Poetry Friday: “Learning in the First Grade”

The school year has just begun and it always reminds me of such promise and hope. But last week, when I was searching for a poem I discovered this one in Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon and it gave me pause.

Learning in the First Grade 

“The cup is red. The drop of rain
is blue. The clam is brown.”

So said the sheet of exercises–
purple mimeos, still heady
from the fluid in the rolling
silver drum. But the cup was

not red. It was white,
or had no color of its own.

Oh, but my mind was finical.
It put the teacher perpetually
in the wrong. Called on, however,
I said aloud: “The cup is red.”

“But it’s not,” I thought,
like Galileo Galilei
muttering under his beard….

It reminded me how the words we say and the things we do with students has impact at an early age.  And I love the word “finical”.

Susan Taylor Brown has Poetry Friday round-up HERE.  I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Happy Reading.


4 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Learning in the First Grade”

  1. Good reminder: be careful of absolutes that might not be true for all kids…

    Conversation yesterday in my classroom about the scientific fact that there were no humans at the time of dinosaurs…indeed, time when there were no humans on the planet…made me careful to say this is what SCIENTISTS believe about the beginning of our planet, based on the fossil evidence, but there are other ways and other stories that tell different ways about the way our planet might have begun…

  2. It’s a beautiful poem, and yes, the word: finical. Of course it brought me back to my own days when you heard the ruffle of papers as students sniffed the fresh mimeo sheets. I kind of liked the red cup and blue raindrop and brown clam, though: seemed more interesting than what appeared in my own first grade class. I remember my mind straying over the word problems in arithmetic: forgetting the numbers, but wondering about the characters… Thanks for the nice entry to fall!

  3. This really strikes a chord with me.

    I have heard that by the time children turn 6, they start to lose their creativity, in large part because they are taught to give the “right” answers–the ones the teachers want to hear (I don’t remember where I heard it, but it stuck with me).

    The poem also reminds me of my color-blind son, who would see a red cup as black.

  4. Love Jane Kenyon and Jeannine, that sounds like my daughter and me when we’re working on math story problems: “Who is Pat? Is that a man or a woman? Why would Pat want only 3/8 of a pizza and why won’t Pat share it with anyone else?”

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