I shut the blinds and killed the lights. Turned up the volume of the recording I have of Basil Rathbone reading the poem in a delightfully British accent. Would it be too scary? I watched the kiddos closely for cues.
Not scared, the kids were spellbound. They listened. We discussed. They asked to listen again. Who am I to deny them poetry pleasure? I hit play and ducked out of the room to visit the teacher across the hall and borrow her freakishly realistic fake raven: complete with feathers and beady eyes. I stepped back into the room and most of the kiddos didn’t even look up from their copies of the poem.
I walked over to one kiddo who was concentrating particularly hard: forehead leaned against the edge of his desk as he studied the poem in his lap. Holding a finger to my lips for the sake of his smiling desk neighbors, I placed the bird on his desk. When he shifted to turn the page, his shocked double-take was quite comical.
I repeated this to great effect with three other students. The kiddos weren’t really scared, just startled and amused. When the poem ended, they begged to write their own scary poems. Being the selfless teacher that I am, I agreed to let them learn, practice their writing skills, and share the results.
Then it was noon and time for them to leave.
I had the classroom to myself and four hours to put a dent in a Everest-sized pile of grading. I looked at the pile and sighed:
Once upon a [afternoon] dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious [page] of forgotten [answers],
Remember that dark and gloomy day? Ten minutes after the last bus it turned a lot darker and a LOT gloomier. And then came the lightning. The building-shaking thunder. The rain so loud I couldn’t hear the showtunes I’d turned on.
All that fear I’d worried about inspiring in my students – it must have been on delay, because I found myself terrified; irrationally, embarrassingly quaking in the middle of my classroom. I turned on all the lights, and turned the showtunes up louder, singing along in a quavery voice and fighting the urge to duck under my desk and cower.
And then IT happened.
Suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my [classroom] door
I may have squealed a little bit and shot a horrified glance at the model bird before realizing that it was only the teacher across the hall asking if I wanted to go to lunch.
I made her take back the bird before I agreed.