The Summer Winds Down
My Rising 9th graders just finished their second novel of the summer, John Knowles's A Separate Peace. The predominate sentiment was one of praise for this minor classic. I had my concerns because all but two of my scholars are female. One of these young women noted that we have completed a great deal of reading this summer--a true statement.
Our first novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, weaves its story through 600 plus pages, and A Separate Peace courses over 200. In addition to these two novels, they have read nearly half of the chapters in How to Read Literature Like a Professor and three short stories by Flannery O'Connor--"A Good Man is Hard to Find," "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," and "Everything That Rises Must Converge." We still have a week and a half to bust through Lord of the Flies.
And as the summer wind down, I find myself both filled with pride and filled with sorrow. These scholars, from inner-city Hartford, will have read five novels (Their Eyes Were Watching God last summer and Brave New World this past spring), two non-fiction (On Writing Well this past spring), and countless short-stories, articles, and essays over the course of fourteen months with us. They have risen to our expectations and pushed themselves beyond their own. They defy the stereotypes of inner-city youth.
But then I begin to think about the fall, of the impending chaos I will enter at the end of August. A different town, but a similar demographic. I know that inner-city youth can succeed; I know that inner-city youth want to succeed. Yet, too many do not. Too many of my school year scholars give in to the temptations around them--the hall-walking,the disrespect, the lackluster effort. Is it us? Is it the school, the teachers? Is it the parents? Or is there a vast difference between the poor of Hartford, CT and the poor of the rest of Connecticut?