The Way I Felt

Sometime earlier this year, Glenda Funke (over at Evolving English Teacher) told me about Ethical ELA‘s monthly Open Write. As I recall, she shared this after I admitted to feeling very nervous about poetry – mostly about writing it (I pretty much hate every poem I write) and sometimes about teaching it. May’s 5-day open write started on Monday, and I’ve been tentatively following and occasionally joining. Yesterday’s prompt was called “The Way I Felt” and was based on a poem from Jason Reynolds’ novel-in-verse Long Way Down. I knew right away what I would write about – my husband and I had just come in from a glorious bike ride – but then I didn’t write at all. Poetry does that to me sometimes. Well, poetry and parenting.

Then today, Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, announced that we will not be returning to school before the end of the school year. The announcement wasn’t shocking, but it still sucked the air out of the room when I heard it. I didn’t have lots of time to contemplate what he’d said because I had too much school to work on, but the emotions swirled around me for the rest of the day. And then, yesterday’s prompt came to me, and I wrote.  (And yes, I hate the poem I wrote- I pretty much always do. But I won’t get better if I don’t write and get feedback, and writing it made me pin down a few things – and that’s what writing does.)

The Way I Felt

when they announced today that we will not be going back to school this year
was relieved.

No more waiting
for people who don’t know me
to make a decision about
my life
my family’s life
my students’ lives
my community’s lives.

No more hoping for teaching and learning
that feels familiar
that resembles what we had started
that would be better if we were together.

No need to
send my own children to a place I don’t think is safe
make decisions about my own safety
wonder what will come next.

I sat at my work space in the kitchen
listening to the Premier speak
and my shoulders settled
my eyes fluttered closed
my breath finally filled my lungs
with a calm I had been missing.

The way I felt
when they announced today that we will not be going back to school this year
was heartbroken.

Tears welled up behind my closed eyelids
I drew my breath quickly through my nose
and I pressed my lips together.

My children will not run on the playground at recess
or surreptitiously swap snacks with classmates
or stand in front of their peers to present.
My son will not say goodbye to the school he’s attended
since he was four.

I will not see my students again.

We will not laugh or read or write or share
together in a space that is ours.

I will not see some students again at all
they are not in my class this semester
they will not join an online chat
they will graduate and move on.

Their unknown futures will be far more unknowable than we expected,
and I will not get to wish them well on their journey.

The way I felt
when they announced today that we will not be going back to school this year
was desperate

to remind them – my students, my children, your students, your children –
that though this is different
so different
from what we expected
they can still learn
and grow
and become.
The world is still full of possibility.

The way I felt
when they announced today that we will not be going back to school this year
was.

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14 thoughts on “The Way I Felt

  1. Wonderful Thanks It not only expresses sentiment around teaching but around life in pandemic time

    On Tue, May 19, 2020, 8:58 PM Persistence and Pedagogy wrote:

    > Amanda Potts posted: “Sometime earlier this year, Glenda Funke (over at > Evolving English Teacher) told me about Ethical ELA’s monthly Open Write. > As I recall, she shared this after I admitted to feeling very nervous about > poetry – mostly about writing it (I pretty much hate ev” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been following Ethical ELA and while I really love the amazing prompts, I am intimidated by the group of really good writers. I have posted a few times, and find that the feedback is always positive. People will see something I didn’t see in my own poem. They are kind. I will be writing two of the prompts for June, so I hope you will join again.
    Your poem is so expressive of the whole gamut of feelings around not returning to school. This is our last week and it feels so strange not to be able to say goodbye. I love the hopefulness of your ending, that even though this is different, the world is still full of possibility. I hope you will keep writing poetry.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your poem! I love how you moved from describing the relief to describing the heartbreak. You’ve captured such a range of feelings that probably most of us have felt this spring, and articulated them so well–the poem feels so personal and so universal at the same time. I also liked how the shift from positive feelings to negative feelings included strong descriptions of your body’s reactions to the news–the body experiencing calm being sort of a mirror to the body welling up with tears was such an interesting pivot point in the poem. I think you’re too hard on yourself as a poet!

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  4. I love how you captured your feelings in this poem. I love how you gave space for all the different emotions that this announcement prompted.
    I joined Ethical ELA one month and hope to try again. I can’t let myself read other’s responses before I write or I would never even try.

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  5. Amanda, as I have always said to students who say they can’t write poetry is write your deepest thoughts and let your voice fly. That is what you did today, Amanda. I hope you are feeling accomplished for this insight into who you are are this moment and what you feel. You stripped your soul and provided a doorway to possibility at the end. How wonderful! I found your poem to be told in the voice of a teacher-mother who cares for all.

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  6. I love the repeated lines. The mix of seeming opposite emotions (relieved and heartbroken) are so fitting. We’ve been processing our emotions pre-announcement (a certain 9 year old is really struggling with all of it!) so when it came I was both more ready than expected and more disappointed than expected. She shrugged it off then jumped on the trampoline for 20 minutes alone – relieved and heartbroken at once. I like the Reynold’s-style free verse with structure feel.

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  7. This is such a wonderfully expressed sentiment about the end of this school year. I love your honest and your willingness to share the range of emotions you feel. It’s hard to do that, but wow–this is beautiful. I like the repetition and the way you use it to help us understand how all of those things can be going on at once. Thank you for this.

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