A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 11 2011

“I was walking down Georgia”

We’re currently reading literature from the Middle Ages as part of a unit on storytelling. The accompanying writing assignment is to write a modern-day ballad (a contemporary story that uses the format of a medieval ballad like “Lord Randall” or “Get Up and Bar the Door“).

The 5 characteristics that we discussed are as follows:

  1. Story on common topics/themes (e.g. love, tragedy, supernatural)
  2. Conversation or Q&A format
  3. Refrain (something repeated multiple times)
  4. Rhythm (mellifluous)
  5. Rhyme (preferably ABCB)

Students had trouble figuring out how to apply their knowledge of a ballad’s features to their own stories (in retrospect, I should have predicted this). How could they begin?

I hadn’t prepared an exemplar, so I decided I’d come up with one on the spot. I started with the line, “I was walking down Georgia” (Georgia Avenue is one of DC’s major thoroughfares) and completed one rhyming stanza.

I was walking down Georgia,
Just minding my own bee,
When I saw my man ‘Zell,
He was staring at me.

Then, students helped me with the second stanza (I had no idea what it meant to be “Gucci,” but now I know):

“Yo!” said the young man,
“Mr. K, how are you?”
I responded, “What’s Gucci?”
And he replied, “What’s true?”

At that point, they knew what to do. So I stopped and told them to think about their own ballads over the weekend.

But, seeing that it’s Friday, and Friday means the weekend, I thought I’d have a little fun: how might I complete the ballad? Here is how…

*****

“I was walking down Georgia”

by Mr. K

I was walking down Georgia,
Just minding my own bee,
When I saw my man ‘Zell,
He was staring at me.

“Yo!” said the young man,
“Mr. K, how are you?”
I responded, “What’s Gucci?”
And he replied, “What’s true?”

“In the schoolhouse must you be,”
Said I with some ire,
“No way in hell!” said ‘Zell,
“I’d rather set that place on fire!”

I was walking down Georgia,
This response came as a shock,
One of my students blaspheming,
So I stopped and took stock:

“Young ‘Zell, you real cool,
But have so much to learn.
The schoolhouse is not something,
That you should want to burn.

Books are like babies,
Remember, that’s the truth.
Treat them with respect,
They’re magical—poof!”

I was walking down Georgia,
And spoken had I,
To one of my young learners,
Who was usually rather sly.

‘Zell gave me a second stare,
Then a smirk, and a smile,
“Yeah I agree—
I haven’t been to school in a while.

“So go will I,
Up the schoolhouse steps,
To learn about ballads,
And epic poems, in-depth.”

I was walking down Georgia,
And was filled with glee,
‘Zell was changed forever—
A learned man was he!

“I applaud your decision,”
Said I with a grin,
“Just work hard and stay focused—
I’m positive, you’ll win.”

“Mr. K, O wise teach,
You getting me guh!
You cising me doggg,
But what you say is fun…

…ny,” said ‘Zell with his dreads
Covering his face,
A little tough love, thought I,
Had put ‘Zell back on pace.

I was walking down Georgia,
What a beautiful street!
One chance encounter,
And a student retreats

From his wayward path,
And back onto the Right,
Learned a lesson had he,
He had seen the light.

So he pulled up his baggy
Jeans, doffed his cap,
And sauntered over yonder,
while reciting his new rap:

“I was walking down Georgia,
And a teacher I noticed,
A true scholar I’ll become,
Like magic—hocus pocus!”

I was walking down Georgia,
To myself I thought again,
This teaching thing is special,
Who’ll be next, then?

*****

I’ll be sharing this ballad with all my students on Monday, as an exemplar. I suspect they’ll be able to come up with interesting ballads by Thursday’s deadline.

The student whose name I used already told me he was going to write his ballad about me. I’ve taught him for the past two years and, let me just say that we’ve had our “struggles.” Hopefully he won’t paint too bad a picture of me.

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

Region
D.C. Region
Grade
High School
Subject
English

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