When I was in second grade in Bronson, Michigan, I had a teacher who had us all memorize poetry.
We would first write out the poems, printing carefully (I always got poor grades on this one as I am left handed and I wrote straight across, smearing the soft lead marks with my hand). Then, we would work for a couple of days to memorize them.
One by one, we would go up to her desk...or the chalk board, I don't remember which, and recite the poem.
I think it probably helped us in speaking before our peers, as well as improving our memorization skills. At the very least, we all were exposed to some poetry.
Every year at this time, one of the poems comes to mind.... It is "September", by Helen Hunt Jackson.
"The goldenrod is yellow,
The corn is turning brown,
The trees in apple orchards,
With fruit are bending down. "
I think she would read us the remainder of the poem, but all we had to do is memorize the first stanza....at least that's how I remember it.
The rest of the poem is here
Mrs. Zimmer was ancient...or so it seemed to me at the time. She wore glasses and was white haired. She was at least 72 because we were the last class she taught. Michigan had instituted a mandatory retirement age that year and 72 was the cut off. While she taught that year, she took what I am sure was a well deserved retirement.
She was strict and was old fashioned by even the standards of 1967. I often got into trouble for talking. No surprise to people who know me.
I think of all the students she must have taught. I wonder if any remember her, or the poetry as I do.
I also think of the changes she saw. When she began teaching, married women couldn't teach. Once a woman got married she had to leave her post as she was to turn her attention to her family. The thinking was also that she no longer had to support herself, and that another person more deserving (read a single woman or a man who needed to support a family) needed to take her place.
How the world has changed. I don't remember my daughter ever memorizing poetry. I know she has read very little.
Certainly, she doesn't look at the landscape and see the goldenrod in my garden (yes, I'm behind on the weeding, no matter how pretty it is), or the Asian pears which are now ripe and think of the poetry.
To her, September means something different. It is being back to school, running cross country, and remembering 9/11/2001. September, and our lives, will never be the same.