To Be An English Teacher

I imagine something like this:

Carefully picking up each of the packets, still warm from their journey through the guts of the printer, you have a brief fantasy of writing each one by hand, copied as if you were a medieval monk. You shove the compulsion into the back of your mind, reminding yourself that you do not have quite so much time, patience, nor desire as to complete such an arduous task.

Nevertheless, you hole-punch the packets and try to ignore the reality that most–perhaps all– will end up torn apart carelessly, lost, ignored, and doodled-upon. You had each of the poems, short stories, and novels carefully selected, from years ago, probably while you were in college and still enamored with the beauty of the world. Perhaps that is a reason that you had to calmly push the excitement out of your voice when you received a nervous phone call from a mother, asking if you would teach this class. Going back to the classroom would return you to a younger, more idealistic self, one that has not been worn down by years of academia.

You knock the papers against the table, clipping them together, taking a moment to stare through each of the holes, perfectly lined up. You pick one copy from the top and put it into the white binder next to you. You will underline and highlight and scrawl in the margins, preparing each work for presentation to a class full of eager students.

You also print out syllabuses, worksheet templates, more packets, an article about keeping a commonplace book, a table of contents organizing information by semesters and quarters, offering headings for each division of time and material. You label tabs, make notes on post-its, thumb through the worn volumes of your favorite books, take deep breaths when you feel yourself becoming too excitable.

Your philosophy is this: these children will have plenty of time to read books like The Scarlet Letter and Romeo and Juliet. You need to give them something else. Not necessarily better, but certainly more obviously beautiful. So you vow to get them to read The Good Earth, Gilead, Till We Have Faces, and Winesburg, Ohio. You will introduce them to marginalia,  new words, and the questions that humans have been asking themselves for centuries.

After many hours of preparation, you arrive to class on the first day, annotated novels tucked away in your messenger bag, next to the folder full of packets that you intend to distribute to your pupils, next to the binder that you carefully assembled out of your ideas and hopes and dreams. You carefully remove the binder, place it on the podium, opened to the first page. You only have a moment before the first teenager files in, and then they all do: sullen and rambunctious, all at once.

You hand out the packets and try not to be too upset when several make faces at the heft they have. It doesn’t feel like much to you, after years of handling biology textbooks that felt like bricks in your bag with their thin pages.

Next down the rows of desks come the syllabuses, then the notebooks you bought them in the hopes that at least a few would begin commonplacing. As you begin to speak and they come to attention–some snapping, some languidly coming into focus like a behemoth river monster floating downstream.

You briefly explain classroom expectations, your bathroom policy, what books and short stories and poems you intend for them to examine and learn to love. You wince again when you mention that you want them to memorize a poem each quarter and the class collectively groans. What’s wrong with committing beautiful words to heart?  you think, doubting yourself for a moment before you decide that it must be because they are young and new to the idea of good literature. They will learn to love it.

The second groan comes when you explain the final. It is not an exam–you always thought that was a bad way to test these skills–but to write a paper analyzing any book of literary merit. Seven page minimum. You feel yourself stepping again toward bitterness, toward a mindset reminiscent of an elderly man mumbling about “today’s youth”. You try to bury it like you did before.

And so the year goes: some things met with silent acceptance, but many punctuated by groans and complaints as if the mere idea of work was comparable to childbirth. Sure, there are one or two students to linger in your classroom, risking tardies, to talk about something they enjoyed, or something they desire to understand, but not very many. You find yourself focusing on the students who did not stay after class.

This is the same for each assignment, each class discussion, even the final paper. You receive at least five papers that are not seven pages with a shrug and a nonchalant excuse. You resist the urge to stand up and shout: This is your education that you are neglecting! This is your life, your future! You hopeless fool!  You remain seated and calm, though. It would not be meet to “freak out”.

When, at the end of the year, the mother who called you up first asks you if you will come back, you politely decline. You have satisfied your dream of becoming an english teacher, and understand that you will never be like the ones that you remember so fondly. They had a strength of character and a hardiness of soul that you will never obtain, so you return to your laboratory bench and the satisfaction that you are doing your own part to create good in the world, even if it is not something quite so formative as teaching.

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Projects for 2018

Today I thought I would share blurbs and aesthetics for a few longer projects I’d like to work on during the year. I got the idea from this post by PaperFury; you’ll have to scroll down a little bit to reach her aesthetics. The projects I’m outlining here range in length from “long short story” to “novel trilogy”, so I doubt that I’ll finish all of them this year–however, I’d be happy to just get started on a few. Additionally, some of you may recognize Nothing Good Will Come of This as a past NaNoWriMo project. After looking at the first draft, I realized that it would be better suited to a shorter form and much better outlining, so I plan to rewrite it.

 

Nothing Good Will Come of This
James is a crime lord, and a very talented one at that, in a world where illegal entries are the best way to get in. His world is full of men and women in suits, hungry for power, and desperate for revenge–and he orchestrates the rise and fall of his subordinates perfectly. However, there’s only so long until something in his marvelous machine, his network sprawling across classes and countries, will fall apart, and when Finn, a CIA agent, find a string and begins tugging, it’s all James can do to prevent the entire operation from pulling apart at the seams.

 

Frostbitten
When a dying boy from the north arrives on the storyteller’s doorstep, she sends for the priestesses. The most talented scholars and healers, it still takes them almost everything they know to bring him back from the brink, and when he awakes, the tale he begins to tell is not one they knew. Instead, the Duchess has taken over, controlling the wyverns and subjugating the very people she was supposed to protect. It is up to them to save their world and people as they know it, before nothing can stop the Duchess.

 

Diary of an Explorer
The journal and narration of a spelunker as he travels deep into the depths of a cave system, risking his life for the sake of discovery.

 

Deep Forest
The magicians in the valley have long lived life simply–since the dragons deserted them, promising to return from the mountains in a time of need, the land has been mostly peaceful. However, tension between the two branches has begun to rise, and the sound of hoofbeats in the distance no longer guarantees peaceful visitors. As brother rises up against brother, the outcome for each is uncertain.

A Fresh Start

It’s been a long time, folks.

The trees have lost their leaves, and in the coming months will regain them; the second semester of the school year will begin where the first semester left off; to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

In my last few months of high school, at the beginning of a new year, I am taking the opportunity to make one more change in a season full of changes. I’m not leaving this blog, but it will be changing, much like I have and will.

Some of the plans I have laid out are still that: merely plans. Some are more concrete. But the end focus is the same. This blog should grow up, which involves putting away some childish things. Petty jealousy, gossip, angst, and all the standard tenets of teenager-hood ought to be swept away, and better virtues ought to be put in their place. If my mind is a home, them this blog is a bookshelf. It no longer needs to be filled with shiny toys and distractions, but with something of substance.

Does this sound fake-deep? Probably.

On a more practical level, this blog should become a well-organized, curated collection of thoughts, in the form of essays, short stories, and perhaps even poetry. I want it to have some level of effort and quality. I want it to have thought put behind it, as part of an effort to live a more thoughtful life.

In the end, I doubt the changes will be as overwhelmingly drastic as perhaps they sound. I am still essentially the same person; this is not some kind of bizarre, magical transformation. I will have the same writing style, the same favorite books, the same personality, but perhaps a little bit more well-spoken. A little bit more thoughtful. Things that most of us strive to be more of.

So, thank you for your time. Thank you for your attention and interest and talents.

This has the potential to be a great year.