Friday, May 8, 2009


Here are some excerpts and reviews of Helena Harper's book, A Teachers life..!

For all the whimsy and lightness, Harper is at her best in her reflections of her role as a teacher and its significance. An example is the concluding passage from the "End-of-Year-Bash" quoted above. In a poem called "The Workroom" Harper describes the chore of lesson preparation with her colleagues. The poem concludes with an almost mystical passage of the unity of purpose that binds those in academic life:

"Unrelated they may be,
but an invisible strand,
like the air each breathes,
ties them together
and makes them as one -
no longer separate beings
but different aspects of
an indefinable whole -
a close, invisible
community of the soul."

In a poem called "The Lesson" describing the difficulty of classroom teaching, Harper again concludes with a meditative passage:

"that's the reward
for hours and hours of work
and patience,
a reward of infinite measure,
a priceless, unlimited treasure."

As a final example, at the conclusion of a poem called "The Exam", the students complete their work, the docents receive the exam books, and Harper reflects on the process:

"The teachers follow,
and silence reigns once more,
broken only by
the great illusion of time,
ticking indefatigably
in the phantom human mime."

In a short, light way, Harper's book explores the frustrations of the teacher's life. Through the short-term difficulty and travail, she captures something of its significance as well. This is a delightful little book.

Review by Robin Friedman

"It's a Teacher's Life!" by Helena Harper may be based on the author's teaching experiences in the British education system [specifically a private girls' school], but I think teachers everywhere will be able to relate to the joys and frustrations expressed in this slim volume of poems. I used to teach in a secondary school in Singapore [for 8 years] before moving to the States, and reading this book of poems about teaching made me reminisce about my teaching years.

Ms Harper has arranged the poems in a sort of chronological order - beginning with the school ethos, the new school year and ending with the end of year school party. The poems are witty, often humorous, and at times satirical. "The New School Year" paints a hectic picture of preparations for the new school year with a multitude of meetings [and which teacher is unfamiliar with that?], lesson plans etc. "The Trips" brought to mind my own experience in taking the students out on a field trip - the planning, coordinating, ensuring the students stay safe etc...I could truly relate to the last few lines:

'Remind me next year
that these trips are
not a good idea!"

Anyone who has been a teacher or is teaching will enjoy this slim volume of poems written by a teacher herself. Indeed, one will read the poems and think "It is a teacher's life!"

Review by Z. Hayes


Available in paperback from all major online retailers. Not stocked in bookstores, but can be ordered from any bookstore.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Kathy, I just read all of Helena's book and so enjoyed it. Thank you for featuring her work.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Author of the award-winning chapbook of poetry, Tracings

Liana said...

I've enjoyed reading Helena's verses!


Helena Harper said...

Kathy, thank you so much for hosting me.

Carolyn and Liana - thank you for your comments. I'm so glad you enjoyed the poems. If my words make someone smile or perhaps think about something they hadn't thought of before, then that makes my day!