Taking kids on a field trip is a arduous, and somewhat frightening, task. There's getting permission, which is a set of hoops to begin with. There's booking the busses, which we literally do from the yellow pages. They usually only take money upfront, so teachers have to end up charging the busses on a credit card and hoping nothing goes wrong later with the money. There's letters home to parents, copies, and permission slips. There's handling of lots of cash, usually in small bills and quarters. It's just a lot of work.
Then there's the actual day - always harried, always full of things to do, announcements to make, bus companies to confirm, lists to hand out, chaperones to secure. And, of course, we've got to take all the kids and bring them back safely.
But I really wanted to bring kids to see Ernest Gaines. We ended up taking 44 kids this afternoon, and, wow, was it ever great. Well worth it.
The event was a question and answer session of Mr. Gaines. He's 72 years old now, and came in riding a wheelchair, and his voice is a hoarse phlegmy rasp that wasn't the easiest to hear. But our kids were incredible. The first person to ask a question was a college student, but after that, our kids asked the most. One brave little girl of mine, who I have taught all of seven class periods so far, tiptoed up to the microphone and said, "Hello, my name is 'Jasmine Smith' from 'Name of School,' and I wanted to know about Miss Emma's obsession with Jefferson learning to be a man before he goes to the electric chair. What is your definition of manhood that you wanted him to achieve?"
I got goosebumps.
After her, student after student asked questions of Mr. Gaines, in between college professors and graduate students. It was ninety minutes of exchange of ideas about literature between one of the greatest writers of our time, a bunch of figure in academia, and 14-year old Baltimore City public highschool students. It felt perfect.
Mr. Gaines was a fine speaker, telling the audience things like, "The first draft is not writing. The twelfth draft, then, well, that might be writing." My students certainly should hear that. He talked a lot about his books and some of the deeper meanings of his work, and I found myself wanting to read all of his books, beyond the A Lesson Before Dying, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Of Love and Dust that I've read.
Afterwards, a long line of students formed to get autographs. I didn't have a copy of the book with me, and remember lamenting a few nights before when I realized that I didn't have a non-teaching, unmarked copy of A Lesson Before Dying (easily one of my favorite books) on my shelves at home. So I ran downstairs to the student book store and saw the book on the shelves, and bought a copy to get signed for myself. I raced back up the stairs, got in back of the line, and waited. The student in from me, who is in my 2/3 class, said she only had a library copy of the book, so she was going to ask Mr. Gaines to autograph the notes she had taken during his discussion. Well, he refused to do so when she got up to him. Said he'd only sign books.
I thought, "Well, geez, what an old sourpuss," and watched the girl walk away with her head down. I was next in line, and told Mr. Gaines what an honor it was to meet him, how powerful teaching the book is, and why doesn't he just make it out to (name of girl walking away), so she could have a signed copy." So he did, and I gave it to the girl. She hugged me.
Some faculty members were so impressed with our kids that they invited us to a reception afterwards. Heck, I bet they could all make it into Towson right now if they wanted to. I was so proud of them; it was like I was brimming over.
When I got back to the bus with them, after taking attendance and making sure all the kids were there, I nodded my head, and as sternly as I could say, said, "Great job today, folks." Without so much as a grin. I didn't want to overpraise. When I say a kid does something well, I want them to know that I really mean it.
And that is all. A great day. The week is looking up. Now, if I could only get this house cleaned.
Quick Hits: Angels, Montero, Gomes, Dodgers - Miguel Cabrera might have been hitting home runs in Anaheim if the Angels had been able to swing a deal for him in 2007, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Time...
2 hours ago