Dissident Poetry: The Classroom

By Ephraim Hussain

The isolation of the classroom

You are together but really you are alone

It depresses me

Ann Margaret Sharp[i] talks about a community of learning, teaching for democracy, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Something must happen. Something must change.

This is cell biology.

My teacher is lecturing for the next three hours.

He will pretend to teach.

We will pretend to learn.

This drives us farther apart.  This hidden curriculum that no one even realizes.

Humans learn best through communication

But we sit in silence while he preaches.

We suffer through this dictatorship over hearts and minds.

War is an example of man’s inhumanity to man.

To a certain extent, so is this class.

We’re treated like robots.

Just programmed to digest and memorize information.

But that’s not our function.

That’s not our purpose.

That’s not our design

I’m a human being,

Not a robot

I look around

Everyone is staring glassy-eyed

While he drones on, either oblivious or dismissive of the blank stares before his eyes.

Some have their heads down.

There’s no engagement

There’s no dialogue.

It makes me sad.

It’s a tragedy.

It’s a national tragedy.

Maybe this is why we don’t like school

once elementary school is over

No more group tables

Now its rows and rows of individual desks

You know what that means

He remains supreme

the proverbial “God” of the classroom

The hidden curriculum hard at work.

And worst part is

He’s the kind of teacher who wants you to bow to him.

I’m a product being churned out of an assembly line

Nothing more.  Nothing less

Another incomprehensible diagram on the board.

He likes to scribble

I think its glycolysis or signal transduction

or something like that

Now he’s talking about artificially bumping our grades up


So I’m the buyer and he’s the seller

He demeans us with his salty and smart remarks.

It makes me sad

Now he’s reading over the answers to a take-home test

A and B and C and D and B and A and all of the above and none of the above and A but B or C but not B

What’s a nice way to say this?

I could care less

His monotone voice makes me angry

His ignorance makes me angry

His conformity makes me angry

His lack of substance makes me angry

His perceived dominance makes me angry

But I relent

Seemingly powerless now but soon……

7 people came to class today

About 5 or 6 decided not to

It wasn’t worth it?

I couldn’t agree more.

But then why did I come?

Honestly, I wanted to write this.

Capture my feeling inside the classroom

Cell biology is worth three credits

Cell biology is worth that much to my degree

But cell biology is worth absolutely nothing to me


Ephraim Hussein is a senior finishing up a Bachelors of Science in Biology with a minor in psychology at Felician College in Lodi, New Jersey. He was inspired by one professor and one transformative philosophy of education class he took in his junior year to pursue a career in teaching: “As a lifelong student, I can say that truly transformative learning experiences are few and far between in our educational system today, and I cannot say that I would be where I am today if it had not been for the efforts of this one professor who managed to take all of my educational experience since middle school and subject it to the critical interrogations of a series of educational philosophers whose works I now devour for the insights that they might provide me in my quest to become a teacher who is a transformative intellectual. Probably the most important thing he ever taught me was that teaching methods are always informed by a certain educational philosophy, whether the teacher realizes it or not. The degree to which a teacher is committed to his or her students shows itself in the degree to which he or she is willing and able to critically interrogate his or her methods and therefore his or her philosophy as well. If one wants to be a great educator, this process never stops.”

[i] Ann Margaret Sharp, “The Community of Inquiry: Education for Democracy,” in Thinking: Children and Education, ed. Matthew Lipman and Kendall Hunt, pp. 337-345.

This entry was posted in Education, Featured Articles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.