To Still a Mocking Crowd

November 29, 2012

Had another Navy dream.  Happily, they are getting rarer and more innocuous.  For years I had primarily two kinds of dreams.  I would either be frantically returning late for leave, or facing the dreary first day of another six month deployment. Increasingly common is the type I had last night: asking for my separation discharge from my utterly intimidating Chief.

Funny enough, I read this passage during my free period today:

 “What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks?  What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament?  Who is not a slave?  Tell me that.  Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing it is alright: that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way—either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is: and so the universal thump is passed around.”

*                                          *                                         *

If one is not honest, all is lost.

My mood was stormy this morning about returning to the English class as Ms. Biondi.  Even Jon Stewart’s reliable sunshine could not make a new , warmer fault move in.  For having his lever broken on high whine Payton received a thunderbolt.  I was fearful over the prospects of another coming downpour of lethargy and insolence.

It was not until I was driving through East St. Louis of all places, that I suddenly took a breath when the radio picked up children jazzily singing “Christmas Time Is Here.”  Bless you Vince Guaraldi.

My plan was to take a step up in volume, yet a step back.  First hour afforded little opportunity to test this, as they took Harper Lee back to the depository, worked quietly on a verb package, and finally watched a segment of To Kill a Mockingbird (May likes my interjection about character names!).  They were pretty good and attentive, so I made a note if it.

Second hour, however, gave me some reason to despair.  While a few students worked on a brief demonstrative outline in the computer room, the vast majority frittered away the period talking to their neighbor.  Mrs. Gadell is obviously well-meaning and capable, yet I was somewhat amazed at the passivity—“it’s their chance to either pass or fail.”  Inquiring about how the motivation or goals have shifting over the semester, she said (this being her first year at CHS) she entertained similar hopes in August.  She too had been surprised by the general lack of caring, but months later has “grown used to it.”  I wanted to shudder,

Third hour, a talkative bunch, would require a plan.  As they streamed in I assigned them to computers to cut down on chummy chatter.  And it seems to have worked.  I really enjoyed this hour in small moments.  Several asked my help (yeah!) about topics and thesis statements.  I talked to a student named Christian about learning manual transmission (struggled with it myself at one time), and helped expand on Ashby’s “drumstick twirling” notion into a three minute speech.  Honestly, not sure how he’s going to pull that one off.  Merely getting to know their names fully today helped a lot, and it was a major victory to be noticed in the room.  When one student said his skeletal speech on shaving was done, I asked him why it was an important skill.  He replied (correctly) “to get girls.”   “However,” I joked, indicating the utter lack of actual shaving steps listed in his demonstration “if I was to follow your directions I’d end up with a bloody face!”

In short, a few hours into my day, and I am feeling more comfortable in my teaching skin, and a little less an instructional imposter.

Called May at break.  It was an hour before her practice dissertation interview at Wash U.  “I’m freaking out!  The anticipation is killing me,” came a voice sounding like her.  “He’s the guy that’s an idiot, and going to try to test me.  That’s just what he always does.  There’s no way to prepare, then.”  She was afraid of being “rattled” by “How dare you”-type interjections.

“Want me to come over?”

“That would be fun!  It’s good to talk to someone.  To know you’re in my corner, whether I’m a professional success or not.”

Seventh hour continues to be horrific.  One of the few who did work was a girl whose topic was hot-wiring a car.

Jimmy John’s came to May’s and mine rescue this evening, and we did nothing of any intelligence for the entire night.




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