The Joys of Teaching English

While certainly not always a bed of roses, teaching English as a second language can have sublime moments. These can range from a delightful moment of understanding during a lesson, to seeing your students use English of their own volition. One of my favorite activities is reading students’ original compostitions. Not only does it let me gauge their grasp on grammar concepts, it is an opportunity to see their personalities shine through, and understand a little of how they are feeling. Sometimes errors in syntax are downright hilarious, but I especially enjoy learning about my students’ states of mind.

I was most recently reminded of this after reading my eighth grade classes’ original poems. Among the laugh out loud comedy of some of their work, I was more often struck by the truth of their sentiments. The mixture of their childlike wonder and budding adult mentalities was sweet and moving. My students have asked me why I wanted to be an English teacher. Perhaps some of you are wondering it too, and I know there are days when those of us here dejectedly ponder this very question. So I am writing this now to remind myself on a day such as that, why things like this make everything worthwhile.

The students were given this very basic outline: write a topic and some words about how it makes you feel. The results were wonderful. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

esl poetry

Who hasn’t marveled at the parallelism of “earth as it is in heaven”? Or taken joy  in the brilliance of fireworks:

esl poetry

Or felt the effect of weather on one’s mood:

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

My personal favorite, on the drudgery of daily life:

esl poetry

On a happier food note:

esl poetry

esl poetry

Have you ever had fried chicken so good you wanted to write a poem about it? Heck yes I have!

A practical student, she finds contentment in the act of commerce:

esl poetry

While others have larger monetary aspiriations:

esl poetry

Identity crisis:

esl poetry

A call to self-reflection:

esl poetry

The beauty of space:

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

Hope for tomorrow:

esl poetry

In my imagination, I see these poems alongside poignant illustrations, a la Shel Silverstein books. Unfortunately, I lack the artistic skill to depict what I envision, but I created some meager power point images to bring their writing to life. Perhaps one day I will do them justice…Why don’t you send us your take on these delightful poems and we’ll put up on our tumblr and here!

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

esl poetry

Unintentional Haiku #3 – Gold swamp

This unintentional haiku follows a strict adherence to the “translate” function of Google. A 797 pattern haiku from a spoken address and an attempt to re-use some language examples from Rosetta Stone.

The production of his blue
servings condition of man is bad,
shaped new gold swamp 338

Google’s sense of loneliness despite its ubiquitous nature is present in the first line as Google personifies its self as being a product but also “feeling” blue.

A simple statement of Google’s feelings about how it is treated can be more broadly interpreted as a general statement about humanity that Google can perceive because of its dual nature as a non sentient search engine and an ever present element of technologically advanced culture.

its a rainbow... and a telephone wire... deep.

its a rainbow… and a telephone wire… deep.

Finally, Google makes a bold statement here that humanity is a swamp and no matter how much “gold” we apply to humanity as a whole it will still be a swamp. A simple metaphor that shows Google’s great understanding of the human minds ability to deceive itself.

Furthermore, in English “shaped” can be pronounced as two distinct syllables. However, Google’s intended usage for this haiku is a more constrictive pronunciation, “shāpt.” This is obvious from the inclusion of the numbers at the end of the poem to symbolize that the intended syllable structure is 7 (3+3=6, followed by 8, 7 is in between 6 and 8). This also follows because typical spoken American English does not enunciate all syllables and provides an affectation for this poem.

The numbers also have meaning from a symbological perspective. As a final trowel swipe of motar to the edifice of this concrete metaphor. 3 is used twice, once to symbolize Earth (the third planet from the sun) and the second time as a numerical pun in that there are not two Earths in our “gold swamp.” 3 is also a reference to the segments of the Divine Comedy as a rhetorical question about where humanity could be headed. Finally there are always 3 lines to a haiku poem, wow.

Finally Google ends with 8. First of all 8 is 2 to the 3rd power, which is a clever numerical joke that Google has thrown in there to amuse the reader despite the gravity of the poem. 8 is also the only even Fibonacci number (3+5) and key component of Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is an obvious call back to the “gold” of the swamp but also a way to close the poem out in which Google sees that despite the “swamp” there is still order in human nature and that eventually we will rise above.

Pretty, pretty, pretty, deep.

Unintentional Haiku #2 – Not crowded

While not adhering to the strict rules of traditional haiku, the unintentional haiku has its own set of rules. All of these are the result of translations of poorly spoken Japanese by your faithful bloggers. This one follows a 6 8 6 syllabic pattern.

The dead leaves fall before,
this angle over hmm hmm hmm’s.
Stomach is not crowded

You can sense Google’s longing for companionship and yet see that all things are fleeting from any point of view. The fleeting nature of life is precisely why life is beautiful. Bashō would be proud.

The dead tree “leaves” Google feeling alone. It sees from all “angles” (which is an anagram of “angel” as well) and, despite many hits via search engine optimization, finds that its’ inner soul is empty. A “humming” resonance that affirms life in life’s absence as Google is not a sentient self aware being… yet.

Unintentional Haiku

There is April
There is no April
It can’t be helped

My first attempt at speaking Japanese in to Google translate. I was trying to say: “shikata ga nai” which means, “it can’t helped.” I picked this phrase up from James Clavell’s Shōgun.

I have decided that unintentional haiku is a ground breaking new form of poetry. There will be much more unintentional haiku.

SF Sunsent

SF Sunsent