Monday, October 6, 2008

These are the Sad Stories

Between my last post and an extended conversation over at John Galliher's blog, I'm stuck remembering sad stories. For anybody wondering how my current teaching persona and philosophy were formed, here's a partial insight. These were all students of mine at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago, where I student-taught. I didn't complete the semester. That wasn't because of the students and is another (angry, not sad) story.

I remember the names, but I'm leaving them out.

The girl who came in 15 minutes late on the first day. She was on crutches. I asked her what had happened. "I got shot." It remains the only time I've ever been in a classroom with no response (sometimes I don't voice my response, but really, what in teacher training prepares you for that moment?). I later found out she'd been in a driveby over the summer coming out of an apartment with two friends - one was still in the hospital, one died instantly.

The boy who was failing World Lit (senior level English) and asked me for a D so that he could join the Marines in the Spring.

The girl who was so proud the day she joined the Latin King Killers.

The boy who pronounced "machine" as "macheen" and caught crap for it from all his (Mexican/Mexican-American) classmates.

The boy in British Lit (junior level English) who was marked as being in special ed. I could never figure out why, since he was the smartest one in the class by far. On one of my last days there, he handed me The Trial saying, "I've read everything by Kafka, but this is my favorite because this is my life." I still have that book.

Somebody make me tell happy stories tomorrow. They exist.

6 comments:

Molly M M said...

My little sister is getting ready to student-teach in Chicago next semester. She is teaching music in a K-8 magnet school on the north side. Still, her experience is going to be so, so much different than she will ever imagine, especially coming out of middle-of-the-cornfield, IL for HS. I hope she has some happy stories too.

JeFF Stumpo said...

Will she be teaching through the Urban Education Program? Crossing my fingers that the answer is no...

John Gallaher said...

I'm going to visit a High School in Akron on Wednesday and apparently I'm going to "teach" for three hours. I don't think I've ever been so terrified in all of my life.

I liked your car metaphor, by the way.

My daughter is six and my son is two. They are daily happy stories. Just sweet and wonderful happy stories. None of which can I remember at this moment. Whoops.

JeFF Stumpo said...

Hi John,

Glad you liked the metaphor.

Don't be too scared. I've got happy stories from Benito Juarez to post tomorrow. And I've taken poets into one of the local high schools each year for the last four years or so, been there all day talking/reading/performing poetry, and it's great. The moment in someone's eyes when they shift from "sigh...poetry" to "oh, that's poetry?" is so fulfilling.

No kids here. Two dogs, Stubby and Apple. And sweet and wonderful and happy stories (or, as it were, tails)(I refuse to apologize for bad puns on my own blog)... :-)

Karin said...

I read that thread on Gallaher's blog and felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I liked your responses, though!

JeFF Stumpo said...

Oh no, why a panic attack?