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Photo courtesy of 

Ian Panelo

Poetry

Lessons I Did Not Teach You 

 

I did not teach you to be a parent, 

yet you will find yourself caring

so deeply for the children 

who sit in front of you 

on the multi-colored carpet 

that it will frighten you.

You will come to love them,

as if they came from your own body.

You will not be able to help it.

 

I did not teach you to be a counselor,

yet you will find yourself

listening to Laura from 5th period

because you are the one adult she trusts.

Unable to comfort her and

unable to advise her, 

you will hold in silent, angry tears

reduced to bearing witness,

and shouldering her grief 

as if it were you own. 

 

I did not teach you to be an advocate,

yet you will find yourself fighting

to secure services for your students.

Like Ysidro, whose parents don’t speak English.

You will help him navigate a winding labyrinth.

You will rage with him,

in defiance of a broken system

that demands a 15-year-old child

serve as a translator for his parents

at his own IEP meeting.

 

I did not teach you to be a soldier,

yet you may find yourself 

crouched in a supply closet,

holding the doorknob shut,

as tightly as you can.

All the while, 

brushing away tears,

and singing softly, 

to the fourteen first graders

cowering behind you.

 

These are lessons I did not teach you. 

But, hear me now.

 

To be a teacher is to live all these lives.

To give, to serve, and to love 

unflinchingly

with your heart outside your body

both depleted and made whole again

by the burnishing practice 

of empathy and care.

 

By Katharine Covino

Katharine Covino is an assistant professor of English who teaches writing, literature, and teacher-preparation classes at Fitchburg State University.  Prior to university-level teaching, she taught middle school and high school in Austin, Texas.  She is also a children’s book author.  Her latest book, The Insanely Awesome Pandemic Playbook: A Humorous Mental Health Guide For Kids, seeks to support children (and their families) in understanding, processing, and addressing the challenges they are facing due to the pandemic in a funny, accessible, and kid-friendly way.  The book is available on Amazon and at www.insanelyawesomebooks.com