Sunday, September 12, 2004

moral perfection

It's Sunday. The past three weeks of school caught up with me last night, especially the emotional. In this short time I have already had students tell me hair-raising things about their lives, such as matter-of-fact stories about violent stepfathers, a girl whose mother went to the hospital one day this last spring for something supposedly routine and died there (she brought her mother's picture to show me Friday), others who have fathers in prison, two who have seen relatives get killed in their neighborhoods (one who had a feeling ahead of time it was going to happen, and was loathe to leave her cousin, who was later that afternoon killed). Friday a girl with big generous black eyes, sobbing, told me that on Thursday her mother was put in the hospital and I asked her about it and the girl told me that her mother had attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Last night, in the quiet safety of my house, when everything caught up with me, I thought about how my mother did that too, and in the same way.
On Friday a girl who is loving writing in the journal, who gives it to me every day to read and respond in, a girl who admits she cannot think of anything else except her father who recently got out of prison and lives in another state, this girl asked me if I thought she could succeed in my class. The terrible thing is, I don't know if she can. She will succeed, she is succeeding, but I don't know if she can nail the leap exam. However, the journal writing is good for her and in just this short time I can see her becoming less afraid of the empty page. Her writing is blooming. Oh, by the way, this is the girl who made the comment about sitting in the back of the bus. L. She is also the one with the cousin I mentioned above. This girl also changed seats during a class discussion recently so that she could be nearer to the middle of it, and away from two girls who were talking (whom I ended up sending outside, not because I was mad, just because I couldn't have them talking while we were working. One of them asked me after school if I was mad at her. And of course I wasn't. And I explained myself to her and we smiled and it was over. This is a girl with a child, a very rough girl with an awareness of meanness, but when she writes in her journal it's always lovely poetic romantic musings about her little girl, and she always asks me to read what she wrote.)
That's the thing about the kids I teach here. Their lives are so complex, and their living conditions so rough, but what I'm discovering is such an innocence still in them, a sweetness. I know the tall mean girl has that in her too.
Another thing is that there was that horrendous quadruple murder in Treme this week at the Black Pearl, and one of the perpetrators is related to one of my students. This girl has been absent the last few days, obviously, but the last time I saw her last week, before the murders, I told her she had a beautiful smile, and that her smile was in her eyes too. The memory of that conversation comforts me. But I know she's not smiling now.
Friday's collaging about moral perfection, etc., was interesting. First period was wild, loud. There's a wonderful girl named E in that class who acts on the outside like she's tough and doesn't give a shit about anything, but she most certainly does. (I saw through her facade the first day of school.) She was distressed that she wasn't finishing her collage by bell time (even though she had a few issues about the scissors and glue...) and I had to reassure her that I would take her work on Monday, and that calmed her and she worked on. She's an extremely serious girl, one of those great, deep, loyal ones. I asked her Friday after school if she would be willing to be our class's student council representative and she looked astonished, then proud, and then said yes she would be willing. Second period was calm and took care of business. Third period was wild too, but one girl, K (who also has a child) went to another teacher and borrowed her broom and dustpan and cleaned up the room of the inevitable collage detritus while another girl, J, the girl who wants to be a nurse, alphabetized my files after she finished her collage. Yes I put extra credit marks in my grade book for them. Crazy as the day was, it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about them, about me, and about teaching. And about love, somehow.
Oh, and by the way, no one banged on my door or bothered me or anyone else in class Friday. Of course, it wasn't so easy to hear over the collaging din. Maybe that's the solution. Din.
My son, Tim, is moving to Paris in 8 days, to take a job as an assistant high school English teacher there. We're going to Galatoire's Tuesday in a celebration. We're riding our bicycles there. I tell you this just so you know something about me.
I am behind on my disposing of things.

Melanie Anne Plesh


Blogger Makenzi said...

you're so lucky. it seems so incredible to be there. do take care of yourself, with all this supposedly crazy weather coming. i miss you.


11:49 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home