Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Keeping One's Sense of Humor

Up at six this morning, prepping for class and opting out of my first lit. class as the Minute Clinic nurse wanted me to stay home for two days and rest this virus away. Since my job is not exactly strenuous, I decided I could not, in good conscience, miss two days of school or life. But my first lit. class requires some lecturing and the pattern has been to go in, do that, and then head to fiction workshop where I think by then I have fully awakened the cough. Anyway, and onward, I went to workshop and found that an entire group had NOT prepared their stories for today and that of those being workshopped, as one student put it after class, it seemed as if one story was written the morning of class: no proofreading whatsoever.

She wondered how one could bear to teach on days when it seemed that the teacher was the only one to care about writing in the room. Most days, it is easy to love what i do, to really adore the way these people I am fortunate enough to have in my classroom think. But some days are harder.

I try then to maintain my sense of humor.
my engine is the only noise I herd
causes me to say: I like this, it brings to mind horsepower, though I think you mean "heard."

Or when I get excuses so incredibly elaborate as to make Tolstoy and every Spanish soap opera writer break into open weeping no greater tragedy have ever they encountered. My all-time favorite, the one that I ask that any student choosing to "author a fiction" to tell me about his/her absence must outdo goes something like this: "I am sorry I missed class, my roomate's father died over the weekend and I was up all night preparing the funeral feast.
Teacher: The funeral feast?
Student: (earnestly and without breaking stride)Yes, and then I was so tired that I partook of the feast and forgot that I had used pepper in preparing it and that I am allergic to pepper...

Dude, you had me at partook!
I love it, because it would have been enough to console a grieving friend but just in case, one must apply the more is more rule and go on to add ingredients such as sleep deprivation and allergies, all under the larger awning of self-sacrifice, martyrdom and compassion. Who would fail compassion? Only a monster. The best part about it is that I quoted my dear student and years later he returned to my classes and we had a great laugh about it. I never felt resentful about the story, because I have such a love for them overall that their well-meaning but sometimes lame moments remind me that they are even then, creative and indescribably innocent in their larceny. Most days.

But there are those double-u tee eff days when I wonder what must make someone not bother to do a story for fiction workshop? Under what hopeful star slept they the night before they showed up to face a tired, sick women who drove forty-plus miles to be denied the stories for the next class workshop. And I wish then for that old wonderful Thomas Wayman poem:

Did I Miss Anything?

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

Everything, I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
on earth

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
gathered
but it was one place

And you weren’t here

1 comment:

Gretch said...

Last night I couldn't sleep because I was having an allergic reaction to N's pants.

I don't know what is making happier: Dude, you had me at partook! Or the line about Tolstoy.

Resting means not doing anything.

Anything.