NO ONE CAN STOP US (a rock anthem call and response)

I’ve read the following (poem? secular liturgy? homage to Springsteen?) in public two different times–once at a gathering of arts educators in Stevens Point, and once at the final Wisconsin Teaching Fellows and Scholars event attended by the UW Colleges shining star in the constellation of the Scholarship of Teaching and learning (we’re all hoping she’ll shine so brightly at Vanderbilt we’ll still be able to poach her light).

It will be the final piece in a chapbook of poems called Each Other’s Anodyne. Since my husband and I are self-publishing it, I can only say that it may well come out in 2012. In that chapbook, I’m trying to represent the full spectrum of what it’s like to teach–the good, the bad, the horribly ugly and the merely pitiful. I have lots of experience with the full range of emotional and spiritual responses to slogging away for 20 years with a four-four teaching load, and I am NOT happy about the current relationship between government and public education. But I wanted to end the collection on a hopeful note because honestly, if I can’t approach this profession hopefully, I think it’s time to move on.

I recommend reading this out loud in a group of teachers.  It feels  really, really good. Maybe especially on a Monday, and definitely as we enter that final push of trying to get a semester delivered.

NO ONE CAN STOP US (a rock anthem call and response)

When the quiet student
In the back row asks a question,
And it’s a good question,
A really good one,
And another student answers
With evidence and insight,
String that bead on your rosary.
Add transcendence to your resume.

We need to learn to treasure
How we live our lives as teachers,
How we succeed, and it’s mostly
Moment by moment.

Moment by moment,
Student by student,
This is what matters.
Teaching’s important.
No one can stop us.

The non-trad who stayed up all night
With a sick kid and a laptop.
The five-year-old cutie with red hair
And freckles, and more issues than freckles.
The hormone-driven, pimple-ridden,
Horny jerk who somehow found the nerve to say
“I loved that essay question.”
Shot by shot, our movie of the week,
In which we’re the inspiring teachers,
Shows our focus, our composition,
The structure of our concern, proceed
Student by student.

Moment by moment,
Student by student,
This is what matters.
Teaching’s important.
No one can stop us.

We have to feed our families.
We hope to retire before death.
We wonder if Canada would be better.
(If Canada would even let us in.)
But that moment when the soft white
Compact fluorescent light bulb comes on,
When someone learns something,
We know, as surely as we know how hard we work,
This is what matters.

Moment by moment,
Student by student,
This is what matters.
Teaching’s important.
No one can stop us.

Firefighters risk their lives
And lead parades with bagpipes.
Some activists lie down in front of tanks.
My cousin Rob stared down,
Survived, unspeakable things in Iraq.
All around us are dramatic
Examples of heroism and sacrifice.

Have you ever seen a statue
Of a teacher? Me neither.
But we know, we all know
Teaching’s important.

Moment by moment,
Student by student,
This is what matters.
Teaching’s important.
No one can stop us.

No government,
No governor,
No budget cut,
No bad idea
Can keep a really determined teacher
From jumping right into the mosh pit,
From coming on down to the altar,
From pulling up her own bootstraps,
From cutting down on the average
Number of disconnects
Between what he knows in his head
And what he does with his time.
No one can stop us from teaching.
No one can stop us from loving what we do.
No one can touch what we know in our hearts—
However much they meddle and undermine
And underfund and criticize, we know,
If they don’t, that no one can stop us.

Moment by moment,
Student by student,
This is what matters.
Teaching’s important.
No one can stop us.

(repeat as needed)

I’m making this public in hopes that it will spread some hope. Share it however you like, even set it to music if you want, but please keep my name attached to it, and don’t revise it without checking with me. And if it starts raking in the cash, of course I want my share. At that point I could retire from teaching and become the next Parker Palmer (whom I adore), spreading wisdom about teaching without having to teach to feed my family.

[NOTE: because I am in Wisconsin in a trouble time, I want to point out that this poem was composed last summer when I was not on contract, and I am posting this from my car, poaching Wi-Fi from a local eatery.]

4 responses to “NO ONE CAN STOP US (a rock anthem call and response)

  1. (repeat as needed)—yes! 🙂

  2. Mrs. Dresser,
    When your and your husband’s chapbook comes out, I would like an autographed copy. That poem, No One can Stop Us, should be required reading for anyone taking education classes in college. I am still debating whether or not I am going to go work on my MFA, or Masters in Special Education in the near future. I did everything but student teach at Francis Marion University and ended up graduating with my BA in English from Coastal Carolina. I still want to teach at some point in the future but teaching jobs here are few and far between.
    Hope and pray you and your family have a blessed, joyful, and peaceful Christmas. Please wish your husband an early Happy Birthday for me.

  3. Love it, Marnie. Thank you so much for sharing. It is something all aspiring teachers should read!

  4. I love that poem, Marnie!

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