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One Writer's Ravings:
A Logophile's Blog
for Language Lovers

Ode to the English Teacher

About ten years ago my colleague in verbivoracity, Richard Lederer, and I were invited to speak together at the annual convention of the California Teachers of English (CATE), held that year in Ontario, CA. Because I fancy myself something of an occasional poet, for the occasion I took the liberty of composing the following bit of doggerel, which Richard and I delivered as a kind of panegyrical pep talk to the tired and underpaid masses of English teachers who were huddled in attendance, yearning for a few freebies for their swag bags.

Ode to the English Teacher

The English teacher’s lot is hard.
Who else will make us read the Bard?
You teach our young minds how to praise
Those wondrous words from olden days.

To be a first-rate English teacher,
You need the zeal of a preacher.
You need some talent as an actor;
You need to be a keen redactor.

English teachers worth their salt
Do not object to finding fault.
You say, “Reorganize, rephrase—
And then your work will earn my praise.”

Diction, syntax, parts of speech;
Some days it all seems out of reach.
Composition, plot, and theme:
It sometimes makes you want to scream.

No one cares about good books;
Parents give you dirty looks;
Students in a sullen daze—
Teachers, you deserve a raise!

Language changes, that we know.
Some words will stay and some will go.
We know you can, and yes, you may,
Defend the distinction between lie and lay.

O English teachers, hear our plea.
Please teach that it’s “for you and me.”
We verbivores can only sigh
When people say “for you and I.”

Don’t teach us that a preposition
Can’t have a terminal position.
Don’t shun infinitives that split:
You know that rule is full of [bleep!]

O English teachers of our land,
You help the hapless understand.
You are for all a guiding light,
Away from error, toward what’s right.

O English teachers of our land,
You hold our future in your hand.
Your gift is like the gift of sight;
You teach us how to read and write.

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Copyright © 2001 by Charles Harrington Elster.
All rights reserved.
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