sherron Killingsworth Roberts and published in Language Arts, Vol. 76, No.1, September 1998. In this poem, written from the perspective of a parent, Roberts asks us to consider complex questions of attentiveness and care as we welcome children back to school.

What a source of worry you are,
Unknown entity and guardian of my child’s questions.

Parents leaping puddles and snatching hugs
There is only time for sparse introductions and feigned delights, as
We hand over our treasure.

We calculate your moves and each word you use,
While we try to make you ours, you study the line.

“Children, line up,” your voice sings.
a dilemma begins at the back of the line unnoticed.

“Children, line up.”
only three words to analyze.

“Children, line up.”
the dilemma persists.
shall the child stand in a mud puddle
to ensure the straightness of the line?

And I leave, as the children file in
Their sincere line as beautifully straight as can be.
Wide-eyed, eager and worried to please.
Straight as an arrow!
I leave

worried about the importance of the line.