Last night was the night. It was only the third night of class, so that’s early, even for me. Yes, I have fallen in love with my class.
I have another boy-heavy group, but the vibe is so different from last term. I’m not sure what that’s about, but I like it. Maybe the difference is Rebecca, a girl with a forceful presence who’s not shy about talking. Maybe, but I think it’s more about the boys. They’re closer in age, willing to talk and laugh together, already shaking hands at the end of class after only three nights. One even told me he loved me. Yes, he was joking, but the fact that he felt comfortable enough to go there is telling.
We had fun last night, and a lot of learning happened, too … I hope the students were in on that, but I can say for certain that I learned plenty. I learned what to do if I want to smoke a blunt even though I know I have a drug test coming up. (Apparently, there’s this stuff called “Quick Flush” … you can maybe imagine the rest.) I learned that almost no one present last night trusts, believes or believes in the police. I learned that the most buttoned-down and ‘proper’-looking of all the guys has recently been released from juvie. And I learned that two of the other guys have three-month-old babies — one of those daddies has only just turned sixteen, the other is an old and married man of twenty.
Always there is at least one student who doesn’t fit the ‘type’ of the Ed Center but who somehow fits in all the same. In this class there are a few:
- Marlise, an Afro-Caribbean woman, is older the the rest and very Caribbean — believes in strict school rules, writes about her love of ‘church-going’ people, frowns disapprovingly when we get a little silly … but then tosses out an excellent joke into the quiet of no one having an answer to one of my questions, getting the whole room laughing and getting the conversation started.
- Daniel, an über-skinny, white, metal head with Veronica Lake hair (seriously, I’ve only ever seen his left eye), who looks so closed into himself I expected to have to fight for monosyllabic half-answers from him … but he’s already glad-handing with the two daddies, speaking up during discussions and sharing about the recent death of his father in his writings to me.
- And then there’s Johnny, a young Asian guy who is the boyfriend of Leila, a student of mine from two terms ago. He is so silent and awkward in class. When we did the ‘ask me three questions’ activity I do on the first night (students write me three unrelated-to-class questions and I read them out and answer them … well, except for the ‘how old are you’ ones), two of his questions were troubling: Why are Asian people better in math than everyone else? Why do colored people always want to rob Asian people? Um, yeah. I actually edited out the ‘colored’ when I read the question aloud so as not to incite too much ire in that room full of ‘colored’ people. He never talks to anyone, not even the two Asian girls in the class, and he sits hunched over and looks quite unhappy … but then in his reflection at the end of class last night he wrote, “My teacher is very humorous. She is a good teacher. I think I will like this class.” And he made a point of saying goodbye to people as he left instead of just rushing out as he did Tuesday and Wednesday. Hope?
The first night was a little rocky — my nerves combined with their nerves and all — and we had more than a dozen interruptions from my old students coming in to say hello (“Stacie!” shouts Anthony, bursting into class before break, right into the middle of a discussion. “Give me a hug!”) — but I think we’re finding a groove.