Thursday, July 21, 2005

Douglass beckons

I wrote an email to the principal at Douglass to see whether I had a job this coming year and she wrote me back this morning to say it looks good for me to come back there! One of the first thoughts I had was THE BLOG LIVES ON.
This time last year I was four days from starting the new teacher induction weeks. This time last year I had chosen Douglass in my mind but had no idea if I was going to get to work there or not. And now look. A whole year under my belt and another one on the way.
I have spent the summer turning the blog and my journals into a book. I've really struggled with what the nature of the book is. I think it's a strange combination of my public actions and thoughts and my private ones. And, the third voice is all the people who commented, and the dialogue that occurred. I think the thing I've most struggled with is why I did it? Why did I go to Douglass? Why did I quit Mandeville? Why did I make this book? And for whom? I think I made it for the children. I think I want people to know who they are, what they go through, and what they're capable of.
This has been a violent summer and every time I hear about a new murder I know that there's the very real possibility that I will know the victim or the perpetrator. So far this summer that has only happened once, and he was a murderer. And he wasn't a student of mine, but the boyfriend of one of my students (a girl in the Hamlet class who listened to Luther Vandross all the time and had a song picked out to be sung at her wedding). I think the hopelessness in that community is almost impossibly deep. Maybe it's simplistic of me, but I think that the only thing that's going to save those kids is if they become educated. I don't just mean educated so they can go to college and get good jobs. I mean educated to find out that the world exists for them too, and that they have the minds to rise and participate. I think for them to learn about poetry and Shakespeare and to read stories about people like them (like all of us is what I mean) and to find out that in the off season one can fly round trip to Paris from New Orleans for $400 and that a hostel bed costs $21 a night. I even think that the way they've grown up, learning to read situations around them for their survival, gives them an extra edge in a foreign country. When I was a teenager I did not even understand what Europe was. I couldn't imagine it. I did not have any clue that it was within the realm of possiblity to go there. I couldn't even fathom where it was, even looking at a map. I didn't understand my place in the world. I educated myself though, read foreign novels, got strong, and when I was 46, went there, and to Russia, for six months by myself. Even though I grew up Caucasian and somewhat middle class, I identify with these kids more than with any other groups of people. I know what they need because I know what I needed. It's so interesting to me how very meaningless skin is.
Speaking of foreign countries, my son, Tim, is still in France, but staying for the summer in a sea resort town in Normandy. He's hoping to be getting his teaching job back for next year. He's happy.
Three English teachers quit Douglass over the summer, all three of them Caucasian.
That's all for the moment. I'm glad to be back!



Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

Melanie, I am so happy to hear you will be back at Douglass! For one thing, there will be some continuity for both you and the kids. And you have invested a lot of yourself there. I am glad you will be able to continue your work.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms Plesh,
I wanted to commend you on what you have done in this year and what you plan to do in the next and future years. I could never fathom doing what you are actually going out there to do. It's such a refreshment to read your journal and to see that there are people out there who think about making the future better for our generation. I am happy for the kids that get you as a teacher, and hope you create wonders for them as you created wonders for me. I want you to know you are appreciated where ever you are, and many previous students miss seeing you every day. Miss the times when it would rain every day in our sixth hour and you would have to run outside to close the windows of your red truck. Ms. Plesh, you created oppertunities for me to express myself, and I know you will create oppertunities for your future students.
I hope to see you sometime soon.
Kristin Craik

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are truly an original! Thank heavens we have wonders like you. You taught my eldest for two years at MHS, & she has never forgotten you. Neither has my husband who felt, rightfully so, that you were the most incredible teacher he had ever heard speak. He wanted to take one of your courses! I am sorry that my other two didn't get a chance to have you, but I believe you are so needed where you are. My one comment is that you spoke about "their community". I know you didn't mean it that way, but if everyone spent a little time and/or money in "their community", I feel sure that it would become more of "everyone's community" much sooner. It's got to start somewhere. You've taken your stand. It's time for all of us to do something, also. Even in Mandeville, we have children who need our help. You're wonderful! Thank you for being you.


7:43 PM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

Congrats! Ms. Plesh, the next statement I'm going to make is going to be me just "calling it like I see it", so bear with me:
This blog would have never died. If you went elsewhere, you would still be thinking about and stirring about and finding ways to connect yourself back to Douglass (even if just by rereading your journal entries and by using the lessons you learned there to help teach your new students elsewhere). You don't let experiences that change your life leave your life overnight.

In terms of you stating how you are not sure exactly what the nature of your book is, maybe it is because your book is completely finished yet and you need more time at Douglass and with Douglass to figure this out. There is a reason for everything and there is a reason you being back at Douglass this fall.

The true calling and nature of your book will surface when you are ready to see it, but not a moment before. Keep on doing what you are doing and keep on being you.

Always remember that you have people who love you and support you. I am one of many who would stand in lines longer than those the night Harry Potter comes out just to be one of the first to get your book! You already have followers...

3:32 PM  

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