Another First Day – A Poem by Keith Manos

Another First Day

Day one . . . Really? I’m already counting down?

My name on the white board, just like last year,

and the year before that

and all the years before that,

the name drawing annoying attention to itself,

the way a rusty stop sign does to drivers in a hurry,

but there’s protocol to follow in this who-am-I stage of academia.

Of course, I include the pronunciation, the importance of Mister,

an overt demand for respect (because I fear they won’t show it),

before a back-of-the-room voice calls “praying mantis,” an annual joke,

–  and yes, I say, yes, I know, I know, quiet down – my palms facing them,

like I’m a cop directing traffic, praying the laughter stops.

What else to tell them?

Oh, yeah, the rules, definitely The Rules,

because, teachers fear, in the absence of rules is Chaos. So . . .

Arrive on Time.

Talk Only When Permitted.

Raise Your Hand to Speak.

Do Your Homework.

No Late Work is Accepted.

Bring Your Book to Class.

Don’t Distract Others.

Pay Attention.

There Are No Warnings.

I point – The Trash Can is By the Door.

I point again – The Pencil Sharpener is Over There.

I point a third time – Homework Goes in the Bin On My Desk.

I ask, “Are there are any questions?”

A curious voice from the front this time:  “Are you a robot?”

No, I announce, I am the teacher you met last year,

And the year before that and all the years before that.

Like you, I live in this academic world before the world grownups call the real world,

where no one who has ever lived

has your face,

your heart,

your mind,

or your personality.

I point a final time, this time at their open faces, and grin.

Now let’s begin.