Did I Miss Anything?

Editor’s Note: Oh, the smell of newly sharpened pencils! Favorite pens, and a special backpack! List of materials needed, and a few extras “for fun!” It’s Back-to-School month, and many of my friends are headed back as classroom teachers, from my sister at Castle Rock Montessori, to others at high school and colleges across the country.

The weather, too, is changing a bit. Last week it was over 100 degrees here, and today it’s a cloudy low-70’s. While I’m not yet ready to get out my winter clothes, I am remembering an old favorite poem that many teachers print out for their students.


Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here

we sat with our hands folded on our desks

in silence, for the full two hours


    Everything. I gave an exam worth

    40 percent of the grade for this term

    and assigned some reading due today

  on which I’m about to hand out  quiz

    worth 50 percent


Nothing. None of the content of this course

has value or meaning

Take as many days off as you like:

any activities we undertake as a class

I assure you will not matter either to you or me

and are without purpose


  Everything. A few minutes after we began last time

    a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel

    or other heavenly being appeared

    and revealed to us what each woman or man must do

    to attain divine wisdom in this life and the hereafter

    This is the last time the class will meet

    before we disperse to bring the good news to all people

        on earth


Nothing. When you are not present

how could something significant occur?


    Everything. Contained in this classroom

is a microcosm of human experience

assembled for you to query and examine and ponder

This is not the only place such an opportunity has been



    but it was one place


    And you weren’t here



© Tom Wayman


How would you answer this question? Phrase answers both as “Nothing” and “Everything” responses. You need not assume the questioner is a student. Have fun making up your answers — be outrageous, sarcastic, witty, direct and inventive.


Copyrighted material. Reprinted for educational/therapeutic use.
Writing Prompts Copyright © 2015 Featherstone, All rights reserved.


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