My first day at CHS went, I think, exceedingly well.
For starters, I didn’t realize that the Carrie, the director, had been talking me up for the last couple of weeks. She’d tell everyone she could find – parents, students, board members, (the UPS guy..) that I was going to singlehandedly revamp the English department. “She’s a professor at Local U.,” she told parents at Open House night (well, to be fair, she told them to explain why I wasn’t at Open House; I was teaching my Freshman English class at Local U). She’s been talking about my backround as a writing process teacher and a literary analysist. She’s eager to make CHS’s English department competitive with the best high schools in the area.
As a result, the parents were thrilled and the students were nervous. Yesterday, I walked into a room full of distinctly edgy kids who had NO idea what to make of me. Well, that’s not entirely true; one girl informed me that her mother told her on no uncertain terms that I’m going to make her cry (and she may well be right; only time will tell).
We introduced ourselves as a first exercise. You want to talk about diversity? In fourteen kids, I’ve got several musicians (two who identify themselves as “death metal” rockers), a couple of visual artists, a bunch of actors, and one kid who wants to be a politician (she took a semester off last year to work on the Obama campaign). I’ve got a deliciously flamboyantly gay student and one girl who’s so quiet I’m going to have to put her in front just to hear what she’s saying. I have an exchange student from Korea who speaks far better than he writes, and I’ve got one boy who announced, without any kind of malice or challenge, that he doesn’t write (oh, don’t worry, lovey; you will). My favorite, though (I know, I know; I’m not supposed to have favorites) is the boy who wants to be a mortician. I’m not kidding; he interned this summer at a funeral home. I’m dying to read his essays (get it? Dying?).
I managed to get them to put pen to paper for a few minutes yesterday to get a feel for who they are as writers. I prompted them to tell me what they think they’re already good at in English, and asked them to tell me what they really feel they need to learn as a result of our time together. Carrie was shocked that the “I don’t write” boy actually DID, and I was pleased by how self-aware some of them are. Organization is a big concern for most of them, and several are worried that they’re too opinionated to write well about things that they either don’t agree with or don’t have a strong opinion about. That thrills me, because I’m basing this class on the belief that most – if not all – of us write to find out what we think.
It’s going to be a good semester.