Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not a Snow Day

So the mayor gets on TV and makes some sarcastic announcement about how he's sorry to report that the schools will be open on Thursday

Big surprise. I already wrote yesterday that the shock was that he called one at all. By six am my phone was ringing- did I have this one's home number? What would happen if we are late? Did I know which buses were likely to be running regularly? Strangely enough I could answer all those questions as I filled the thermos with steamy coffee and pulled the boots over my jeans. (Jean wearing always seemed to be one of the
few benefits of snow days).

And then just as the sun was rising I let myself out into the snow covered world.

And off to work I went.

My good buddies made it in somehow. I joined the "make up missing credit- because you didn't do what you were supposed to do the first time the teacher asked you to do it" session after school.

The English teacher stood in front of an almost empty classroom while four of my senior buddies sat with Homer's Illiad opened before them, eyes glazed over. The teacher showed me the topics for the essays and whispered that she was worried that they might be too hard.

Now here is my moral dilemma- my senior buddies are literally three months away from high school diplomas, and the real world and maybe college and maybe a reality where you are expected to be able to read complex sentences and write coherent essays. And my buddies were staring at the Iliad with about as much interest as... (actually I am having a very difficult time thinking of something they would havefound less interesting - I considered the phone book, the directions for installing a trash compactor and last week's news - but all of those would have been more interesting than the Iliad.)

And the English teacher was breaking into a cold sweat.

I suggested we talk about stuff for a while. Like what is mythology? And why do we study the Iliad? I asked if mythology was fiction or nonfiction? And then we had some problem defining and distinguishing the two.

The English teacher was really sweating now.

And I could end the entry here with the sorry state of the education system today. One of the teacher guppies claims her first grader's can tell the difference when I recounted the story.

But as the period went on, the glazed looks started to disappear. Bettina argued that Push by Sapphire was fiction even though the Precious seemed so real. She's a composite (Did I just hear Bettina say composite?) of so many different students Sapphire taught over the years. Bettina had seen an interview on TV.

Serina argued that Martin Luther's King's "I have a Dream," speech was fiction, because he could have not known what the future held.

Quincy moved from the back of the room, picked up his head and followed the discussion.

And Connor wanted to know why he just couldn't talk about things, why did we have to ruin his good ideas by making him write about them.

My buddies were articulate. They wanted to talk about literature.
They just weren't sure how to read or write about it.

Twenty years ago students like Connor, Bettina, Quincy and Serina, like Precious in Push would have been in some alternative setting secluded from the general education system with some teacher like Saphire or me who fanned the sparks of insight buried under the general confusion the written word provoked.

But today we are all "included".

The English teacher calmed down, we talked about things we could plan for this group.

I wrote before how I won't attempt to choose which system is better since in the end I have no choice.

But its nice to end a Not-a-snow-day- fanning faint sparks of intellect.

1 comment:

  1. You followed your teaching instinct and it paid off. When the hell are we going to be allowed to get back to teaching in ways we know best for kids....engaging them in meaningful ways!?
    What you did was gifted.