Behind closed doors

Every month Ethical ELA offers a 5-day “Open Write” for teachers. Various teachers and writers “host” and share one way to write poetry. I often lurk there, but have only written a few times. Today Mo Daley & Tracie McCormick shared the monotetra, a form developed by Michael Walker. When they challenged us to write from headlines and ideas in the news, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

Last night, I lost sleep after reading an article that said “The Ont Ministry of Ed says teachers who stand at the front of the class, keeping two metres away from their students, don’t need PPE.” I kept tossing and turning, trying to figure out how in the world I’m supposed to teach effectively while remaining two metres away from my students. And yes, I know I teach high school, but, no, I don’t stand in front of them and lecture. I literally woke up at 2 in the morning thinking that maybe I could conference from behind a plexiglass screen.

So this morning when I saw the prompt, well, my sleepless night spilled into daytime cynicism. At first, I was horrified that my poem was so DARK. Then I thought, heck, it’s playfully dark – right? At any rate, now I have a great poem to show my students where the speaker of the poem and the author of the poem are not necessarily one and the same. Plus, I can teach them the monotetra and possibly link that to our media studies… but only if I bring my own PPE.

Behind Closed Doors: The Ministry of Education talks about teachers during COVID19

Teachers are a dime a dozen.
They get sick, we bring some more in.
There’s no reason for their dudgeon.
Bring some more in; bring some more in.

Who says they need those PPEs
to keep them safe from this disease?
No teacher gets those guarantees.
They’re employees; they’re employees.

And while we meet safely online,
we’ll tell the teachers they’re “front line”,
that classroom teaching is designed
to help mankind, to help mankind.

Tell them that, though school is scary,
online classes were temporary.
Now we know teachers are very…um
necessary (yes!), necessary.

PPEs are too expensive.
Teachers mustn’t be apprehensive:
If we provide them no defences,
It’s inoffensive; it’s inoffensive.

The parents must return to work 
So we’ll explain that teachers shirk
And PPEs are simply perks
Get back to work! Get back to work!

Convince the parents they’ve been had.
Remind them that the Spring was bad.
You were not scared, you moms and dads.
Not scared, but mad; not scared, but mad.

Workers need to be productive.
Children need to be instructed.
Our plan is purely reconstructive
Don’t obstruct it; don’t obstruct it.

Th’economy must be maintained
We knew those teachers would complain.
Did they expect us to explain?
Their loss; our gain. Their loss; our gain.

And if a few good teachers die?
We’ll sigh on screen, we’ll dab our eye,
Then we will find a new supply.
And who will cry? And who will cry?

Many thanks to for hosting the weekly Slice of Life

20 thoughts on “Behind closed doors

    1. I was *really* nervous to publish it because it’s approximately a million times darker than what I usually write (and at least two or three times darker than what I actually think), but ARGH, I wish *someone* would acknowledge the teachers in all of this.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Priceless! This form surprised me. I’ve been lurking this month but was also moved to try this one. My first (last and only) time to use T’s name in a poem. Argh! Rant on! Rant on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pernille Ripp wrote a great post about how quickly teachers have moved from heroes to lazy villains. It’s as though people have forgotten that we were *all* afraid in the Spring, that everyone was scrambling to get anything done. Sigh. Here’s hoping that elementary schools, at least, stay super-safe.


  2. This poem is chilling. I hope you share it with a broader audience because it’s such a powerful statement. I also loved (maybe that’s the wrong word–I appreciated the dark humor in) the line before your poem: “Plus, I can teach them the monotetra and possibly link that to our media studies… but only if I bring my own PPE.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, Amanda. This is amazing, dark, and scary. I somehow feel like it just sunk in for me (yeah, I’m slow) that I, who have been vigilantly social distancing, am probably going to be back in the classroom and have no control (or limited control) over my exposure. Since March, other than quick trips to a store and a couple of school events, I haven’t been around more than two people who are outside my home “bubble”–and never in a building–and never for more than an hour or two. I’m struggling with this. Thanks for sharing. (I’ve been playing around with the monotetra form, too. It was a great prompt!)


  4. Oh, wow. Chilling, and truthful, and worrisome. Do you mind if I share this to social media? I think your poem would hit home for all of my educator friends. You described the situation so succinctly!!

    Liked by 1 person

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