Tuesday, January 18, 2005

rocks and boats and a river

I got my new classes today, two writing classes and an English III class. I have a lot to say. I even brought some of today's writing home with me to include here in this blog. But I'm not ready this evening to talk about that. Another, more pointed story wrote itself today.
Today I finally unburied my box of rocks from under the untouched boxes of workbooks against my wall and I opened it. There are a lot of rocks, and shells, and sticks that got loose from beaver dams, with the tooth marks, things I've been collecting all my life, things that just jump into my path. Or maybe I jump into their's. I don't know. One of my former students, LB, the girl who is writing a book about her life, came to visit me in my classroom after classes were done and she looked in the box and loved a few things she saw. She told me a story about finding conchs somewhere on a beach and being amazed at how big the shells were and that animals were living inside them and that she pulled the animals out of the shell. I accidentally made a noise that she realized was me being sorry the animals died. I know she had no idea about the life inside those shells. I didn't mean to worry her or insult her. It was just a response. But she reacted to it.
Then she asked me if I wanted to go see some rocks by the river at a place where she goes a lot and I said yes and so I drove us, under her direction, to the levee where the Industrial Canal and the Mississippi River do their thing together, where the levee is a wide green expanse, where both bridges are in view (I even saw the St Claude bridge open for a boat. It's a beautiful bridge.) and we talked and walked and picked up rocks and driftwood and shells. I found a dog skeleton. She gave me a rock to remember her and the day by and I did the same. The one I gave her was a triangular quartzish pillow of a rock. Hers was an asymmetrical tan and rough rock, flattish, compact, and pocked. She threw oyster shells in the river and said she was expecting one to fly one day. I never noticed before that an oyster shell resembles a wing.
I discovered that she is a romantic, and I told her so, and so I got to teach her what that means, that people who sit on the levee and throw wing-like shells and who watch boats and birds and who notice the various skins the river wears are romantics, that people who write by rivers are romantics. Once during our conversation I heard her correct her pronunciation of a word. I realized something important, and that is, that just close proximity with another influence can have a serious effect. I suspect I affected her in this way too.
Then I brought her home. I don't want to describe the neighborhood. It's low and she doesn't belong there.

Melanie


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have always found a special way to connect with your students.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

I think the key is that you open yourself up to them, and you provide openings for them to connect. That is all too rare a quality in teachers, I think. Too many of us think we have to remain aloof, distanced. What I love about you as a teacher, Melanie, is that you don't do that.

9:15 AM  

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