Un-Learning Lessons

As I was talking to Hillary about what DH2U and I were going to grow in the garden, I mentioned that tomatoes were a must because store bought tomatoes and home grown taste so different they shouldn’t be allowed to have the same name. She agreed. I then mentioned that we were going to grow beets, and she blanched. She and her brother were subjected to canned, pickled beets growing up, and the thought of them became repulsive. I tried to convince her that like with store versus “real” tomatoes, pickled and canned versus fresh beets were the same way. She looked at me skeptically, but she did agree to try them.

I was thrilled at her willingness to try them again in a new way, and promised that I would not be at all offended if she didn’t like them. This last weekend I prepared roasted beets for Hillary. The verdict? She went back for seconds!!!!

Hillary holding up a beet and smiling

Hillary’s courage inspired me to re-explore one of my learned dis-likes.

When I was in high school, I had a series of negative encounters with poetry. My freshman year we had a poetry unit. We were handed out a sheet saying what needed to be included in our final project – a certain number of original poems, definitions of various poetry terms and examples of the terms from published poems, etc. We were told something along the lines of “feel free to decorate your project with original art”. Me being me, I had everything done well in advance of the due date. The day before we had to hand it in, the teacher off-handed mentioned, “You do realize that the number of original poems I requested is enough to get you a ‘C’. If you want an ‘A’, you will need to submit more.”


“How many more?”

“Enough. Oh, and if you want better than a ‘C’, I do expect the project to be decorated with original art.”

The dislike for this teacher wore off on poetry.

The next year a different teacher also had a poetry unit. Once a week for what seemed like an eternity we were given a poem with the writing prompt: In your opinion, what is this poem about? Every week I spent hours on my interpretation of the poem, and each week I got the same red ink written across the top, “Wrong interpretation: C-”. The prompt very clearly said, “in your opinion”. How could my opinion be wrong?

From that point on, any time I heard the word “poetry”, I had a negative reflexive response.

And then, after my dinner with Hillary (very much unlike “My Dinner with Andre”), I gave it a second chance. I subscribed to Poetry Magazine’s monthly podcast. I listened to the latest episode, and not only did I not want to vomit, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a painless dissection of the poems, showing how they were similar to others and how they varied, and how the playing with language added to (or subtracted from) the theme. This should be played in schools! Okay, maybe not high schools because the language and themes can get racy, but there has to be a place for this accessible literary criticism.

Who’da thought that Tammy would like poetry?!?!!?  Thanks for yet another blessing, Hillary!

2 thoughts on “Un-Learning Lessons”

  1. Yay for poetry! Yay for Hillary. Poetry, I think, like anything else, is more appreciated the more you understand about it. Like art. Like dance. Like gardening. Like parenting, skiing, swimming, rock climbing…..and on and on. Good for you to give it another chance. And I didn’t know there was a poetry magazine monthly podcast. Thanks for the lead. I’ll love it.


    1. I’m amazed at how many different things I’d rediscovered as an adult and love that I hated growing up. Avocados for one, and classic music. I think a lot of it has to do with the situation, and as you said, having a better understanding.

      And… Poetry Magazine’s podcast is free! How cool is that!


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