Current/Recent Reading List

01 November 2006

Top of the Morning

If Flannery O'Connor were still around, she could have done a real number with the fifteen kids in my first period general English class. They are quite an assortment, jammed together in my room from 8-9:30, like the disparate characters O'Connor might jam together on a bus, or in a doctor's waiting room. Eight are black, four are hispanic, and three are white. Most of them come in sleepy and a little grumpy, wearing puffy winter coats because it's a little cool at the bus stop in the morning. They are not too anxious to do work, but not defiant about it either. Some of them have aspirations, while others will probably be satisfied with just muddling through. And as with Flan's character groupings, first period contains quite a few wounded souls.

They are not the pretty people, with two exceptions among the girls, and maybe one among the boys. One of the girls, in the front row, is 16 and pregnant, and already a year behind in school. She gets dehydrated and has to go to the water fountain quite a bit. In one of her papers she wrote (off topic) about how her dad tries to act real nice whenever their relatives from Virginia come to visit. "But he don't fool me," she wrote, and I almost didn't have the heart to mark that up. She's a real sweetheart, as mild-mannered as could be.

One of the other girls lost her father to cancer four years ago (I discovered from reading her latest essay), while another's mom is having eye sight trouble after most of a benign tumor was removed from her brain. She goes with her mom to the hospital to translate for her. A girl who just moved mid-semester from a beach community, and is the nearest to a "prep" as that class contains, apparently was relocated by her grandparents because her parental situation was so bad (this from the guidance counselor). Again, all these girls are real sweeties, though they may have to warm up a bit before you see it.

Among the boys is a repeat offender to tenth-grade English, one who I failed last year because he sat in my room and did absolutely nothing except sleep and joke around. On our final exam he wrote a desperate note about how he knew he screwed up in the class and was hoping for pity. He got none, though I'll admit I thought about it. This year he is a completely different kid, carrying a solid "B" in my class. He's still a little lazy, but wow, what a change.

Oh, first period is a bit silly, and not too interested in my high-falutin' ideas about why literature is important. There are, to be sure, no future scholars among them. On certain days, though, I think about them and all the suffering they've been through, and all that will surely be coming to some of them, and I marvel at them. They are a little downtrodden, but I don't see any quit in any of them at this point. And to me, they are beautiful.


DMW said...

I've been reading your blog for a while; I got the link from BAW's blog. I've really enjoyed it, and liked this post a lot. I'm glad to know that you are a teacher, for what that's worth. Thanks for working so hard.

School Master P said...

Thanks for the kind words - that helps me know this is a worthwhile effort (hopefully!).