Say What

Well, fuck me.  Somebody went and found some rabbits up in here.

This morning, I’m surveying a room of 26 teenagers in the half-light, bent over their paperbacks, sustaining their silent reading.  Some of them have chosen well – a juicy YA romance here, Twilight there – and a few struggle nobly, having erred and plucked the random Kafka or Camus from the pile.  No one talks, no one sleeps.  This is what it’s like the first day: no fast moves.

And Kellye Washington walks in.  Kellye Washington!  The most defiant, flinty student I have ever taught! (See previous entry.)  My blood turns to ice.  I play it cool.

“Do you have a book to read?” I ask gently.  She turns to me with her big eyes.

“Um, no, not right now, but I have something at home I can bring,” she stammers.  Kellye Washington!  Stammering!

“Come on, lemme show you what I brought in from the library,” I say, gesturing for her to follow.  She looks them over and selects a good Sharon Draper, Copper Sun, on my recommendation.

Reader, she was a model student the rest of the goddamned day.  And she was in my class straight through to dismissal.  (We start the year with a seven-day intensive at our school, pairing up with another teacher and teaching the same kids most of the day.)

At one point, she offered to help me prepare folders for the class.  The rest of the time, she was actively engaged with the material.  Oh, and get this: I saw her phone in her hand as she came in from lunch, and I asked her to put it away, and she put it away. She didn’t roll her eyes, suck her teeth, ignore me, curse me out, or try any of her ninja-mind-tricks to flummox me.  And at the end of class, I asked her to put up her chair, and she PUT UP HER FUCKING CHAIR.

She brought a tenderness, a delicacy, to everything she did.  Like she was looking after a baby.  There was something heartbreaking about it, and it gave me weird heart palpitations all day.  I was sure I was seeing an apparition.  There was a deliberateness, a hyperfocus, that reminded me of seeing friends on their way to manic episodes.

I hope that’s not what’s in store for her.  I shouldn’t even be talking about it – I don’t want to jinx it.

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3 responses to “Say What

  1. I am glad you are sending out your essays again Claire…..I have missed them. You write so beautifully!

  2. It’s been so long since I’ve read your blog and it’s my own fault. These are so good. It’s possibly the best writing on teaching I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Thanks, Claire!! Thanks for reading and thanks for the kind words. And don’t worry about taking long between visits: you’re my ideal reader, actually, because I take so damn long to post new essays.

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