Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Real Questions
Today the temperature is about 32 degrees-- again. As I read through the blogs of all my friends online, we are an impatient lot. We beg the weather fairies for some good days. My mother was nearly in tears last night because Missourians don't have "spring" any more. For the past several years we have gone from freezing cold to "air conditioner weather overnight...
All this has allowed my students to get just real fidgety... I have noticed they are restless, eager to throw open a window ANYWAY to experience the day... Of course, it is just too cold for that, so they get a bit grumpy. To offset that kind of emotional barrage, I have allowed a good deal of introspective writing lately. My sophomores have been writing 1200-word psychological autobiographies. I am anticipating some really fine writing. I have discovered if I allow students to explore their own lives, their own dreams--- I get something miraculous. Yesterday in the midst of a lot of quiet keyboarding clicks, a young man exploded. "I HAVE to ask you a question," he shouted. I looked a bit startled, as did all my kids. I was a bit hesitant to ask just what this major query might be.... This young man has been AWOL scholastically for a long, long time... He has been suspended for attitude, disciplined for his mouth, and brought in by his parent for some faculty collaboration. I like him, but I have had several good, old-fashioned "run-ins" with him. He sports a HUGE belt buckle, and an attitude that sometimes matches, sometimes is wonderful, and sometimes.... well, you know..
Back to yesterday. He had a question, and several students knew what it was. I really dreaded the next sentence because, believe me, I have been asked some really tough questions throughout my 36 years of teaching... Here it came. "I mean. You don't HAVE to answer if you feel you don't want anyone to know." I gulped. What in the world was coming next? Here he blurted it: "Well, I just want to know. International or John Deere?" The class grew silent. A lot-- I mean A LOT of eyes looked at me with the weight of their opinions of me in the balance. That is one serious question to a group of midwestern farm children. I thought of the little John Deere buddy who comes every Sunday and Thursday with his mommy, my son's lady love. I thought of my dad, the Internationals he has driven through the years. I thought of my grandfather and the little International A tractor we drove from the time I was two. "International." I ventured.
The boy with the belt buckle was satisfied. "I knew I liked you," he announced. A young girl quickly denied my joy: "I am not sure I know you, after all," she said in a very disappointed voice.
The next thing I knew another voice raised the question. "Well, then... Ford or Chevy?"
I was in for a long day...
Hugs and hopes for warmer weather... Still then, look for the real questions.