Mrs. Stein

By Bill Dodds b. 1952 Bill Dodds

The school bell rings, we go inside,
Our teacher isn’t there.
“Maybe she’s sick!” her pet cries out.
Yeah, right. As if I’d care.
 
I have a D in Language Arts,
My grade in math’s the same.
And now my teacher might be sick.
Could be I’m part to blame.
 
She doesn’t like me, that’s a fact,
I wouldn’t tell a lie.
She says stuff like: “You’re very smart,
But you don’t even try.”
 
I start to laugh—my teacher’s sick!
And boy, I’m feeling fine . . .
When someone knocks the door right in,
And there stands Frankenstein.
 
She’s six-foot-eight, her dress is black,
She’s wearing combat boots.
I start to gasp, she growls and says,
“I’ll be your substitute.”
 
The teacher’s pet is whimpering;
She doesn’t stand a chance.
The smart kid stares and points and faints.
The bully wets his pants.
 
“My name is Mrs. Stein,” she says,
And every student cringes.
She leans the door against the wall,
She’s knocked it off its hinges.
 
“Now let’s begin. You there! Stand up!”
She looks me in the eye.
I try to move, my legs won’t work.
I know I’m going to die!
 
In one big step she’s next to me,
And she does more than hover.
She blocks the sun, it’s dark as night,
My classmates run for cover.
 
“Now get up to the board,” she says.
“I’d like to see some action.
Pick up the chalk, explain to us
Division of a fraction.”
 
I leap away to save my life,
This time I really try.
I think and think and think and croak,
“Invert and multiply.”
 
“Correct! She says. I breathe again
And head back for my chair.
“You, FREEZE!” she shouts, and I stop cold.
“And don’t go anywhere.”
 
This all begins at nine o’clock,
I fight to stay alive.
It seems to last a million years—
The clock says nine-o-five.
 
That’s just three hundred seconds,
And then my turn is through.
She points at every one of us—
“Now you. Now, you. Now, you.”
 
We all get nailed this awful day,
There’s nowhere we can hide.
The lunch bell rings, we cannot eat,
We simply crawl outside.
 
We can’t believe the other kids
Who run and play their games.
Not us, who have big Mrs. Stein—
Our world is not the same.
 
The bell has tolled, I must go in,
My time on earth is through.
I’ll leave this on the playground—
Here’s what you have to do.
 
You must listen to your teacher
And pray her health is fine,
Or one day soon you’ll hear the words:
“My name is Mrs. Stein.”

Bill Dodds, "Mrs. Stein" from Kids Pick the Funniest Poems. Copyright © 1991 by Bill Dodds.  Reprinted by permission of Meadowbrook Press.

Source: Kids Pick the Funniest Poems (Meadowbrook Press, 1991)

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Poet Bill Dodds b. 1952

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Biography

Bill Dodds is an acclaimed children’s poet and novelist who has had work published in popular children’s anthologies like Miles of Smiles (1998). His novel My Sister Annie (1997) told the story of sixth-grader Charlie and his struggle to accept his older sister’s Down’s Syndrome. Publishers Weekly claimed that Dodds’s “discussion of difficult family dynamics generates not only interest but sympathy.” A member of the Authors In . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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