A Teacher's Poem
by Lisa Lauritzen


as appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES, September 9, 1997


	I am a New York City public high school teacher
	Do not look surprised.
	Do not feel sorry for me.
	Do not pity me.
	Do not offer me your condolences.
	Do not pat me on the back, shake my hand,
	Cross yourself or speak of my bravery.
	Do not ask me if I receive combat pay 
	Or wear a bulletproof vest.
	Do not ask me when I plan to get a real job, 
	Apply to law school, 
	Or what my first career choice was.  
	Do not assume my head is in the clouds
	And I have no grasp on reality.
	Do not sympathize, empathize, 
	Or tell me about the job opening in your cousin's business.
	Do not suggest that I join the Peace Corps.
	Do not ask if my parents were teachers.
	Do not ask if my parents were hippies.
	Do not assume that I am a saint, naive, innocent, 
	Searching for my childhood, 
	Living for summers off, 
	Home by 2:15, 
	Use a red pen,
	Play the Lotto,
	Wish for the glory days of the past
	Or would rather teach in the suburbs where I could *really* 
		teach.
	
	I am a New York City public high school teacher
	Ask me why I chose to be a teacher.
	Ask me if my students have books, supplies, and chairs.
	Ask me my opinion of Giuliani, Pataki, and Crew. (#)
	Reminisce with me about your favorite teachers, 
	Share with me the qualities that made them admirable.
	Tell me about your favorite projects and trips.
	Ask me what my students are working on now.
	Gasp when I say how many students are in each of my classes.
	Gasp when I say how many I see in a week.
	Cry with me about Marc sleeping in the subway, 
	Simone losing her father,
	Maria thinking she's pregnant,
	And Rick dropping out of school.
	Laugh with me about Kenny (caught in the act) insisting it 
		was the "Stalin in him,"
	My classroom being toilet papered,
	And the Great All-Out-Classroom Trash Throwing War of '94
	(fought just to get Sharon to smile on the last day of school)
	Marvel with me over my students' intelligence
	Achievements, diligence, creativity, and strength.
	Cheer with me as they write their college essays and take their S.A.T.'s.
	Soar with me as they get their college acceptance letters.
	Ask me how to create a scholarship, 
	Ask me how to volunteer,
	Ask me about the qualities needed to become
	A New York City public high school teacher.

NOTE: (#) Rudy Giuliani is the mayor of NYC, George Pataki is the governor of NY State, and Rudy Crew is the NYC Schools Chancellor.



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