Friday, June 8, 2018


I hated junior high. Hated it. I went from playing on the playground at Longfellow and Stratton and Madison Elementary Schools, where "smart" was an acceptable currency to Washington Irving Junior High, where no one wanted to be smart and all the girls wore makeup and the cafeteria served brown hamburger gravy over rice or mashed potatoes, and no one liked it, but no one brought lunch from home because that wasn't cool. And I didn't understand, somehow, that everyone felt as uncool, and uncertain, and unloved as I did, and that's why so many kids were so, so mean, and so, so, so unkind.

I think maybe that's why I fell in love with IMPERFECT:  POEMS ABOUT MISTAKES, AN ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS, Tabatha Yeatts' new book. I know other people have already reviewed the book, so I won't spend a lot of time on it, other than to say it's a collection of more than seventy poems and quotes about making mistakes. The kind of poems that you read and just know that the poet was inside your life or inside your head. Poets include lots of folks that show up at Poetry Friday every week and then some other "classical" poets, like Ella Wheeler and Carl Sandburg. There are endnotes about making good decisions and apologizing effectively.  I LOVE the book and can't wait to share it with the sixth graders I will be teaching next year.


Through this course
we'll explore the art of being thirteen
going on fourteen

We'll practice sitting on a chair
without falling on the floor,
posting in the class group chat
without hurting anyone's feelings,
having a crush on a ninth grader
without losing your dignity.

In our year together
we'll entertain a range of frequent emotions
without frustration being a frequent visitor.

We'll experience rejection,
some days all before lunch.

There are tissues on the teacher's desk.

Bathroom humor will be tolerated
on a limited basis.

The teacher will try not to roll her eyes at you
if you try not to roll yours at her.
We'll read what many others have written
about being alive,
and we'll write what we think and feel,
or at least some of it.
Some of it we'll bury on the playground
when nobody's looking.

Evaluations will be gentle,
since nobody has ever mastered
the art of thirteen
going on fourteen.
Or any other age, really.
We're all just figuring it out as we go along.

Ready? Let's begin.

Ruth Hersey


Make a mistake for goodness sake!
Take a risk in being wrong.
Listen to a different drummer
Write the words to your own song.

Be wild and woolly whenever you can.
Be foolish and daring and brave.
Be silly and fun. Skip when you run.
And try not to always behave.

Be honest and fair. Act like you don't care.
Be loving and caring and free.
Just be yourself. Take care of your health.
And don't listen to people like me.

Charles Ghigna


Are you sorry?

I don't know
but I have your
wounding words

splashed across
my brain and heart
like spray-painted letters-

and eye-catching--

how can I think other thoughts
with these here
taking up all the room?

I carefully
peel up the words
like stickers,

letter by letter
tugging up the edges,
and pulling carefully--

when they rip,
I start over,
picking from another side
until finally…
they all come loose,
flimsy and flat,

so I crumple them up
and toss them away.

Tabatha Yeatts

Kiesha is hosting Poetry Friday at Whispers From the Ridge. Head on over to read lots more great poetry.


Linda B said...

I'm just sorry I didn't have it when I was teaching those middle-schoolers! It's a gift for all ages, perhaps, but is a perfect one for showing how imperfect everyone really is.

Tabatha said...

Thank you, Carol!! I wish I could have given IMPERFECT to middle-school you :-)

Mary Lee said...

This would have DEFINITELY been my favorite book in middle school.

Donna Smith said...

Middle school can be rough, as can high school, and adulthood! This is a good book for everyone!

Whispers from the Ridge said...

So glad this book is out there for this age group. It sounds amazing.

Jane @ said...

I remember, as an adult, when I finally realized that most of us are just muddling along, making things up as we go along! Growing up I always felt like everyone else knew what they were doing and had it all together - how mistaken I was!!

Michelle Kogan said...

Glad this book is out there too, for all to find, read, reread and talk about our own mistakes. Thanks for sharing it Carol!

Diane Mayr said...

It's a fine collection. I purchased a hardcover copy for the library I work in and I hope those who need it, find it.

Buffy Silverman said...

It is a perfectly imperfect collection--so glad you plan to share it with your students

Ramona said...

I think it's time I picked up a copy of this book. Love Ruth Hersey's poem and these words: "Evaluations will be gentle."

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Middle school is the hardest hardest hardest, I think...and I think it often starts in 5th grade these days. You'll be terrific in 6th, especially with this book to help!

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