Friday, January 13, 2012
SORRY, SAM, I HOPE YOU DO NOT MIND.
One of my English Composition students asked me to send him one of my stories in English. I agreed, but after, thinking it over, I decided to publish it in our blog so that every visitor or author of it could read it. I hope Samuel does not get mad at me. I know he won't. I chose one I wrote while participating in the Plymouth Writing Institute in 2009 in New Hampshire, USA. I noticed that many of my co-participants liked it. After reading the story, tell us what you think by leaving a comment, please.
Tuesday, June 30th., 2009
TEACHERS NEVER KNOW
By Máximo Encarnación Gomera
A confusing mix of ¨I do not Know¨ and ¨I know what to write about¨ filled my teacher’s bald head. He thought the idea of going abroad and participating in a writing teaching summer course would be easy. Now he knows what being on the other side is like. He had been told to take a draft to the first class day of the program. We, his students, have an advantage over him. At least, we write drafts as hell after the first day of class. Once, I saw him looking up in the classroom ceiling as if he had been given the part time job of counting the stars. All of us thought he was going crazy.
One morning, he woke up with his reflective self on. In the classroom, he showed that mystic mood. He looked quieter and more pensive than usual. That same day, he had decided to write about a memorable personal event. In those times, he had been reading ¨Life in Classrooms: Teachers Write about Teaching and Learning¨ by the Plymouth Writing Group. At the beginning of May, I picture him receiving the book from his instructor, Meg Petersen, at Universidad Autónoma de
library. Santo Domingo
I saw him carry his book to my class proudly. You know how curious we are when teachers bring into classrooms objects different from the ones we are accustomed to see in school. I saw a group of cute kids in the front cover. Some days later, I would ask to myself, ¨where is the book the teacher brought the other day?¨ This event matches with what I call our revenge period in the semester. We had assigned him so many papers to correct and grades to calculate that he forgot the book on a lonely shelf. When we gave him some vacation, he started eating that book and another one, ¨Because Writing Matters¨ by the National Writing Project and Carl Nagin.
One day, in one of our classes, he was honest with us and said that he did not like reading selections a lot. He also shared the way he proceeds when he is charged with the burden of reading one for any reason. First, he examines the outer part and some of the insides that do not belong in the contents. Then he examines the list of contents and chooses the title that calls his attention the most. In the case of this selection, he chose the titles that appealed to teaching, human nature, philosophy…Whenever he saw the name of a person, he skipped it. I am sure that if he had seen his name in the list, he would have stayed late at night and read it. He thought that learning about a particular person was not more important than those stories on the memorable experience of a teacher or a breaking news occurred when teachers are at work. As soon as he reads a piece, he checkmarks it next to the writer’s name on top of the page and in the table of contents as well.
When he was reaching the end of the book, he felt so satisfied with it that he decided to narrate the experience he was having with a selection he thought would not strike him so hard. By only reading the titles, he could not figure out whether they were poems or narratives. At this point, when he found a poem after having read three or four stories, he felt relieved. He sort of rested while he passed his eyes through the lines. It was then when he noticed that the pieces of writing with names of people serving as their titles he had postponed were all narratives about teachers and students. Something funny happened with one the ¨names¨, Dill Pickles. He felt deceived by his English and his non-native-speaking background. One of the tricks to distinguish names he preaches so vehemently in front of us many times during the school year had failed. When he saw the capital letters, he thought it was a full name, but it was not. Things got more confusing because he did not know the meaning of the first word. The curiosity factor led him to find out it was not a name, but a type of vegetable with its condiment. This shows me that teachers are just like me, creatures with their own fears and faults.
Even though he did not like selections, those final stories took him more time than ever. This was the first sign that he had unwillingly left the best till the end. At times, moved by a striking remark, he would take his pen, read again, and underline it. When he found an idea he thought was deep, he would put the book down and look at the ceiling, just like we do when he asks us to write one of those drafts. As an illustration, we have that story entitled ¨Learning from the Pen Pals¨ by Terez Rose. By reading about this teacher teaching in
Africa, he confirmed the African aspect of his cultural background. He ignored why he had not realized earlier that the stories with names as titles had to be the most human and that, at any moment, they could cause him to laugh, to sob, and shed some tears.