Sue Clark: Confessions of a teacher nerd
“Staples! How could you?” appears as a post from one of my Facebook teacher friends. Several other teachers commiserate with crying emojis.
I remember how it felt as a mid-career, full-time teacher raising a child. I’d see the fall clothes hit the windows of Nordstrom and shudder. The nerve!
These days, when I see the Kmart sign proclaiming “great deals as we make way for fabulous fall merchandise,” I am elated. The American Profile supplement in The Union is titled “Cool for back-to-school.” Again I feel a frisson of excitement.
The difference for me is that I reluctantly took the second semester off from my high school students to have back surgery. And amazingly, I am ready to teach again this fall (part-time and with no child to raise).
It was hard to let English classes go. In a clingy manipulation, I offered my students five points to write me an inspirational letter before I left in February. When I got home and read them, I cried. I also wrote each of them a letter extolling their strengths, nagging them to continue doing well and wishing them a good semester.
My long-term substitute made the transition more bearable, as she was bright, organized and a natural teacher. The students reported to me that they liked her.
I remember getting the “Summer is Rapidly Passing By” letter from my various principals every August and cringing. This year, I receive all the dates for meetings and I’m excited. I raise my arms up to see if my back will shriek when I write on the whiteboard. It doesn’t.
I’ve obtained a list of the plays my English students will see at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival in October. My plan is to create a group of Capuccino-drinking, beret-wearing literary critics strolling the streets of Ashland.
I’ll do Julius Caesar with the 11/12s and teach a modern Native American author, Sherman Alexie, to the 9/10s. They’ll be viewing a Native American play touching on some of the same themes as Alexie. There is no critic more scathing than a well-read teen. I am eager to hear about it.
My mind wanders to Julius Caesar, which I will have to read again, since my last time was in 1965. It is a no-comedy-zone play, so I get a used book on Amazon called “The Make It Fun Guide to Julius Caesar.” But is “fun Julius Caesar” an oxymoron? Should I refresh oxymorons with them? All I remember is “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. Such men are dangerous.” Can I relate it to current politics without sounding partisan? Summer reading for me.
And Sherman Alexie is so honest and funny, but he can be abrasive. In a burst of protectiveness, I check the reviews and find it to be approved by high school library associations. The abrasiveness is important, I decide, because he talks of racism and poverty. The kids need to know about life on and off the reservation.
Finally, I have the book, “Risking Intensity: Reading and Writing Poetry with High School Students.” Poetry each week. They like it. Yep, I am ready for the first month. So when I see autumn leaves displayed at Ben Franklin, all I can think of is Romeo saying, “How well my comfort is revived by this.” Fall weather and school.
Don’t tell the other teachers.
Sue Clark lives in Grass Valley.
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