'The Boy Who Conquered Fractions' by Cynthia Buell Thomas is Write Out Loud Poem of the Week

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‘The Boy Who Conquered Fractions’ by Cynthia Buell Thomas is Write Out Loud’s new Poem of the Week. The poem tells how a nine-year-old boy - “part dynamo part zombie”  - whose behaviour is described by his class teacher as unacceptable is cajoled into understanding division of fractions, and what this does to his sense of self-esteem. He likes poetry, too: “Up the walk he hipped and hopped / inventing a loud rap of 'Bloomin' Brilliant!' / for the whole world to hear.” Cynthia is a long-standing member of Write Out Loud, and recently shared this poem at Write Out Loud Sale’s open mic night.  




by Cynthia Buell Thomas



They came to me, the children

dragging chains of failure at school

scowling with attitude

inured to criticism, teasing, even anger

and yet eager.

This boy was nine.

One day he gave me a note from his teacher.

who complained in cramped script that

'this child's continued inattention to lessons

and general disruptive behaviour in the classroom

are unacceptable: 'Something has to be done!'

The lad knew what it said, but he wasn't fussed.

Just the 'same-o – same-o' and who cared!

At nine years old he was sprouting like a weed

part dynamo part zombie

and pretty much dismissive of everything

except football - and poetry!

Poetry was integral to my teaching.

At any time a poem might be tossed in - just for fun.

The kids loved them, especially this lad.

He enjoyed the rhythmic beat - like running

and words  in his mind - like candy in his mouth.


One day it was Math and he was working with fractions

on a difficult idea: division!

Division of fractions is like turning math somersaults:

You must understand the concept to trust the calculation.

We drew pictures and cut paper to bits all over the table.

We discussed, dissected diagrams and cut more paper.

He struggled; he did not give up; and he got it!

Solidly - never to be fooled again - GOT IT!

We were excited - 'stomp feet clap hands' exuberant.

Across his paper in big blue letters I wrote: 'BLOOMIN' BRILLIANT!'

His face blazed with pleasure.

Holding the paper in his teeth he jammed stuff into his bag 

and skipped out the door

waving those conquered fractions in his free hand

like a hero's flag.

Up the walk he hipped and hopped

inventing a loud rap of 'Bloomin' Brilliant!'

for the whole world to hear.

I often wondered what my neighbours thought I did to those kids

or what I put in their apple juice.

But all I offered was the sweet taste of success.

And who doesn't blow trumpets for that!



◄ Coming soon ... Birmingham's poetry and spoken word festival

'Twee we're not!': whimsy, mysticism and tragedy in Harrogate ►


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dorinda macdowell

Thu 24th Nov 2016 12:09

Congratulations, Cynthia! It's bloomin brilliant! - Dorinda x

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Martin Elder

Wed 23rd Nov 2016 09:22

Very well deserved indeed Cynthia. I remember you reading this the other night. I particularly love the line
'dragging chains of failure'

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Laura Taylor

Tue 22nd Nov 2016 11:07

Oh, VERY well deserved Cynthia!!

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Harry O'Neill

Mon 21st Nov 2016 13:51

Congratulations Cynthia...well earned.

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Graham Sherwood

Sun 20th Nov 2016 22:43

Congratulations CBT on getting POTW.
Learning something seemingly indecipherable in life is an important milestone on the road to self-confidence.

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