In this time marked by the disintegration of morality in our politically frayed America, where hateful politicians posing as caring humans justify their inhumane practices by treating children with the cold abuse of a Nazi, we must hold on to hope. That fragile and slender of emotions that alone fuels my soul, and no doubt yours, hope, elusive yet necessary. Thankfully for me, this past week, there is the reminder, where there is love one can find hope. Of course there is the always love of family, of sunshine and water, of a cool breeze after a hard day, but in this crazy here and now, I find the love of these friends. Friends who arrived from luck yet stayed dear through the years. Without a falter, these women are there. Yes, lucky me indeed. They provide me hope to endure.
As I embark on a Shakespeare unit with my students, nine graders reading Romeo & Juliet and AP Lit reading Hamlet, we start with questions. Questions Elizabethan thinkers might have pondered in 1598; questions we still ponder in 2018. I am struck with our timeless preoccupation over destiny: Are we the masters of our own fate? I ask students to think and write about their beliefs on this topic. Certainly, these teens, like those penned by Shakespeare, want to believe they are, indeed, in control of their outcomes, while I, I who have screamed up at the Heavens in distress, frustrated by the unpredictability of chance, those ‘why me’ moments; “O, I am Fortune’s fool” situations. As if we are pulled by strings invisible to our own hands. Just when we want/need/hope for a different outcome we must settle for what is… but as I look across the classroom at my students, into their hopeful eyes, their exuberant optimism, I see their uniform belief that yes, they are masters of their fate. They aren’t phased by headlines or politicians’ lies; they see their own trajectory as it slants up and beyond, straight into the starry night. Straight into heaven.
I’ve just returned from scoring AP English Literature exams, 1400 of them to be exact, and I will not pretend to have much of a brain left to blog. But besides that reality, this post, which I wrote a few years ago, speaks of my experience then, and is echoed just as vividly now. There are multiple worlds that collide while I am in Louisville: the privileged AP students whose essays I am reading and the homeless camping about the city. I have no answers to our national questions of poverty and race and inequality, only these brief personal reflections, only this re-post from 2012 in which to decipher my myriad of emotions. I thank you old-time Nine Cent Girl fans for re-reading. I hope to be back on solid ground next week.
First published in June of 2011. True then, just as true now…And worth a re-read too!!
As a teacher of high school seniors, come June, I am reminded daily of the almost-here graduation-day swiftly moving toward us. There is no them and me or me and them at this point, for we have all been riding on this roller-coaster of great expectations and harsh realities for an entire school year together. All over the country 18 year olds are experiencing this free-falling sensation…and I for one think it is a feeling worth catching on to, but I did not start out with this appreciation. No, I most certainly did not, in fact, I did my best to stay uninfected with what I, as well as most adults, labeled senior-itis.
This morning I woke feeling a bit off kilter. After eight days of being in a very intensive and regimented program of scoring AP English Literature essays, I suddenly had six undefined hours ahead of me before I needed to be at the airport, and my morning felt oddly stiff, like donning a new pair of shoes. I attempted to lay in bed but dawn called me out and up and lead me to wander beside the Ohio River, which snakes along the backside of Louisville, Kentucky.
As I arrive in Louisville for my 2nd annual reading of AP English Literature exams, I am greeted by a host of familiar faces and a few cherished friends. We are here to score Advanced Placement essays for the next seven days. Working from 8 until 5 among 12,000+ other readers. We will read each essay as if it were crafted by our prized students. We will read in silence, calibrate several times a day to keep our scores even, be periodically back-read by table leaders, who in turn are back-read by section leaders, all the way up the line to the chief reader.