Oct 22, 2009

Slender Currents

At School, we've finished the first Quarter of 9th Grade. We've spent two days hearing counselors drone on about credits and dire consequences and then returned to our classrooms with our prisoners to tackle a new unit. After being brought completely low in spirit and expectations, the inmates sat numbed and dumbed while we tapped and jigged through another chapter opening. Isn't it amazing how districts rely on a teacher's ability to re-create the wonder of learning, the magic of science, the puzzles of math, and the poetry of language, no matter what the message of the day has been from everyone else?

And somehow, for some kids, in some classrooms, with some topics, leading to some success, we do what we're paid to do - we rekindle, we reinvent, we find the key to unlock the resistance. And some students survive. Not all, but some.

Now, in the same vein, Nathan Bradford has asked a fundamental question about writers and the people who love them and read their submissions. Should we encourage everyone to write and assure them there's a success story for them out there somewhere?  Here's my jaded reply this fine October morning.

Perhaps the fundamental question is not whether we should encourage everyone to write, but whether or not we can raise children who are willing to take a risk-to try and fail more than once, but keep on trying-and at some point, move on to another experience--new and challenging in a unique way--without grief or regret. In an era of No Danger sports equipment, No Danger play ground equipment, No Danger science classrooms and labs, No Danger grading systems---no wonder RISK is a 4-letter word.

I suppose if we can lie and tell every child he/she's a college bound scholar and that all the service jobs can sent to China, we can tell every storyteller that she's wonderful and inspiring and will be published someday, someday, someday, in a universe far, far away.

Once more, my friends, into the fray!
We few, we happy few, we band of writers,
We poor souls, unpublished and doubted
We storytellers of indeterminate skills
We risk-takers with eternally cheery hearts,
Once more, God's speed, God's blessings be upon us!

“Good luck comes in slender currents, misfortune in a rolling tides”
We need all the help we can get.

Oct 3, 2009

What is it, Fang?

What is it, Fang? What black cloaked wickedness has crept into my consciousness? Have I morphed from a simple-minded science teacher to a blithering idiot? It's been awhile since I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone...and it's opposite the brilliant Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl...and I'm flipping back and forth to savor both. Harry, Ron and Hermione are SO very young, so tiny. Barbra is huge, filling the screen with voice and eyes. When she's off screen, I want to wait without breathing until she returns. But there's the stranger who just happens to have a dragon egg in his pocket. And zap! I'm humming the music to put Fluffy straight to sleep. Then zing! She's in the basement of the theatre, wrapped in leopard skin suit and cap. The stage is dark, the red velvet seats empty and she sits on the piano and fingers, "People, people who need people." Oh, I remember about 1962 in Austin, playing a part in the bridge playing neighbors singing, "If a girl isn't pretty, like a Miss Atlantic City." That's it. I know the songs; I've danced to them all, swished long skirts and sang about being a Ziegfeld Star and marrying Omar Sharif.
      So you'd think Fanny Bryce would keep me locked in....but the key flies are twittering and Harry's on the broom and the secret chamber is just through that next door! And it's the most wonderful scene in the movie--the Chess Game. Where Ron is the hero and the villians are playing for keeps.
       You're a stronger heart than I if you could turn it off!
        Even for the Roller Skate routine where Fanny destroys her first chorus dance line!
        Hope the batteries hold out in the remote control!