On Teaching and Learning

How is English best taught and learned?

It is facets of this question which are addressed in the lively, illuminating vignettes Saturday Kids (Leah Ann Sullivan) and Language Encounters in Three Movements (Eimile Máiréad Green). These are bracketed around a haiku by Kelly Quinn which throws their answers into sharp relief.

Saturday Kids
(for Yoshiko Shimoto)

Saturday class, three boys with chopsticks
in their teeth map diagonals across the floor.
Not a tango dancer’s long-stemmed rose
nor a school of porpoises yelping for smelt
right, right, right chants slap concrete hard
clang on the rebound. Not a gas station
attendant’s Aw-right, Aw-right, Aw-right
coaxing a car onto the highway. They praise
a word beginning with the English ‘R’
to discern right from light. One soloist sounds it
out the door, telling it right, right through his
newly-shaped smile. Last week in a bar
a thirty-something man recalled English class
turn right, turn right, turn right, repeat. Okay,
we got it, sensei. So, where do we go next?


blackboard and white chalk

square sunlight on grammar books

students’ drooping eyes



Language Encounters in Three Movements

I.  First  Movement – In  the  Halls
I  come  down.
He  goes  up.
Every  morning
A  stairway  exchange.
Every  morning
An  opportunity.
How  are  you?
Hangin’  in  there.
I’m  draggin’.newexpression
Stressed  out.
Freakin’  out.
No  complaints.
All  good.
Every  morning
A  colloquial conquest.
Every  morning.
He  grows.
A  new  expression.
The  latest  fashion.
He  tries  it  on  for  size.

II.  Second  Movement – Before  Class
That’s  how  you  name  it.
This  delicate  thing.
21  strings.
We  watch  as  her  lithe  fingers

Hawksbill  shell.
That’s  how  she  does  it.
And  when  the  sounds  surcease,
When  she  caresses  the  fingertips,
Hardened  by  dedication,
Callus,  I  say.
Callus,  she  repeats.
I  spell  it.
She  writes  it.
We  smile.
That’s  how  you  name  it.

III.  Third  Movement – Class  Time
You  could  define  it.
Golden  sponge  cake.
Creamy  filling.
Packaged  in  pairs.twinkie
Hostess  with  a  heart.
And  that’s  okay.
They’ll  nod  their  heads.
Write  it  down.
Type  it  up.
File  it  away
For  another  day.
But  really
They  need  to  taste  it.

For the spring 2014 issue contents page for poetry, click here.

For a humorous take on humanist methodology read Taylor Mignon’s Haiku, Hacky Sack and Flux Synesthesia here.

For poetryOn Teacherssee the fall 2014 issue.