I cried as I finished Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The kind of tears where I was crying and trying to see the words and wanting to see the words because I wanted to know what happened.
Last week the conversation in the comments was rich. Several of you commented that at first you were not so taken with Walk Two Moons, but you’re glad you persevered because about half-way through, it hooked you. I do not read tons of YA books—but the discussion we have had with this one has inspired me to rotate a bit more YA reading into Book Club—anyway. I do not read tons of YA books, but I am wondering if this isn’t the pattern of really great YA books. First half okay, not great, not horrible, but then the great ones suck you in. Thoughts? Others who read more YA, have you noticed this pattern?
One scene that was mentioned in the comments was when Mr. Birkway read parts of his student’s journals out loud. That scene was at the very start of today’s section—no biggie it was mentioned!—but I hadn’t read it, so I couldn’t comment. While even Mr. Birkway realized it was not a good move (he went to Phoebe’s house to apologize), some questioned how believable it was, saying that a teacher would never do that in a classroom.
That comment got me thinking.
I have been a full-time teacher in the past. Most of my lessons have gone the way I envision them as I planned them in my office days or hours before I taught them. But every now and then?
A lesson got away from me.
What I thought would happen, did not. Did not! Oh my word, DID NOT! (What just happened?!)
And so, in defense of Mr. Birkway, I share three lessons that might have you questioning my competency as a teacher.
It was the final period of the day and my room of junior high math students felt more like a morgue than a class room. In an attempt to wake them up I said, “Let’s sing a song” and asked them if they know “Tony Chestnut,” a song that has actions. They did not. In order for them to see me acting out the song, I stood on my desk.
That is right. Without thought, other than to get some energy into the class, I hopped up on my desk and stood so they could see me. Before I knew what was happening, all of them were up on their desks. WHAT?! No. No. No. No. No. No.
Even today I remember the intense fear that an administrator would stick his or her head in the door. How could I explain that we were all standing on our desks. Singing. Oh sweet Jesus, if you ever loved a fool who didn’t mean to get herself into a corner, here I am!
Next scene. A classroom in the distant land of China. This time, instead of math, I am teaching a reading class and we are reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. About halfway through the book, the questions start to come in their journals, “Amy, this book seems a lot like China. Like the Communist Party. Do you think so?”
What in the world?!!!! No, no, no, no, no I was not trying to make a political statement. I was trying to teach about the importance of memory, of community, of being alive. I was trying to use a book that was at their reading level and show them there are plenty of good books that are not “famous” and break them from he obsession of trying to read classic literature that was far too hard for them. And now, I was flirting with disaster.
Not wanting to draw more attention to how out of hand this could get, I wrote over and over in journals, “This is the power of literature, we all can see our own societies reflected in it. No, I do not see the Communist Party, I see the American political system. I am glad you are enjoying this book.”
Final scene, this time a writing classroom. Never one to shy away from aiming FAR TOO HIGH, I decided to teach them about sonnet writing. Here is the challenge I had not foreseen: sonnet writing requires rhyming words and they would be rhyming in a foreign language where their textbooks/pronunciation was British English and teacher spoke American English. This just might be a recipe for disaster. Add to the fun that many of the sonnets we read referenced body parts. So, many of my students, who were married, set out to write sonnets about their spouses and to seek rhyming words with both body parts and synonyms of body parts. What rhymes with “bits” and is related to parts of the female anatomy.
That’s right. I basically assigned “pornography sonnets.”
So, Mr. Birkway, I get how a lesson can go sideways. Class mob, political statements, and inappropriate poetry. I feel ya.
As we finished off the book this week, I had a sense of satisfaction as I understood how Mrs. Cadaver had suffered and lost her husband and her mother lost her sight. I could see why Sal’s dad was drawn to her, and wanted to be near the last person to be near his wife. To hear how she spoke of them, loved them, and wasn’t really running away from them, she just happened to die as she was working out her grief.
And then for Phoebe and Ben to learn more about their own mothers. I marked quite a few sentences in this section, but since this is near the end, will save them for the comments if you are interested.
Have you ever had a lesson or a situation “go sideways” on you? Do tell!
How satisfying did you find the ending? What would you have like more of? Or less of? Let’s talk in the comments!
P.S. In two weeks we start another excellent book: The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason. I found a free version, but it is only available in some countries. Check out if you can get it for free! There are 24 chapters, so we will read 6 each week.
February 6: 1-6
February 13: 7-12
February 20: 13-18
February 27: 19-24
P.S. Next week we have a treat!!