A Villanelle – Life at My Failing School

One problem plaguing struggling schools is staff retention.  Wednesday was the last day for students at my school.  One frequent question I was asked by students was, “Mrs. Barnes will you be back next year?”  I told each student who inquired that I was returning. After I told a sixth grader, I would be back she replied, “That’s good. You never know who will be back after any of these school breaks.”  Another student, who stepped out of her class line on her way to the buses, hugged me and said, “Thank you for staying.”

When I was driving home, I heard those words over and over again.  “Thank you for staying,” and “You never know who will be back.”  It made me reflect upon various conversations I have had with students this year and at other schools where I previously worked.  I strung those thoughts together and composed a villanelle (took some liberties with the rhyme) from the perspective of a child who stayed at a failing school as others came and went.

Villanelle - Life at My Failing School


Schools are little communities within our bigger community.  When there is constant and significant staff turnover year after year, the school community struggles to stabilize and the school continues to fail.  A school should be a place where children find stability, not another place to be abandoned.

There’s a Chinese proverb displayed on my desk.  “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”  If you are not ready to commit to the heavy lifting by working in or supporting one of these schools, the least you could do is not interrupt us with verbal condemnations.  Yes, there are many other factors to consider, but first a school has to keep and develop a winning team inside and outside of the building or our students will lose.


Leave a Reply