Harbinger of Things to Come


school doors at the end of the day! 001

There she was // big as life standing before us;
Pasted smile stretch under bright red lipstick.
What she said next was a clear harbinger
Of pending storms coming in with a rush.

“I know something about each one of you!”
“I plan to be around for a long time;
I don’t know about all the rest of you!”
Three bombshell statements from her and we knew…

Life under this school principal brought chains.
Vindictive // demanding //she made life hard;
We complained and fussed with no success;
Nothing remained the same // everything changed.

Half of us left // the rest weathered the storm;
She stayed a few years and then she was gone.


Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Serafino’s Store


The ugliness of this storefront
Does not diminish the long-held memories
Of climbing those steps as an eight-year -old.
Lunch hour at our elementary school
Gave us time to cross the streetcar tracks…
To go to Serafino’s store to spend a nickle or a penny.
Inside a big case with slanted glass
Allowed us to view all the many choices
Every variety of candy tempted our tastebuds:
Fireballs, cinnamon sticks, and Sugar Daddies
Licorice tubes in a box, wax teeth, candy cigarettes
Necco Wafers, wax bottles of sugar water in a box
Good and Plenty, red licorice, and candy bars…
So many to choose from for our little minds
Yes, the store may be closed
…run down
…and boarded up
But the wonderful joy of climbing those steps
Still brings a smile to my face.
Memories see things as they were
Not as they are


Photo: Dwight L. Roth

Today on d’verse Mish asked us to look at the beauty in ugliness. We are to write a poem showing a different perspective on what most people would consider ugly. This Fall I went back to my old elementary school and saw it was now a home where someone lived. This is the store where we used to go at lunch to get candy, if we hand any money to spend. It is now boarded up and looking pretty bad. But the memories are still there.

Join us at d’verse: https://dversepoets.com

Teachers Change the World

Our special nest 001 (2)

Autumn leaves change colors

Students begin new school year

Retired teachers smile

Parents  take a long deep breath

New challenges await all


Teachers Change the World

Hiding our the bird nest 001

Photos of my students: Dwight L. Roth

This flashback is for Frank Tassone’s Haikai challenge. He asked us to write a poem that included autumn/Labor Day/ School. This is a project I had my students do many years ago. They had to make a bird nest and put a real egg in it. Then they had to find a spot on the school ground where they thought it would be safe. At the end of the week we checked to see how many survived. Fun times before “teaching the test days!”

Join us at:  https://frankjtassone.com/2018/09/01/haikai-challenge-49-9-1-18-labor-day-coming-of-autumn-risshuu-haiku-senryu-haibun-tanka-haiga-renga/


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First Grade Impressions


I found it very interesting that Amaya from d’Verse asked us to write about our memories of School. I just painted this large paddle from the Habitat Restore yesterday. The manager at the store gave me the paddle and said paint something on it. I decided to paint my first grade classroom as I remember it.  This was in 1953 and we did not have kindergarten.

First Grade Impressions
How well I remember my first day at school
Where I learned to read and to follow the rules
Stern Mrs. Honsaker our teacher for the year
Standing there on the stoop // although no one cheered
How Frankie cried // he did not want to come in
With sister’s gentle help class could finally begin
Old wooden desks rode on 2 x 4 rows
Seats that lifted and holes for inkwells
Reading circle of chairs in the back of the room
We Learned to read Dick and Jane stories very soon
Potbellied coal stove hid behind teacher’s desk
And a steel surround wall dried gloves that were wet
Black slate chalkboards with printed letters above
At the bottom were erasers and chalk trays with grooves
Our coats all hung on metal hooks in the back
A place for my face when my work got slack

Our big fat pencils didn’t have erasers
Mistakes were not made //we had to be sure
Fear causes many different reactions
Chewed nails and chewed pencils hid my distraction
I did learn to read and a few of my numbers
But writing was a killer // at that I was a bumbler
I made it through first grade and passed on to second
But my teacher the next year was the same as the first one


Painting: Dwight L. Roth

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Slow Learner


Learning was difficult for me from the very beginning.  It took a long time to finally get things to make sense. I was a slow learner in the primary school. The spelling board above is one of the learning tools my parents gave me to help me spell my name and other words. The board was forgotten until a couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law contacted me and wondered if I wanted it. My name was scratched into the center of the board in cursive. You can see how poor my second grade handwriting was at the time. I am one example of students who learn at a slower rate than average , but if given a chance can end up at the same place as others who learned faster.

Slow Learner

Back in 1954

Learning just starting for me was a chore

Second Grade just as hard as First

Trying to learn to write was the worst

Writing co-ordination did not exist

Making a D was a major twist

Compound curves and loop-t-loops

Sent me into a tizzy left me pooped

Spelling not much better just didn’t stick

A game in my toy box just might do the trick

Spelling abacus board red letters in a track

Sliding round and round to the middle and back

My name and words arranged in place

Giving me practice pushing my pace

Math did not click numbers did not jive

They came up wrong no matter how hard I tried

In Third and Fourth I struggled along

Not understanding why it took so long

When I got to Fifth things began to make sense

The numbers finally didn’t seem so dense

Mrs. Vilseck my teacher seem to understand

She helped me along and gave me a hand

My writing got better my spelling progressed

I finally began to keep up with the rest

I struggled with learning all through school

Compensations adaptations and repetition were the rule

Helping me make it from one step to the next

Life’s a continuous learning process at best

I’m grateful to all my teachers and friends

Who finally helped me learn in the end 

After all these years creativity at its best

Art music and writing poetry with the rest

Computers opened doors to learning beyond pen

My writing shared round the world to the end

With you who read my blog and share your thoughts

You make my day every day with your talk

Inspiring me to carry on


Game Board Photo: Dwight L. Roth

What Happened to Creativity


Teaching today is teaching by the numbers. Test scores seem to be  the top priority of all teachers.  When I started teaching school I had a slate chalkboard to use as my learning tool. Some years I taught all the subjects. Creativity was necessary for both teachers and students. With no art teacher, we did our own art. We enjoyed many hands on projects and worked at the pace of the children we were teaching. Today it is a different world. No time for creativity. Everything has to stay on schedule with everyone doing the same thing at the same time. I never understood educators who think that teaching for the test is more important than teaching the child where he is in his learning process.

Whatever Happened to Creativity

A few years back when I taught school

Chalkboard learning was always the rule

Kids had time to play games with their friends

Learning today’s just a means to an end

I taught it all and it was great fun

Art in the classroom and recess to run

Toothpick sculptures covered windows and shelves

Rock collections and fossils all made by themselves

Tempera paints mixed from powder I ordered

Paper Mache lighthouses are chicken wire supported

Marigolds seedlings in a greenhouse by the door

Flowers on the schoolyard at home and much more

Dried seeds collected and planted next year

Strange mutation combinations appear

Creative learning’s no longer the norm

Today it’s computers test scores and dorms

Labeling medicating and grouping to conform

No lagging behind or they’ll be a storm

Teaching the test is a required necessity

Meeting the timeline not matter the ability

If scores don’t add up schools don’t look good

It must be the teacher no matter the hood

So meet the deadlines whatever the cost

Creative learning for now has been lost

Cookie-cutter students all made out of ticky tacky

Taught by hounded teachers who will soon go wacky

No wonder home schooling is such a big hit

Learning in school will give you a fit


Black and White Photo: Dwight L. Roth