Saturday, November 10, 2012


In first period English we read a poem, from the August Regents Exam

Home Techtonics
Our house is at the crest
of a mountain formed
by a fault line that’s still
doing its work. We’re up
over five thousand feet,
and probably, slowly, the spot
that we sit on is going
to get higher and higher.
So, at some point, the house
is coming down, shaken
to bits, I suppose, and what
we’re banking on is that
we’ve chosen the right moment
in geologic time, a sweet
spot between cataclysms.1
And that’s what Annie and I
hope for generally,
and what everyone seems
to want—some forgettable
moment between great wars
or typhoons or plagues—to have
timed it just right, so we’re
in just the right place between
what we read about in history
books and the moments after
which history won’t matter much.
John Brantingham
from Earthshine, November 2007–December 2009

Conan is worried about passing the exam.
He should be – I ask him what the poem is about
and he says something to do with plates.

So we read it many times. Conan is serious, he concentrates.
We talk about a lot. The exam says we should use the ideas from the poem to write a paragraph about uncertainty.

But Conan is confused. He writes that the poem is about a man who hopes his house does not fall down.

Which of course, it is, but unlike the campaign commercials that made me want to throw something at the tv (just how vulnerable are flat screens?-they probably don't break into the star-shaped shatter- so popular in the cartoons of my childhood,) the poems speaks to me more and more each time I read it It speaks to me.  I worry a lot..

And then Hurricane Sandy hits.
Neither Conan nor I suffer the terrible damage. The school community, so recently devastated by a automobile crash that killed four students, is spared the loss of life
But many have lost homes, and cars and the sense of well being.

On Monday when we return, I tell Conan I thought about him and the poem, during the week- at first he is not sure why, but Pablo  reminds him that a typhoon is like a hurricane.

Tuesday is Election Day.
Wednesday, a snowstorm only half as bad as the Hurricane hits. This time our home loses only half its electricity.

The Teacher's College Writer's project people, tell the story of the classroom and the first snow. The teacher invites the class to come to the window and observe the first flakes of the year. From the back, the cynic yells out, “Don't do it, she'll only make us write about it!”

We watch the snow and calculate how long the commute home will be. It's high school. We don't write about the first snow.

So it's not until the end of the week that I do make them read about the election.
We read Hope and Change Part 2 by Thomas Friedman.

We talk and talk about what it means.
I have been taking a lot of criticism in our small group professional learning community for suggesting that I use New York Times pieces with the student in the Resource Room. I am told over and over that the reading level is way too hard for them.
I am under no illusion that it isn't difficult reading with difficult vocabulary, but the material interests me and they are mad close to being fully grown adults, so I persist.

We slog or way through Friedman's analysis of what went wrong for the Republicans. And in the end Pablo says, “What if its just that Romnney had bad luck?”

Conan says elections don't have anything to do with luck. Obama was just the better choice.


Or maybe he was kind of lucky that Sandy hit and blew the campaign right off the front page of the paper and the nightly news.




  1. Yay for using the Times. Bad luck or a bad campaign...I'm happy among other things that we are spared any more of Linda McMahon's commercials.
    By the way, you've got every right to complain. I promised I would complain about nothing until December. I may have some pent up complaining then, but as someone who never lost power I have no right to complain.

  2. Hi there,

    Someone just told me that my poem was a part of the Regents Exam and then told me about this site. I know that your post wasn't about my poem, but about Conan's growing understanding of the world, but I am so happy and proud that the poem helped to start a discussion.

    As a long time community college professor myself, I love to see the kind of work and conversations that you have in class. These are the kinds of things that are going to stay with these kids.

    All my best,

    John Brantingham

    1. Sorry I am so late in replying, I just happened upon this post by accident while looking for another one and noticed your reply. I feel a little bit like Woody Allen in Annie Hall, when he was on the movie line listening to a discussion about Marshall McCluhan and the poet pops out and tells the speaker he got it all wrong.

      I regret that my extent of poetry discussions is based upon preparation for a standardized test. But thank you for at least one rich discussion of real literature.