by Laura Schoffman

Once upon a midnight weary, as I pondered over dreary
Compositions -- quaintly written, oddly spelled, mistakes galore,
As my pen red ink was spilling, deep my heart with ire was filling
Over all that futile drilling, drilling that was such a bore.
Though the pupils seemed so willing, yet they found it such a bore:
                                                  Only that and nothing more.

Oh, distinctly I remember how I started in September,
And each "tabula rasa"-ed member of the fifth grade passed the door.
As I nodded, sweetly smiling, at the children, gaily filing,
Came the thought, my mind beguiling, that I'd been through this before.
At the start of every school year I have gone through this before:
                                                  Not just this, but plenty more.

I'd do careful preparation based on deep determination
Not to let one word of Hebrew cross my lips! An oath I swore.
Every picture I would measure by its usefulness. I'd treasure
Not the ones that gave me pleasure, but the ones that meaning bore:
That precise, explicit, limited, semantic meaning bore:
                                                  One idea and nothing more.

Since I staunchly spurned translations for creating situations,
All my thespian aspirations were quite soon brought to the fore.
Soon I found that every lesson was a sort of charade session,
Though it made quite an impression when I writhed upon the floor,
Clearly demonstrating concepts as I writhed upon the floor.
                                                  I don't do it any more.

I attended summer courses to repair my frazzled forces
And to drink at purer sources -- new horizons to explore.
There I learned the works of Skinner. I was sure it was a winner,
And began, repentant sinner, all my doings to deplore,
And my poor attempts at teaching words with meaning to deplore:
                                                  Mimic drill forever more.

Came new methods fast and furious, and I still was rather curious.
After all, it's not injurious: knowledge opens every door.
Ranks and scales of categories, Chomsky's generative forays,
Phonological stress glories -- will they bring us to the core?
Floundering in deep structures' treetops -- will we ever find the core?
                                                  Though we delve, there's always more.

So we sit, correcting papers, while the linguists cut their capers,
And we search with lighted tapers, and the children pass that door...
Chase the blue bird inspiration! Use your pupils' motivation!
Will we get communication here, or on that farther shore?
Will our pupils know their English? It is now or nevermore!
                                                  We can try, and nothing more.