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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Students Express Themselves

Students Express Themselves


Pennsylvania students are currently in the throes of their yearly state testing. The testing window is shorter than ever, with only 8 days to complete 6 tests and all make-ups due to absences. Fifth grade students get the pleasure of following that up with another 4 tests in writing, to be completed during the same week that many of them plan to be absent for Take Your Child to Work Day. Needless to say, Pennsylvania teachers and students are feeling the crunch of some rather poor planning on the part of the PA Department of Education.

After the testing one day last week, my reading class was discussing a poem titled The Grass on the Mountain. It’s a Paiute Indian poem, translated into English by Mary Austin, and it’s an expression of the tribe’s longing for spring during the hard winter months. Our discussion prompted students to make a connection to their own endurance of the standardized testing marathon … which led to a little creative enterprise.

With all due respect to the Paiute Indians and Mary Austin, here is my students’ salute to their poem:

The Grass Under Our Feet

Oh, long, long
Have we sharpened our #2 pencils
The multiple choice and open-ended problems
Have possessed our school
Quiet are the classrooms
No sounds to be heard in the halls
Oh, long, long
Have we sat in our chairs
And filled in tiny bubbles
Wiping the sweat from our foreheads
And eating goldfish and juice from the cafeteria
We are sick with desire of the weekend
And the grass under our feet.

~ by Mrs. Salerni’s 5th Grade Reading/LA Class

4 Responses to Students Express Themselves

  1. ‘…tiny bubbles…’, like that. What a great way to get them thinking. “;-) Tell them we love it.

  2. Al says:

    That’s just wonderful! A perfect teaching moment, and something the kids will remember long after the tedious testing drudgery has been forgotten. You have to root for kids (and teacher) who refuse to be ground down by the No Children’s Behind Left crapola. Huzzah!

  3. Claire Dawn says:

    Aw! These things are what make teaching worthwhile.

    I got a certificate from last year’s graduating middle schoolers. (They’re Japanese learning English as a Foreign language.

    Was it the best thing I’ve read in English? Clearly not.

    Was it the sweetest thing 73 people have ever done for me?
    Hellz yeah!