Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Ever since my childhood, those who have helped to shape my future have stressed the importance of patience. Before we had a microwave, I wanted instant results--and not because I don't want to work hard. I am a New Englander with a Puritan work ethic permeating my blood cells. So when I hear those lofty and patient proverbs directing us to fight the good fight because sometime, somewhere our effort will pay off, I want to puke. Heck, if I'm going to exert all of this effort, the least I can get out of it is the satisfaction of seeing the end result--and the sooner the better.
Yesterday, one of my students reminded me of the impatience which I inherited from my grandfather. Maria has issues. She's a little to confident in the way that insecure people project themselves to the outside world. She's smart enough academically and brilliant enough on the streets. I wouldn't mess with her if I didn't know her.
She likes to hold court by telling stories of various people she's knocked out, various teachers she's shredded, various students she's threatened. Her stories entertain my class far more than our latest practice in summarizing a text.
More than once she's derailed my class with her shrill silliness, and yet I just can't hate her. Oh, lest I be struck dead for lying, I want to divest myself of any interest in her success: It's too much effort.
Maria reads well enough. Her placement in my reading class is more likely a result of avoidance than actual reading difficulty. How is someone going to get an actual reading ability when Maria decides she's not going to try? It won't happen.
And yet....
There are moments when Maria is angelic, dare I say. Seriously. Yesterday as she focused intently on her mid-term, I thought: Wow. That is the most beautiful sight I've seen all day. It was truly a moment of beauty, and it caught me off guard--mostly because Jose and Sarah were acting obnoxious and making me want to just walk out and never come back.
Then, Maria had a moment of impatience, much like me:
Maria: Aahhh, this shit takes too long.
Me: You are doing a fantastic job; keep working hard.
Maria: I hate these tests; they never end.
Me: That's true, they can take a while. But that's a good thing. The longer the passages get, the higher your reading level is going to be, so stay focused.

She kept going. She finished. I felt like more needed to be said. She listened with the embarrassed look of self-doubt. I told her how much fun it was to watch her succeed, how she can do so well when she wants to. I told her that I am proud of her success this semester, and how, for as much as she drives me up the wall sometimes, I want her in my class again next semester. She smiled at that. Didn't say anything, just smiled.
As the bell rang, I heard her say, "I'm gunna fuckin' say somethin' to that bitch."

Damn. No Hollywood ending today.


At 7:20 PM , Blogger Amerloc said...

Some moments are pure magic, aren't they?

Just don't lose track of how much effort you've put into making that magic possible - you laid the foundation. Did Maria contribute? Of course. And if she didn't drive you up the wall regularly, you wouldn't have appreciated the moment that your work and patience created.

Ah, but sometimes I miss teaching now that I have a rocking chair.


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