This poem reminds me of many of my experiences as a teacher in classrooms like this. I often felt hopeless. I wanted to give my children opportunities. I never thought about the denotations leading children to a life of crime. It's a very powerful message.
For me, the poem makes me feel two ways: depressed and annoyed.
The poem is depressing because I don't particularly like to think about how bad poor kids have it. I have been in an elementary school in a slum and I know how many fewer chances kids in that school have compared to kids in richer schools.
The poem is annoying because of its simplification of the problems the kids face. Spender is saying that their problems are some sort of plot against them by the people who donate the stuff they have. He says that all the kids is need is for the kids to go see green fields and to read more books. Anyone who thinks much about this stuff knows that the reasons for the plight of poor schools are way more complicated and the solutions are way less obvious.
The poem "An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum" is a wake-up call. The reality of what life for the children discussed in the poem is as sad as the idea of the fog and sour cream walls. Shakespeare is not a thing of beauty to them but a taunt at what they can not have. How could they find joy and delicacy in his words when their surroundings are so bad?
The one child who gave me a sense of hope was the dreamer in the back. It is a child like that dreamer who may find a way to rise above the slums. The poem begs for people to step in and make a difference. To me, the poem is a call for others to do something. A child needs to know what it is like to hold a blade of grass in his hand. He needs to know that the dreamer can have his dreams come true.