Developed by
Dr. Judith M. Newman

English Quarterly


Eunice Saito

We beckon a throng of eager students
To work and frolic in our seas.
Mindful of our duties:
Cover content
Teach facts
Raise test scores
Condition youngsters
to play the game of school.
Some wade in cautiously;
Others freestyle, butterfly,
Surf, or boogie-board-
All in their own special way.
They take the plunge,
Expecting to share, explore, journey
To learn who they are;
To be valued as people first
And students second;
To be treated as wholes
But know they are part
Of a bigger whole.
They come as marvels
As teachers, too,
For they have swum other waters.
Many struggle to elude
Denizens of the deep:
Custody battles

A few unlucky ones
Are snatched from the waves.
Many escape unscathed;
Others endure, though deeply scarred.
We entice them into our ocean with:
Unending reefs of tests,
Fast-forgotten and dismissed.
Sunken textbooks that speak not
To their cares or curiosity.
Pelting sprays of questions
Posed by strangers in books.
Rigid swells of desks
Never changing shape or direction
Loud silence, lest we be accused
Of letting chaos reign.
Prohibitions against seeking peers
For help and answers.
Pounding litanies of lectures
Crashing upon deaf ears
Breeding submission and passivity.
Heads submerged in grueling worksheets
Suffocating and keeping them in check.
Cold chambers isolating
The "can"s from the "cannot"s,
Rippling proclamations of what they cannot do
Instead of celebrations of what they can.
Turbulent tyranny over choice.
No calm in which to make mistakes.
Whitecapped bits of facts
Disjointed and unconnected
To the world onshore.
Whirlpools swirling prisoners
Into four-walled caves-
Small kingdoms ruled
By Knowledge Givers.
Our animated voices and gestures
Coax these willing swimmers
To venture into this wondrous world.
While we struggle passionately to keep them afloat-
We are the hazardous riptides.

Eunice Saito teaches for Hawaii District, Hilo, Hawaii.

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