Then your state test scores will probably get you called in to the principal’s office.
This week, I treated myself to a renewal of my subscription to Showtime. Premium cable was one of the things I sacrificed when I wasn’t working. Some of the stay-at-home mommies I know got rid of cable all together. I didn’t do that. Who am I? Job?
I knew that when I got Showtime back, I’d have whole seasons of “Weeds,” “Nurse Jackie,” and “Dexter” to watch. I’ve been making my way slowly through the shows On Demand, but tonight I gave a new show a try. It’s called “The Big C.” Unfortunate title, but it’s well-written and superbly acted. Laura Linney is the star, and I’ve been told I resemble her. In this show, she plays a teacher dying of melanoma. I enjoyed the premiere, and I am going to keep watching and see if it lives up to its promise.
In one scene, Laura Linney’s character is sitting at the front of a summer school class, browsing pictures of couches on a website, when a student, played by the chick from “Precious, from the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” strolls in late. Precious proceeds to mock her teacher in a cruel and careless way that makes the other students laugh. It hit a little close to home for me. I thought, “If I knew I were dying of cancer in a year, what wouldn’t I say to a bitch like that.” And Linney’s character doesn’t disappoint. She tells her that she needs to either be fat and jolly or skinny and mean. But nobody likes fat and mean. It was cruel. And I would never advocate saying that to a real person. But, damn, it was an excellent cathartic teacher moment.
Every day a student says something cruel to me. Sometimes HORRIBLY cruel. I remember when I announced my engagement four years ago and one of the boys snorted, “Poor guy.” Similarly, when I told my students I was pregnant, one of the girls shrieked, “But you’re so OLD!” And those are some of the nicer things. Happily, I don’t speak Farsi, so I don’t know the worst stuff they’ve said. Teenagers are self-centered and mean much of the time. It takes huge amounts of energy and patience to deal with them.
I know that I was supposed to be slightly appalled by Linney’s teacher character’s horrible words. I was supposed to feel empathy for Gabby Cinnabon, or whatever her name is. But after the day I had? I just thought it was awesome.
Today, I was reading a non-fiction interview from our textbook with my students. About half of my class had their heads down. Another third was pretending to read, or not even putting up a pretense of paying any attention. The interview was about creativity. It was an interview with a leading researcher discussing how creative people’s brains work. He said that it is a common misconception that creative thinking is different from regular thinking, when in fact, we use the same kind of thinking to make a sculpture, paint a portrait, write a blog, or figure out a way around a traffic jam. Additionally, we lose the parts of our brains we don’t use regularly. I told my students about how when I haven’t written for a few days, I find it hard to get started again. When I write every day, however, sometimes it isn’t great, sometimes I don’t even publish it, but I feel fulfilled. I feel the flow.
“Who cares?” one boy asked.
“What kind of a name is ‘Keith’?” inquired another.
So I made a decision. I’m going to put my all into teaching this class because it’s an act of creativity. I want to learn how to teach. I want to see myself get ideas, try them and fail. And when I fail, I want to try again. There have been two days this week where I felt like I was ready to walk off of this job and never look back(and it’s Tuesday). But today, I stood in front of my class and told them that the way to succeed in art and in life is to keep trying.
The article we read says creative people have tons of ideas. And that tons of them are bad ideas. It doesn’t matter if they’re successful or not. Nobody sits down at her desk and writes the first draft of a best-selling novel on the first try. Nobody is a great teacher every day. Nobody inspires everyone. Everyone’s favorite teacher is someone else’s least favorite. And so it goes.
I’ve decided to commit myself to a writing practice. I’m also committed to a parenting practice and I need to also commit to my teaching practice. Maybe the words of R. Keith Can’t Remember His Last Name and Don’t Have the Book Handy didn’t inspire or even interest my teenagers, but they lit a fire in me. And they always say, if you can just reach one…
When I first started the Bloom Project, I thought it was about learning to match my purse to my shoes and always having cute earrings and an adorably looped scarf on. I’m discovering it’s more about what’s going on inside of me and how that’s affecting my outsides.