Maybe This Time

From Enough for a Book, published in 2016.

Maybe This Time

I listen to
the stumbling efforts
of a little girl
refusing to read.
nonexistent in her voice.
Every word an enemy.
She has already decided.
Fighting every single step of the way
down the page.
No tutor is going to make a difference.
You can say and I have tried
more patience
a different approach
You can say
she is afraid of failing
what a harsh dismissal of a child so young
I hear a child who has decided
no amount of showing her the door
will stop her from choosing to walk through the wall
and I can’t do anything about that.
We turn to a new page and start again.


19 thoughts on “Maybe This Time

  1. Oh, my! This brings back memories of what I experienced as a teacher. So many struggling and resistant readers. Finding that “different approach” and easing their fear was not easy. It was so worth the persistence and effort, to get to that day when the words were no longer “enemies”. I can still see how their whole face would light up as the words just flowed.

    • I wrote this poem, I remember, in the library, and this child was near my table – going to the library as much as I do I often see kids getting help with their reading. I feel for them. Reading came very easily to me and I read several books a week, if not almost one a day, but I know it is not like this for everyone, and I am sorry, because to me, reading has been a great love of my life. It reminds of when I was a swim team coach and there were some kids who no matter what had decided they could not do this event or that one, or this stroke or that one, and no amount of coaching would help, they needed to find a reason in themselves to want it, and it was my job to help them get to that. I know what you mean how it feels when that breakthrough is made.

  2. I don’t remember a light bulb going on, when I was able to read. What I do know is once I did there was no stopping me. Also a book a day girl, easily. Luckily the school I attended had a library! That said, I can’t help liking the stubbornness of walking through a wall rather than through a door, as described above. There’s a will there that may need nurturing. Easy for me to say, I’m not a teacher.

    • I think in teaching, it only works if the student wants to find the door (a door, whatever door) to the knowledge or whatever. But, so often, it’s not as simple as that, so many other things get involved (such as what if our schools didn’t have libraries for us to feed this book love on? Or if we got laughed at because we wanted to learn in a different way – I remember this problem myself…) This poem has made me think again about teaching that I have done over the years.

  3. Ah yes. I have observed and even participated in such a scene. I was an early reader and a committed and enthusiastic one. It was, therefore, a source of befuddlement for me when my kids struggled with reading either because the mechanics of doing so took a while to click or else they lacked enthusiasm. I wondered who these alien beings were who had landed in my world because their father and I are such bookworms. They did always enjoy being read to and listened to audiobooks in bed so they were accessing books that way and that gave me hope that they would find their way to bookwormhood at some stage. It has not quite happened yet, in that they certainly don’t have the passion for reading that we possess, but I find they go through phases of gobbling up books – usually in a series – or having to be forced to read (my rule is 30 minutes per day).

    • There are so many factors that go into reading – such as eyesight, or dyslexia, or being a person who focuses in short bursts – I feel lucky it all worked out for me to like reading so much, as I am sure that my view of the world would be so severely limited if I didn’t.

  4. It’s interesting that both my daughters said that with computer languages, either you got it or you didn’t, and no amount of “trying” would help those who didn’t. Something has to click. I suspect math and reading may be similar. Perhaps there is a method to unlock that door, but the key has not yet been discovered. Our method of education sets children up to feel like failures too. That could definitely be changed. (K)

    • Reading and speaking are so different and yet people tend to think, oh, you speak, what is the trouble with turning that into symbols and comprehending them at the speed of speech? I remember being taught phonics in 2nd grade, which made no sense to me, anyone could see the words didn’t follow the rules, so I pretended, filled out my workbook, and got back to reading.

        • When I took Spanish, I loved the parts of speech. I just loved making the parts fit together. I guess because that was how I was able to get a grip on it, as a system.

    • I see many children receiving tutoring in the library and working hard but for some reason it’s not getting through to them, or they dislike the lessons, or maybe even the tutor. I feel for them and if I am teaching a class myself, I try hard to figure out what will be the key to unlock the door to knowledge. I like the first line especially – “shut all her sense doors”, because that is what a teacher needs to do, open those doors or help the student to do it herself.

      • Yes, Claudia, it’s a tough task to break barrier. I have published our interaction in my blog, hopefully to draw some contribution or thinking.

  5. Claudia, thanks for the feedback. Here is my response in another tanka:

    find key to unlock
    the fit outside your tool box
    sharpen old teeth grove
    lubricate cut and friction
    programme need patience and love

    • I love this. It reminds me of many art and craft mediums where it takes time and patience to come out with something useful or beautiful or both, and the right tools make all the difference, as well care for the materials. The same with people. Patience and love, as you say. I have copied down your poems and will work on replies tomorrow on Poetry marathon day. And as always, I am honored that you find something of inspiration in my words. Thank you.

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