By Thomas Page


Dr. Reading wanted to make a scene

By transforming a cat into a dream

Teacher by the end of fifteen school weeks.

Sangchu, his proposed student, barely speaks

Nor communicates with the clarity

Normally reserved by rarity

Of talking animals. “This is harder

Than I initially envisioned,” to her

He said. Remembering phonemes, he

Drew a word chart and broke down what would be

Logical to any human student.

“Now, Sangchu,” he said, “it would be prudent

If you would work with me and sound out these

Phonemes for me, if you can, if you please.”

The little gray cat turned her head away

From him to watch orioles and blue jays

That were much more important to a cat

Than phonics. Reading, thinking her a brat,

Closed the curtains and got closer to her

Saying extremely slowly, “If this were

Some empire of cats or pax felis

Then you may very well begin to cease

Your studies to curse Audubon’s paintings

Or whatever other little hating

You have stored in your little kitty head.

But we’re on the cusp some shred

Of research that cats can learn from teaching

And maybe the cause of others’ learning.”

The piqued man turned his head away to the

Chart and wrote down two syllables, a

“Sang” and a “chu.” He looked at her and said,

“Your name is ‘Sangchu.’ Although I will dread

Whatever you’re about to do, please try

And sound these syllables out loud. Apply

What I have taught you so far during our

Lectures and class discussions.” But the hour

That a cat would speak English was not to

Pass. Instead, the housecat yowls softly and mews

With the sense of satisfaction that she

Did whatever the giant wanted, free

Of the burden of remembering what

The difference between “meow” and “mew.” But

Needs of the student were not on his mind.

He had a lesson plan that was streamlined

To meet all of his expectations. Blind

Of his years of experience, he whined

That all of these exceptions were weighing

Down the process of flow or conveying

The true nugget of information that

His student was missing. He sees the cat

Bathing in sunlight like a flat doormat

Like some woolly, careless aristocrat.

He thinks of his own schooling and how he

Needed extra instruction like a key

To the English language so that he could

Read. He walked to her placed on the hardwood

And sat down with her, “I know I can be

Hard on you but I am trying to see

If I can teach you basic ABCs”

Looking at the scene like a Grecian frieze

He rethought his lesson plans to be more

Aware of differentiation, core

Standards, and the needs of his student. “That’s

All right,” he said, “It is not like herding cats.”


This originally was a final project for a reading in education class. This was a reflection of a lesson plan I designed around The Heart of a Dog which talks about a plastic surgeon transforming a dog into a person. This ends up blowing up in his face. 

The poetic form is a Russian stanza called chastushki. This is a quatrain of AABB. 

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