Force-Fed Poems Do Not a Poem Lover Make

As I believe I’ve mentioned once before, I’m a tutor. And one of the subjects I cater to is English. As such, it’s no surprise that I often have the unhappy responsibility of force-feeding some of my students their prescribed quota of poems and lessons. Now, as a rule, most students aren’t supposed to be excited to explore their textbooks. It’s just the natural order of things. And anyone in the position of a teacher must understand that and accept it as part of the package.

But! . . . Dear God! What in the name of all the heavens and hells perceived by bipeds on this planet are the people who structured those textbooks thinking??!!! How on earth does anyone expect a kid to want to read when they insist on stuffing such dry, slow-moving, surreal texts down a 10 to 15-year-old’s throat?! Heck, I love reading and some of those chapters made me want to doze off! How am I supposed to justify the beauty of it to my student?!

Honestly! It’s no wonder that by the time they reach college that they avoid books like the bubonic plague!

PG Wodehouse, Shakespeare, etc. . . . Look, I know they’re wonderful authors. But I do remember reading them at my students’ age too, and, although English was my best subject and I seemed to have had a higher ability to understand them compared to my peers at the time, I’d still found them preachy and boring and couldn’t wait to get rid of them.

It really wasn’t until I reached college that I could actually enjoy and appreciate those texts. (Though a few of them still do repel me, but that’s more a matter of personal taste now than the material being unpalatable to the general age-group.)

The point is, even if these texts aren’t extremely difficult to understand, the students are simply not yet ready to be able to relate to the plot. It goes over their heads, and not because the students are incapable. They simply haven’t reached the stage in their lives where the flowery phrases and situations they refer to have any meaning to them. They’re not there yet. Sure, you might find a few nonconformists to the age who actually can relate to it and love it. But textbooks aimed at the entire student population are not supposed to be viable only to specific kids.

Plus, in the end, nobody likes being forced. So when they’re compelled to endure dry, unrelatable material during their formative years, all it does is cause them to shove books away when they’re finally allowed to choose their own material.  Even if they don’t consciously do it, the habit of having to read and then learn stuff that seems useless to them, will subconsciously create in them an aversion to reading altogether.

And that’s just plain sad. :(


student lesson funny reaction

5 thoughts on “Force-Fed Poems Do Not a Poem Lover Make

  1. I cannot agree with you more. Reading and writing is fun as shit; school should focus on getting kids to read the mainstream stuff instead of the classics. Always leave them wanting more, right?

    • Absolutely! I’m amazed at the subjects my students are into – and how! They’re usually only a few years younger than me, but I still often have to scramble to update myself so I don’t come off as completely hopeless. And then that spark in their eyes just dies when I open the textbook and start explaining that the author’s basically stating the same point – extensively – over five paragraphs or three stanzas. Hey, I can appreciate the word play, subtle humor and figurative language. But they just don’t see the point of it yet. Why not wait until they’re at an age to?

      • Totally! In school, life happens too fast to take a step back and look at things from outside of your perspective, you know? Hidden meanings, vague metaphors, and abstract symbols are references to the memories you’re living, if that makes sense. It’s only after the fact that you start to look at things and try to find meaning and possibilities. To me, classics are, like, for adults in every since. They’re old people books (of all ages).

  2. glamorousbooks says:

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