Sophomores and Robert Frost

I’ve been doing a lot of substitute teaching here lately for the purpose of having some income. It’s been a real challenge and I have a great deal of respect for teachers, especially the ones that go the extra mile and do a good job. It’s very difficult to do so given the absent respect factor that is so common in our students these days. But now I’m sounding like a cranky old person!

“Back in my day, if we talked back to a teacher like you youngins do today, we got swats with a real paddle. That’s how it was and we liked it!”

OK, enough grumpiness.

Today I was subbing in an English class in which the students had to take the Robert Frost poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and identify all metaphors and similis, etc. I read the poem and tried to help the students to understand it. Quite frankly, it’s really a boring poem. I know, I’m not supposed to say that. I’m supposed to go gaga over it since it is Robert Frost, and the geniuses of English Poetry have deemed this poem worthy of all adoration and respect.

In the first class, as the students pondered this great poem, I told them it was the equivalent of a Facebook status update. Robert stopped in the woods during a snowfall and found it interesting. Great! Like many of our status updates… big deal!

During the second class, I tried to engage the students. Some thought it might be about Santa Claus. Another student said he thought it was about a man going off to war. Another one thought it was about a man who became lost.

For the most part, they said they didn’t like it. I pressed them on it: “Because no one cares,” said one young woman. Again, I pressed her on why no one cares? “Because it’s not about us!

I couldn’t help but laugh. Here these Texas teenagers had no way to identify with Frost and his poem. Yet, for some reason, we have to read it and find all the metaphors, similis, alliterations, etc. Which, according to the English teacher across the hall, there are none. So why make the assignment?

Well, the sub has to have something to do with the class.

But please, no more Robert Frost. Can’t we find a poet who we can relate to from our day?

O wait, that’s Rap music. Never mind.

UPDATE: Since this helped Heath relate to the poem, see comments section, hopefully it will help you relate to it as well.


6 thoughts on “Sophomores and Robert Frost

  1. Alright, glad you liked the Muppet video, but I will add that this poem is actually quite relevant if you think about it. The point is that Frost sees a beautiful sight but doesn’t have time to look at it because he is in a hurry and has more important things to do. It’s the tug of beauty vs. the matter of fact nature of life. Frost is in some way, I think, lamenting that he can’t just stop and stare at the beautiful sight he is seeing. I’m sure everyone has felt that at some time or another, or at least we ought to experience it. (the fairy tal

    We’re too busy and we don’t stop to gaze and think about the beautiful sights that confront us. Imagine if this had been Moses and the beautiful sight had been the burning bush. He didn’t have time, what might his sheep think of him? He’s tired. Keep moving on, nothing to see here.

    Or imagine if it were us, and Jesus is the beautiful sight (think Psalm 27:4), and we just don’t have time, too many obligations to keep, need to get to sleep.

    Even aside from the spiritual applications you could make, just the old general notion of stopping to smell the roses is relevant. Just stop from time to time and look at God’s wonderful creation. Forget your worries, engagements, stress and just stop and look.


  2. I love the title because (I suspect unwittingly) it so well describes the problem. The term “sophomore” has interesting roots. It is built on “sophos” — wise — and “moros” — from whence we get our word “moron”. Yes, most literally is a person who believes himself to be wise but is actually a fool. And our modern society, thinking itself wise, is actually foolish … oh, wait, that’s kind of biblical, isn’t it?

    I think it’s clearly a contrasting of the important (looking around at the beauty God has created) and the urgent (“I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep”), something all of us struggle with. Our culture values gratification over delayed gratification, action over thought, feeling over thinking. I would definitely expect this poem to be “boring” to any of today’s kids overdriven with “personal electronics”, constant stimulation, and very little direction.


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