Thursday, June 04, 2009

Getting an A

I did a border line unethical thing. Ok it is definitely unethical and I am sorry, but in the grand scheme of things it is much better than having a relationship with a student or being drunk on the job or something like that. I wrote a sonnet for a student. I know! I shouldn't have! It was wrong! If you can find it in you to let me explain, then perhaps you can see your way to forgiving me.

There is an English teacher on campus with a reputation for being hard. He teaches seniors only and gives them a lot of work. One day a student in my Econ class was complaining because she felt like there was no way she could write a sonnet. I dismissed her complaint by stating that sonnets are not all that difficult and that I had written several. She persisted and explained how there was a pattern to them and that each line had to be 10 syllables. I reiterated my position that there were not that hard, but she did not back down and we were at an impasse.

To settle the dispute she issued a challenge. She said that if I was so good, I could write a sonnet for her. I, being a writer and confident in my sonnet writing skills, did not back down. I said that I could do it no problem. Having accepted the challenge I asked the class for topics. Hotdogs, spam, and pirates, were among the topics that made the list. I chose pirates as my topic.

I assigned my students their work for the day which involved them reading then responding to some questions about trade or something, and sat down to write a pirate sonnet. Armed with the Shakespearian sonnet pattern I began. In fifteen minutes or so I was finished. I grinned confident that I had won the challenge. I feel as though I wrote an excellent sonnet and announced to the class that I had finished. Many did not believe that I had actually created one in such a short time span having spent hours on their own. I then read it to the class. There was applause and I smiled widely brimming with pride. The girl who issued the challenge asked repeatedly if each line was indeed ten syllables so I gave it to her to verify. She did so and the sonnet was intact. There was more adoration. Then I was put in an awkward position that I myself walked into. The student wanted the sonnet.

I did not intend to actually do work for a student, but she had challenged me to write her a sonnet with the implied intention of turning in the work I produced. I did not want to allow it however finding it unethical and to complicate the situation further there were more students who then wanted me to write them a sonnet. Students were petitioning me for sonnets immediately and shouting out topics while my head spun. In the end I chose a middle ground. I gave the student the pirate sonnet and declined to write any more.

I was then anxious to know what I got on the sonnet. It had been ten years since a poem of mine had been submitted for evaluation. Eventually she told me that it received an A, but to make things more uncomfortable, the teacher took her aside to compliment her pirate sonnet. I debated telling the teacher, but did not want to put everyone involved in an embarrassing position. The student would likely have her work erased, I would have to explain the whole situation and risk damaging a relationship with a respected colleague, and the teacher would potentially be embarrassed for praising her, or rather, my work. So I kept quiet.

It was wrong, I know, but I am still rather proud to have received an A. It was like being in senior English all over again. Here is the controversial sonnet for your judgement.


Pirates swinging in the rigging up high

I'm deafened by the loud booming of guns

Cannon balls and debris falls from the sky

Battle raging on, had only begun


Swords clinging and clanging, wanting to run

All around the ship, is nothing but sea

Death all around me my body is numb

My efforts are vain with nowhere to flee


Brave sailors all dying shown no mercy

The ship over taken, the battle lost

The pirates laugh and cheer with evil glee

One handsome and tall, apparently boss


Captured and made a pirate captain's queen

Together we sail the oceans wide and green

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