All Tied up in Nots

Last week, we finally kicked off the fully remote 4th grade residencies at Skinner West! While my face-to-face classes were the only ones to wrap up last year prior to quarantining, and by now I’m well familiar with the ups and downs of virtual classrooms, there was still the usual pre-class jitters mixed with incipient excitement as I readied myself to ‘meet’ a slew of new 4th graders along with two new teachers complementing a pair of pros. After a few technical hiccups—de rigeur in online mode—we all settled in for our first poetry lesson.

In addition to introducing myself and laying out what we’ll be doing—reading poems, discussing them, and then writing based on some idea(s) gleaned from those poems—we went over some basic poetic terminology, such as line and stanza, which we’ll need for our weekly discussions. I also asked what exactly makes a poem a poem? Do they have to rhyme? Make sense? A number of students gave some very sophisticated responses, demonstrating familiarity above and beyond what you might call the ‘usual suspects’—poems written specifically for kids and therefore, while perhaps fun, rather simplistic. Anyone who was coming into poetry class afresh I reminded that prior experience isn’t necessary and there could be no wrong answers.

One virtue of being online is that every student has access to what’s onscreen, being shared by their classroom teachers, from our workbooks, which are created to suit the week’s focus(es); anyone who’s absent that day can go over materials later. They’ll miss out on the ‘live’ class back-and-forth, but the workbooks give them a good base from which to still read the week’s poem and then write, based on brainstorming and a prompt.

For our first session, we read Frank O’Hara’s “Why I Am Not a Painter.” This week only I numbered the lines so students could see exactly how they function within a poem; I also asked how many stanzas the poem had, as a primer for future discussions on why a poet may have broken their poem up the way they did. I asked about a reference to a person named in the poem and if we could determine who they were; even if we write about someone who’s not famous or well-known in a poem, poets can use context and details to tell readers whatever they need to know about them. I also asked about O’Hara’s use of all-caps in some lines—why would he do that, when it isn’t grammatically correct? I told the students that in poetry, you can do anything you want, things that you wouldn’t ‘normally’ do in an English class, and while O’Hara’s poem overall uses language ‘properly,’ it’s OK to follow some rules and break others. It’s poetry, after all!

Using the brainstorming responses about how they see themselves (and others see them), their interests, things they do and definitely don’t want to do vocation-wise as well as why, it was writing time for what we’re calling a “Not a” poem. Here are a few selections from each class. We’re off to a great start!

Mrs. Rosenzweig, 4th Grade

Why I Am Not a Choreographer
By Gabriella D.

I am not a choreographer, I am a dancer.
Why? I think I would rather be
a professional dancer, but I am not.

I’m a dancer and I don’t spin around trees. I like to warm up by flexing my feet. A choreographer most likely instructs. But I’m the one who’s pointing my foot. Choreographer’s tell you what to do. But I have to make sure I have on my ballet shoe.

Why I Am Not an Artist
By Solen D.

I am not an artist, I am a kid.
Why? I think I would rather be
an artist, but I am not.

I don’t think I’ll be an artist
I walked up to a painting and
Saw a tree in the painting.
I saw the artist and I shrieked
It was just a copy though of
Leo da Vinci artwork
It vanished from the window
I vanished too
It wasn’t there so what was the point
I thought and thought and there was
Not one tree but thousands!
I saw a door connected to the trees and said
Where did that door come from?

Why I Am Not a Mars Scientist
By Hunter H.

I am not a scientist that lives on Mars,
I am a student.
Why? I think I would rather be
A student, so I am.
I am not a Mars scientist because
It is not a job
If I was a Mars scientist
I would be mobbed
Also, space is scary
It’s way too hot
But at the same time, it is way too cold
So I am not that bold

Why I Am Not a Musician
By Chelsea L.

I am not a musician, I am an artist.
For thee I like notes
For lines I cannot
But you see the harmonies
Stay in me as I paint the swaying beats.
So you see, I’d rather be a musician but
I am an artist.

I Am Not a Painter
By Ella R.

I am not a painter, I am a builder.
Why? I think I would rather be
an astronaut, but I am not.

I don’t feel like a painter, painters have emotion.
Do I have emotion? I think not. “But everyone has emotions”
They would say. But do we?

My friend is a painter, when I walk over, painting. When we are talking, she is still painting. I like to build, real life and online. People might say that “building will get you nowhere in life.” But architects would say otherwise.

“Don’t doubt yourself!” “Don’t give up” they say, but building is not that easy, it isn’t like a breeze that passes through air. Painting isn’t easy either, if you are not in the painter’s shoes will you ever know how they feel?

Why I Am Not a Cleaning Man
By Drake R.

I am a teacher, not a Cleaning man. Why? I think cleaning man is a horrible job. You have to clean everything I hate doing that. A teacher, well that job you get to do a lot of things teach, learn and talk. The only problem is that I literally have like 0% patience. But if you think about it 3rd graders aren’t too immature and 5th graders turn bad.

I mean I like teaching but I am very very off topic and Everyone can become a Cleaning man and not everyone can be a teacher.

If you become a Cleaning man too bad and a teacher so so, but I literally like fishing for Fun I do know I like fishing for no reason I just like sitting and looking into the sea and waiting for a fish. I love catching a fish But I don’t eat fish. The adventure begins.

Why I’m Not an Artist
By Aden S.

I am not an Adult, I am a Kid
Why? I think I would rather be
an Artist, but I am not. Because,

I’m a kid. I
Am too young to waltz
Into an art studio and
Demand somebody to put
My piece of art on
The wall. That’s not
Allowed. And I know that’s not allowed.

If I could do that I would
But, it’s not allowed. I would need
Money. For money I’d need a job.
I’d need to go through a whole system
If I want my art piece on a wall.
That would take a while.

Why I Am Not a Go Kart Football Player
By Jack S.

I am not a go kart football player, I am a baseball player.
Why? I think I would rather be
A go karter, but I am not. Per se, at the Sports
Illustrated Kids Tree
House they play go kart football but
I do not.

I don’t want to
Kill myself playing
Go kart football
Or zero gravity
Basketball or
Jet pack baseball
Or any of the sports
That they come up with over there.

I play baseball it isn’t half-bad.

Mrs. Johnson, 4th Grade

Why I Am Not a Dancer!
Kristen C.

I am not a dancer, I am a singer.
Why? I think I would rather be a
dancer, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Kristen Conley
takes Jazz classes.
She would say “My moves are horrible!”
but never to me!

She says that she can’t do
the moves right or perfect as
she wants them to be.
She practices day and night.
So, I say you should take a break and rest,
not everyone is the best!

Dance, dance, dance. No!
Sing, sing, sing.
She says she enjoys it more.
She’d rather share her
singing voice than her dance moves.

Why I Am Not a Girly Girl
By Saniah C.

One day I wore a dress did I like the dress NO but I had to wear it. When I wear “girly girl clothes” I act like one do I want NO I just do know when I wear “tomboy clothes” I act like one do I want to YES I just do.

Why I Am Not a Ball-playing Cowboy Superhero Soldier Pirate
By Mateo F.

I am not a Ball-playing Cowboy Superhero Soldier Pirate, I am a Hockey Player.
Why? I think I would rather be
a Ball-playing Cowboy Superhero Soldier Pirate, but I am not.

I am a Hockey player and I have no problemo but Ball-playing Cowboy Superhero Soldier Pirates need 0% practice because they basically have every talent in the world.

I love Hockey and if I am in the NHL, that’s great but Ball-playing Cowboy Superhero Soldier Pirates can do that anyways because they have everything. If you were a Ball-playing Cowboy Superhero Soldier Pirate, you would be awesome and you would be awesome.
That is why I would want to be a




P i R A T E

Why I Am Not a Mathematician
By Hamza H.

I am not a Mathematician because I am a poet and an actor
I like to rhyme and I like to sing
There is nothing that is wrong
To write and to sing a song

I think I would rather be an actor
Because my family says I am good at putting acts
I can use some props and dress up pretty fast
I can express my moods
It can be sad, happy or crude

I can have fun
Run around in the sun
I can eat hotdogs but not without a bun
I like to make noise and play with my toys
I can let me emotions cause a commotion
I can vent out through my acting
I can do it as I like and make people smile and enjoy

Maths is not my thing because it is hard
Numbers fly around and circle in front of my eyes
Sometime I try try and try
But all I want to do is cry
Addition or subtraction
Multiplication or division
No matter how much I practice with my soul
It is so hard to achieve my goal

Why I Am Not An Actor Yet
By Anna M.

I want to be an actor
But there is Covid-19
When it is done I will be one
It is Covid-19
But when it’s over
I will be an actor
I don’t care what other people say
I will be an actor
Like Thomas Sangster
Like Dylan O’Brien
Like in the movie Maze Runner
But trust me I will be one
This should be called “when I am an actor”
I don’t care that I am 10
Some actors are 5
But my point is
When Covid is over
I will be one

Why I Am Not an Adult
By Parker N.

I want to be an adult but I am only 10 years old
when I’m an adult I can stay up all night
and I can watch TV anytime I want
and I don’t have to do homework anymore

Why Am I Not a Bird
By Elaine R.

I am not a bird, I am a human. Why? I think I would rather be a bird, but I am not. I don’t see myself as a bird, I cannot see myself flying. I couldn’t do the things I can do now if I were a bird. I could not see glass as a bird. If I was a bird, I don’t think I would be interested in violin, archery, or art. I don’t like math, or homework. I am not a bird, I am only human.

Mrs. Barnes, 4th Grade

Why I Am Not a Bug Killer
By Ohlin A.

Why I am not a bug killer
I was once in the Olympics
I was in first place the bugs
Were intense but I kept going.

Then when I was least on guard it
Felt like a million flies
Hit my face all at once and I tripped on my foot
Oh what pain I felt that day.
I was so disgusted that I decide to
Quit my dream job and got a new career that was killing bugs
Out of spite.
And to my surprise I was really good at it
So I made a business and I think I only got the business
Because I was an Olympic runner before but I didn’t mind.

Then when the time came I got the
Nobel Prize that I killed all the bugs in the world
But it wasn’t over like that plants started to die
And crops were disappearing so then we all disappeared
So here is a life lesson don’t kill bugs

Why I Am Not a Reptiles Owner
By Nathan G.

I am not a reptile owner, I am a kid.
Why? I think I would rather be
A reptile owner, but I am not.
I am a dog owner.
And my landlord does not allow reptiles
Also my mom won’t let me get one .

Why I Am Not a YouTuber
By Kohner N.

I am not a YouTuber,
The path to be a YouTuber seems easy enuf
Maybe it will be a side job as a grownup
I am not a YouTuber, why you ask
It just hasn’t come up and that is the reason
I am not a YouTuber

Why I Am Not an Actor
By Pranav P.

I am not an actor, I am a space scientist.
Why? I think I would rather be
An astronaut, but I am not. I am not an
Astronaut because I am not old enough.
I am not old enough because I am only nine.
You cannot just be nine to be an astronaut.
You need to be at least 26 to be an
Astronaut. You also need to know a
Lot of stuff to become an astronaut.
You need to know how to spacewalk.
You need to know how to scuba dive.
You also have to have 1000 hours
of pilot experience to be an astronaut.
For all those reasons I cannot become an astronaut.
At least now I cannot.

Why I Am Not a Unicorn
By Raji S.

I think that I want to be
a Unicorn but I am a
human. I want to prance
with hooves but, I walk with
feet, I want to neigh like a
Unicorn but I talk like a
human I want to eat grass like
a Unicorn but I eat food
like a human. I want to
live like a Unicorn but I
live like a human.

Why I Am Not a Football Player
By Corinne T.

I am not a football player, I am a person who gets a million bucks by eating a donut. Why? Because I want to be rich. I think I would rather be a person who gets to 3 million for eating a donut, but I am not sadly
Sadly I only get 1 million bucks and gladly I’m not a football player
I am not a football player because they get too many injuries. And it’s boring

Why I Am Not a Wolf Keeper
By Kaylin W.

I am not a Wolf Keeper, I am a Dragon Walker.
Why? I think I would rather be
a Wolf Keeper, but I am not.
Dragon walking is impossible but it gives me lots more than a doctor.
I want to be a wolf keeper because I love to play and teach them cool and fun stuff.
I need more money so I have to be a dragon walker.

Mr. O’Brien, 4th Grade

Why I Am Not a Uni-sitter
By Finley H.

I am not a Uni-sitter, I am a student.
Why? I think I would rather be
a Uni-sitter, but I am not.

I am not a Uni-sitter because I do not know how to Uni-sit. I would be a Uni-sitter for the FUN, not the money.

I wish I was a watcher and take carer of unicorns, but I am a learning student, in fourth grade to get into detail.

Why I Am Not a Nail Polisher
By Skylar I.

I am not a nail polisher, I am a student.
Why? I think I would rather be
a gymnast, but I am not.

…OR I would like to be a gymnast but I’m not yet
I don’t wanna be a nail polisher bc I don’t wanna touch feet that’s eck

I am training to be what I dream
Because what you dream u can achieve.

I don’t wanna be a nail polisher I wanna be a gymnast
So I am training and I’m doing my best

Why I Am Not a Skateboarder
By Arianna J.

I am not a skateboarder, I am a lazy person.
Why? I think I would rather be
a skateboarder, but I am not.

I’m not a Skateboarder I’m a lazy liz, I even refuse to take a shower yep I’m that lazy
You get hurt
You have to learn (that takes a long time at least of me)
You have work
To get money
And then buy it
Too much for me
I’ll wait till I’m older!

I Am Not a Kid Who Does Not Care Bout Her Future
By Zia R.

I am not a kid who does not care bout her future oh no I am a hard worker. I want to go to school and go to Harvard I don’t want to not be smart I want to direct a movie.
Because I care about my future never thought twice I think about how I will have fun and not have to get a loan I want to be an actor make my family proud.

Even if I am done studying I will keep studying till I know how to do it I will practice till I get right I will practice till I don’t get one wrong. I will invest by the best study not party. I will win.

Why I Am Not a Dentist
By Clara S.

I am not a dentist, I am a musician.
Why? I think I would rather be
a musician but I am not. Yet. I am making my way towards being a musician. I would make a great musician because I am very good at the guitar, and I am quite a talented singer.

Yet I won’t be a dentist because they have to touch people’s stinky teeth, (I bet they have many cavities.)

Also dentists have to do many painful surgeries to all these poor innocent people. If I tried to be a dentist though I would probably break people’s teeth because I am very clumsy. So that is my statement on how terrible of a dentist I would be. (Thank you for your time.)



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.