"Devoir anglais"

Preamble: I'm an English as second language teacher in Higher Education. In this current period of more-than-doubled workload due to the hurried and inexpert transition to distance learning, this poem was prompted by one unnamed submitted file too many...

Dear student,

You are unique.

You’re the only you in the world. It’s true,

So I understand for you, it could be something new

to remember that for me, you’re one of 24

in one of the 8 classes I teach a week, sometimes more

Across 3 different year-groups, in 2 different schools.

5 programmes, 4 platforms, 3 passwords, 2 sets of rules

And all that, before I can even begin to learn your names.

And I know, you are unique.

but to me you’re all starting to look the same

And it’s tricky for me to remember who is who and where

And I don’t mean to complain, or to say that life’s unfair

But please. Here, this is me, reaching out

You would be so much easier to teach, without a doubt

If you’d just remember to put your name on your text.

With all I have to do, is it so much to expect

Not to have to deal with umpteen files of “devoir anglais”.

Can you imagine how much stuff like that I get each day

And I don’t think you can say that it’s the system that’s to blame.

Download doc, locate doc, oh dear, there’s no name

Open file, damn there’s no name in there either

Got to go back to the original email to retrieve it

To check who you are against what you sent

Don’t you think my time could be somewhat better spent?

Now I’m sure sure if common sense can ever truly be taught

But for me, so many extra clicks: life’s too short!


Dear student, yes, you really are unique,

But for me you’re one of 13 Guillaumes I see every week

So when you email me, please tell me which group, from which place

Anything to help me put a name to a face

And not have to look you up again in all my lists.

Just think of all the time lost and all the sleep I’ve missed

And while we’re on, I will respond, but it’s hard to say quite when

So yes, if it becomes urgent, feel free to send it again

But not within 24 hours, or even 48,

Yes I’m very sorry to have made you wait

And I don’t want you to think that I don’t really care

But my email inbox is the black pit of despair

By the time I’ve dealt with 5 emails, 6 more are there.

And if I’ve asked you to upload your work to an online folder

Please, just please, do what I’ve told you

How many times have I had ‘can’t find the place, so I’m sending it by mail”?

Well that’s very kind, but chances are you’ll fail

as it gets lost in that black pit of despair I mentioned before.

I’m not out to make life difficult, or be a total bore:

Perhaps you think it’s all part the job for which I’m paid

But less time chasing up your work, would mean more time to grade

And give you helpful feedback, and really help you learn.

But when it comes to the obvious stuff, I’ve no more hours to burn

I just need time to do my job, and then we all can win,

So please, just put your name on it: or it’s going in the bin.


◄ Sonnet No. 2

Ghazal No. 1 ►


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Becky Who

Wed 17th Jun 2020 13:25

Thanks guys! Dunno if I felt better - but my boss at work actually circulated amongst the students as a pedagogical message!

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Greg Freeman

Thu 11th Jun 2020 17:14

We feel your pain, Becky. Well, some of us anyway ... Hope you felt better after you'd written it!

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