How to Be a Teacher



Catharina Coenen

after How to Be a Poet by Aimee Nezhukumatathil 

and Directions by Billy Collins



Do as you’re told. 

Ask for directions.

On Fridays: Ask again.


  It is hard to speak of the voices of light, easy to miss a sprig of birdsong or the leafy falling of a cone.

  They say no exams? No grading? No class? Watch for sun strobe through columns of trees. Remember, it is their forest. Remember to walk with them as far as the garden, one hand on their shoulder.

  You need to know how, if you leave the path and walk into the woods, you come to a heap of rocks, pushed       down during the horrors of the Ice Age.

  As though your life depended upon it. Hint: It does. Hint: Oceans are rising. Hint: It isn’t you, heading up toward Sheep’s Head Hill, piercing the ground with your stick.


Catharina Coenen is a first-generation German immigrant to northwestern Pennsylvania, where she teaches biology at Allegheny College. Over the past year her essays have appeared in The American Scholar, The Southampton Review Online, Superstition Review, Christian Science Monitor, Appalachian Heritage, Pidgeonholes, Atticus Review, and elsewhere.








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