Exemplary

Posted on December 1, 2008Filed Under Presenting the Book, stories, Teaching | Leave a Comment

I’ll continue the -isms tomorrow. I just have to interrupt our regularly scheduled program to tell about a classic I rediscovered today.

I started at my present school in 1993. The last job I had before that was teaching 9th and 10th graders at a big high school about 30 miles away. This school and the city it’s in were (and sort of still are) known as kind of gang-ish. (I don’t know, is that delicate enough?) We had three full-time campus cops. I had a few obvious wannabes as well as some of the real thing, but things weren’t nearly as bad as it sounds. I had a great time there. One of my sophomores who was one of the real ones, was also one of the smartest kids I had. It was sort of a movie cliche. He was a leader in the hood, and we (his teachers) all tried to sway him to lead at school. We should have considered ourselves lucky he even showed up. He could read, and obviously did; just not much of what he was assigned. He was quick-witted and could argue/discuss with the best. He often made me laugh.

He seemed to enjoy coming to class, but I never got a lick of work out of him. Nothing. If he carried a notebook, it was folded in his back pocket; he almost never had a pen. Mostly he just showed up.

He stopped coming before the end of the year. March, maybe. During his last week (I didn’t know it was his last week – he just stopped showing up), it happened that he had paper, a pen, AND a desire to do a little something, all at the same time. Maybe he was giving me a little going away gift, eh. (He ended almost every sentence with “eh.” As in, “I left my homework at my pad, eh.”) Anyway, we were working on vocabulary, and he actually wrote a sentence using one of the words we were working on. He even put name, date, and period on the scrap of paper before he gave it to me. I had it taped to my file cabinet for years, and a while back I noticed it wasn’t there any more.

This morning, rummaging through the piles on my desk for something else, it turned up again. Maybe I’ll frame it this time.

“I am an exemplary guy when it comes to partying.”

Yes you were, Dominic.

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