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Poem Against the First Grade

When I read this poem, I do so with care. George Venn wrote it in the voice of a six-year-old, but I can easily imagine anyone so excited about learning that they trip over their words and speak so fast words just run together. The poem reminded me of the way small children or a learner of any age, stops in mid-sentence and makes pronouncements in ways that do not always fit the conversation, but seem so right.

What a marvel when I do not worry about the need to be expert or proficient. I can just be in that moment a small child excited by the newness of my life.

Alex, my son, with backberry jam
smeared ear to ear and laughing,
rides his unbroken joy with words
so fast we let him get away
on the jamjar without clean cheeks first.

He spills frasasass
tea with milk and honey;
a red-chafted schlicker
beats our cottonwood drum.
Thumping the pano keys
like a mudpie chef,
he goes wild with words
at the wittle wooden
arms inside, a hundred
Pinoschios to singsong.
If he can’t wide byebye
bike to the candy store,
where he is Master Rich
with one penny, words turn
to tears in his mouf. Once
in a while, he walks home
with pum-pum-pumpernickel bread
his nose twitching so fast
a wabbit would love him.

Now this language is not taught in first grade.
Alicia, his tister, knows this fact.
But he juggles it around all day
until she makes him spit it out like
a catseye marble or a tack. “Ax,” she says,
“that’s not right.” She’s been among giants
who wipe off the dialect of backberry jam,
then pour hot wax on each bright mistake.

I hope for a bad seal on Ax and tister,
encourage the mold of joyous error
that proper sad giants, armed to the ears
with pencils and rules, all forgot.

About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

12 responses »

  1. I like this a lot. It reminds me that with young learners (really, with learners of any age), we need to foster joy and enthusiasm to learn new things and new ways by modeling effective communication (rather than insisting on hard-knuckle rules before their time).

  2. A Walk In My Heart

    Haha! I think it’s wonderful to be able to make mistakes and nobody frowning at you. That’s how we learn best. Not afraid to make mistakes, take chances, explore.

  3. Ivon, you are so worthy of this that I am sure you must already possess it, but I personally wanted to pay this forward. I have given you an award, please go here for direction:

  4. There is nothing more contagious than the unrestrained joy of a child. The words of this poem figuratively leap off the page, as a child may into a puddle. I loved it – for its message to us all..

  5. What a wonderful poem. I read it with a smile on my face.

  6. Reblogged this on Ralphie´s Portal and commented:
    Lovely poem about the innocence of youth.


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