Why I Teach: A Poem

Editor’s Note: For National Poetry Month, we’ve departed from our typical prose-only style to present this special Why I Teach column.  


if I did not teach

i would leave the high-rise office complex
and take home an empty briefcase
that was polished and shiny and had bright brass hinges that would gleam in the light

i would wear high-heeled shoes that would match my suit
and would distract my clients
in the middle of another one of my brilliant sales pitches
or cross examinations
or board meetings
or project presentations
or working business luncheons

i would be able to interact all day
talking to people all over the world
in rushed conversations, imagining what their faces looked like while
on my cell
or blackberry
or twitter
or the next and new sort of electronic pulse

but i do teach

so i walk in to a room of pieced-together furniture
and worn out carpet, stained after years of a dripping furnace
holding a backpack of papers filled with ideas and hopes and things that scare them

i wear faded clogs that help me to get to
the one that needs me to read over this poem
it shows what they really think
or are trying to understand
or are angry about
or hope and imagine something they can someday be

i interact all day
explaining the movement of iambic pentameter
and the stylistic use of a fragment
and the importance of exposing their critical analysis of a piece of literature
and hurriedly answer,


           you can go to the bathroom
                    but only if you take a pass
                           and make it quick, we have lots to do

and because i teach

i am a complete person, without any feelings of emptiness or regret or yearning for something else

because i see faces of those who will transform
what we do and how we do it and what that new someday will turn into
and always remind me of the
and twisting
and kneading
and simmering
that every year brings


i do teach.


Wow, great job Mrs. Timm! You

Submitted by Bailey Textor on 8 July 2010 - 4:55pm.

Wow, great job Mrs. Timm! You impacted my life as one of my favorite teachers. 8A at Harding was the best year of my education yet. Let everyone know I say hi!

Great poem.. very moving.



What an amazing poem. You and

Submitted by Chet King on 20 May 2010 - 10:25pm.

What an amazing poem. You and the teachers on our team are very inspirational. This poem clearly reflects how great of a teacher you are and the amazing things teachers can do!

If only others really

Submitted by Allene on 27 April 2010 - 7:17pm.

If only others really understood. Your poem is lovely. Thank you.

This poem was moving and

Submitted by Miranda Smith on 22 April 2010 - 9:24pm.

This poem was moving and thought provoking. Because that is why I teach. Thank you so much for putting everything into the right context. it was truly moving !!!

Wow, great poem!! Congrats,

Submitted by Bryce on 22 April 2010 - 2:47pm.

Wow, great poem!! Congrats, that's really cool!!! Excellent *****Stars

Wow Ann! What an awesome

Submitted by Kim Ongie on 22 April 2010 - 2:42pm.

Wow Ann! What an awesome poem! What a wonderful poem about teaching! Very inspirational!

After reading this I want to

Submitted by Uncle JV on 22 April 2010 - 11:02am.

After reading this I want to take back all the jokes I ever made of my 4th grade teacher's jumpsuit wardrobe. While it is hard to be satisfied in a society of material abundance, the writer nails how she measures overall success. And thank god for teachers like her.

Ann, Your writing makes me

Submitted by Cindy Gunther on 22 April 2010 - 9:36am.

Ann, Your writing makes me nostalgic to think about what could have been for the teaching career I chose not to pursue. Your spirit and dedication can be felt as I read your words. Well Done!

This was excellent and what a

Submitted by Lisa Bejarno on 22 April 2010 - 8:17am.

This was excellent and what a gift to her students.

Wow, if that doesn't make you

Submitted by John Pauly on 21 April 2010 - 4:25pm.

Wow, if that doesn't make you want to enter a classroom and impact students, I don't know what will! Great poem.