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10 November 2010

Kickin' it with Ms. Clark

Jake says these are the only two things you need for a show:
1) be good looking, and
2) be yourself

So, I'm going to have a show: a liberal, authentic, middle aged teacher with baggage, in a small, private, Christian, conservative school. [JG], a senior at the school, named the show. As I covered the office for the secretary because she had to pick up pizza uptown, six or seven students came in during lunch. The headmaster followed and said, what's going on in here, to which [JG] replied, "just kickin' it with Ms. Clark." Instantly I knew that we were on to something. I said yes, like a reality conversation show. [JG] said, I'm thinking Springer, but not. Too which I quickly assured him, "no - more like Howard Stern minus the vulgar inappropriate stuff, just good questions, interesting conversations, and when one bores me, I'll tell the truth."

These are the segments I would have captured today, had the show already existed.

Segment 1: A very physically ill mother berates me over the office telephone because her son ignored her in the parking lot and she needed to give him something. SCREAMING WITH A RASPY SCREECH, all she needed me to do was get him from English class and send him to the car; she just saw him walk by and he ignored her. I did exactly what she asked of me, returned to the office and rolled my eyes. Then she called again. This time, apologizing because she was so upset that she forgot to tell me why she really called. She wanted her other son to sign out because she needed to take him to the DMV since yesterday when they were there all of the machines were broken down and now they had to go back between 12 and 2 today. I calmly assured her that if she came in to sign him out I would send for him. She said the real secretary doesn't make her come in. I said, well, I do.
She came in, embarrassed her son a little, and left.

Segment 2: [DP], a high school student and I discuss how I will not discuss atheism or religion with him until he familiarizes him with a source other than Christopher Hitchens. I also advised him to stop seeking out the opposition argument with recommendations from Christopher Hitchens. At some point he made a comment about another English teacher and me not being like Christians, to which I immediately corrected him, "we are the Christians, it is the others who are not."
He spent a significant amount of time with me as he was sent to the office to photocopy chapters out of a book. I suggested that there might be a law against that.

Segment 3: [JF], a student enters my classroom and says, "how long would you go to jail if you were caught with 30 lbs. of pot?" I said, "I think a really long time that might be intent to distribute." He continues marveling at how much that would cost and what it would look like. I ask, "why are you so interested in this? Or, never mind don't tell me." He says, Wiz Khalifa. I google this character. 60 grams is the actual amount of marijuana he had, 2 ounces. Not at all like 30 lbs. [JF] says, that's still a lot. The bell rings. He leaves.

Segment 4: [LW] the struggling student comes for help. He, like all the others, wants to write about the topics we have discussed in class. I'm asking him to explore ideas analogous to what we study. At first, I tell him what to think, but eventually, he catches on. He writes an introduction with a quote, an in line citation, and a thesis. I'm impressed. He asks if he can come back tomorrow with his draft, and this is why I teach, to watch someone try. He draws conclusions, they are wrong, and I'm proud of him for showing up.

Segment 5: [RK] the antithesis of the struggling student, also struggling, comes to work on his paper. Listening to me as I admonish my daughter over the phone, he motions, should he leave? I shake my head no, so he stays to write. After I hang up, he explains to me that he gives his parents a hard time too, but he really doesn't want to. He told me that his brother grew up without his father actively in his life, quit school his junior year, and cooks in a local restaurant. He's 24 and still isn't sure what he wants to do with his life. He does like to cook though, and he's good at it. [RK] doesn't want to disappoint his parents and plans to attend college. Generally a good student, he admits to laziness.
He writes one sentence on his paper: The wild beast will always exist in humans. He shows it to me apologetically; "I'm not trying to be vague," he says. I'm pleased he has a thought. He tells me he doesn't wish it to be that way, but it is. He continues, slightly digressing, but connecting it all in his mind, that he finds the idea of predestination troubling. If I'm put here to go to hell, and that is predestined, is it designed so that my life will be a lesson of what not to do. Hitler, Mussolini, Charles Manson. And if my life is destined for heaven, then will others learn from my goodness, Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa?
I interrupt. I think predestination is a troubling argument, I admit. Most of us are in the middle, with the paradox of good and bad. So we live in the unknown, thinking we may never really be forgiven for the wrong we have done, but hoping we can be, the purpose I guess being to develop faith. I don't think we can see as clearly as the extreme examples of goodness and evil, we are a combination of the two, so what do we do?
He says, "yes, that is what I struggle with."
I said, write about it.

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