Archives For Catherine Flynn-Reading to the Core

If there is a new software for use in the classroom, I am likely to register for a quick trial. On occasion, I have been assigned a username and password, a combination of numbers and letters, for use during length of the trial period.

Last month, on the confirmation email, was a password that was the BEST I had ever received. It read:


Such a combination of nouns was clearly a sign from the poetry gods….I needed to write a poem with these words!

Moreover, Poetry Friday is being hosted this week (on 1/5/16) by my dear friend and poet Catherine Flynn who writes on her blog Reading to the Core.

I considered what story could be told using these nouns, and I thought about the word magenta in the password.  The color magenta reminded me of an incident in a local school about 15 years ago. A female student came to high school with her hair dyed a shocking bright magenta color. For this effrontery, she was immediately suspended. Of course, the incident went national, and for a brief time, the local high school was ground zero for dress code politics. Eventually, she was allowed back to school, and the school board revised the dress code.

Today, such a hair dye controversy seems very tame.

Once I knew what story I would use, I had to choose a form of poetry that could feature these four nouns. I rejected quite a few. Sestinas require six nouns for the scheme. Haikus are too short. A sonnet would not feature the words as well. Villanelles only have three rhymes.

So, I settled on a pantoum. A pantoum has a set pattern of repetitive lines:

Pantoum definition: the pattern in each stanza is where the second and fourth line of each verse is repeated as the first and third of the next. The pattern changes though for the last stanza to the first and third line are the second and fourth of the stanza above (penultimate). The last line is a repeat of the first starting line of the poem and the third line of the first is the second of the last.

In the end, I did modify the pantoum a little to fit the story…but that is poetic license!

“Magenta Agenda”

Her hand on hip stance toughens her agenda
She is no stranger to the office; not a Pilgrim.
Her gutsy toss of hair dyed bright Magenta
She counter argues charges of expulsion.

No stranger to the office; she’s no Pilgrim.
They will not use her as their scapegoat
As she challenges charges of expulsion
And argues counter to the rules they wrote.

She flatly states “I’m not your scapegoat,”
And shrugs off rules xeroxed in black carbon.
Challenges the paper charges for expulsion
She won’t back down, and she won’t bargain.

“Review your rules in lines of black ink carbon;
You’ll read no language banning bright magenta!”
Her charge is right, AND more than they had bargained.
“Revise dress code” (*they sigh*) on their next agenda.

Since no language there to ban magenta
No expulsion for hair dyed bright Magenta.
Expect a future challenge to their agenda
That hand on hip stance toughens her agenda.



When I look for inspiration in writing, I occasionally turn to “On this Day in History” websites. There is always some famous person’s birthdate or some memorable event that can spark the imagination to create a lesson about literature or an author.
So when my best friend, Catherine Flynn from Reading to the Core, offered to host #Poetry Friday on March 20th, I wanted to contribute a special post to mark the occasion. Catherine, a district reading consultant and former teacher, is a fan of historical events.
In doing my research, I discovered that March 20th marks the anniversary (3/20/1942) of General Douglas MacArthur’s statement, “I shall return.”Screenshot 2015-03-19 21.36.41
General MacArthur made this announcement arriving in Australia, after being forced to evacuate the Philippines during the height of a Japanese attack. He fulfilled the promise to return made in his iconic statement two years later on October 20, 1944, striding out onto the beach on the island of Leyte.

A sense of determination “to return” is something I witness everyday in teachers. Teachers must demonstrate endurance in meeting the everyday challenges in education today, challenges large (responsible for educating children for our collective future) and challenges small (bulletin boards, lunch duty, formative assessments, summative assessments, group work, Parent/Teacher Conference Night, and more).

The attitude of teachers to return every day to the doors of their classrooms determined to meet the challenges of each day is what I hope to have captured in the following poem:

“I Shall Return”: The Teacher’s Version


I Shall Return

…to the school parking lot

to snag the last available space

that is farthest from the building

(and it’s pouring)

I Shall Return

…to the back door of the school

balancing the bag of stickers and markers and card stock,

with the bulletin board corrugated cardboard,

and a box of energy bars (sans nuts),

in my paper stuffed satchel-

(“Is that my phone is ringing???”)

-with my keys at the bottom.

I Shall Return

….to the classroom

just in time to set up the desks for ???

(select the one that best applies:)

A. Socratic seminar

B. morning meeting

C. Daily 5

D. computers on carts

I Shall Return

….to the copier,

it’s jammed,

it’s hot,

and out of ink.

I Shall Return

…to the dimly lit book room

and dig through the pile

of dusty boxes filled with dog-earred copies

and abandoned textbooks

desperately seeking 27 paperbacks OF

Ramona the Pest OR

A Wrinkle in Time OR

Of Mice and Men

No matter the grade level…still 3 books short.

I Shall Return

….to the (hard copy/online) grade book

and mark the tardies

and mark the absences

and mark the group work

(and note, “No quiz grade for Mark?”)

I Shall Return

…to the parking lot

lugging the satchel of papers

that have travelled,


from school,

to home,

back to school where

I do what I love.

And so,

I Shall Return

©Colette Marie Bennett, 2015

Submitted with great respect for both General MacArthur and educators everywhere on the March 20th anniversary.

Hope this was ok, Catherine!

To see the other #PoetryFriday posts check out her blog: Poetry Friday is Here!