Blog

The English Teacher

The English Teacher 2nd Edition (1)“Good morning”.

“My name is Mr. Dempsey and I am your 5th Form English teacher”.

“Now I am sure,” he said glancing at his watch,  “since it is midday, you have all had a chance to catch up with one another, so with your permission we will begin.

“In English this year we are going to learn how to write.” The English Teacher continued, “ and at the end of the day, or better the beginning,” and he grinned a curious and bemused smile, “we need to understand what is writing, what do we want to say and how do we get to a spot in which we all agree we have said what we want.”

The English teacher paused, peered out to the class, over his horned rimmed glasses.

He was quiet. He appeared comfortable and seemed willing to wait the few seconds, minutes or Annabel thought, ‘until the end of class’ until someone rose their hand and tried to answer.

No one did.

“Really,” he resumed, smiling again, both at the reticence of his new class, but too, for the not uncommon nature of teenager’s unwillingness to speak openly and aloud particularly when their predictions or peregrinations may have been less than correct or even simply wrong.

“It is just another form of expression. The language of the heart or soul or whatever it is you call it that differentiates one of us from another and us, as a species from all others.

“And as we learn,” he continued, “if we listen carefully, we will acquire the tools and build an arsenal and we should not only learn something about ourselves but about our culture, so, in time we will be able to explore our own feelings, and better understand reverberations from the shadowy dark of our innermost souls.

“Mr. Dempsey,” Annabel Devry spoke, her hand raised but not waiting for a reply,

“My name is Annie,” as the custom dictated new students introduce themselves to new teachers, “this sounds more like  a course in psychology or political science.

“That, young lady,” Jack Dempsey replied, a thick, rich and nearly indiscernible accent from somewhere in the aisles off the coast, from Wales, Northern Scotland, South Africa, “is a very astute observation. And may I ask, had you thought there was any difference.”

Annabel and indeed all of the class fell into a deep, hushed silence.

It was apparently a question none had ever considered.

Annabel’s hand rose again but only as a formality as she was speaking already.

“Well they are different, aren’t they, Mr. Dempsey.

“A very good question,” Dempsey replied.

“So who would like to take a chance answering Miss Annabel’s question,” the English teacher asked, looking around, waiting for someone else to raise their hand or speak, or feel comfortable enough to join the conversation.

“Well,” ventured one of the students, a slight young lad with a large voice and big wondrous eyes.

“My name is Colby Sir, Colby North, and maybe  this is not the answer you were looking for but does it have something to do with the idea that language is what the brain uses to tell stories, or to tell about history and history and stories of people are really about ..you know…the world, in a way, so, what we write, whatever it is about somehow reflects what’s going on in the world.

“That sir is brilliant. And exactly true.

“So we can look at language in a vacuum, as might a child murmur or speak to another when they are at play, or between two grown-ups, two politicians, world leaders, even between an English teacher and his class, and at the end of the day, it is both about us, but too reflects the world we live in.

“So Mister Colby, what do you call the people who live on foreign planets.

The class suddenly sat up and all looked at Mr. Dempsey directly not knowing if he were joking or a fruitcake from another planet himself.

“I am not sure I know what you mean, Mr. Dempsey, I mean, I didn’t know we had found life on other planets.

“Nor I, young sir, nor I. I meant, in the movies, or on television, how do you call those funny little cartoon characters with one eye, funny voices, or even the ones like batman who fly and shoot people from the electrical lasers in their finger tips,

“Well I don’t know sir, I mean there are millions.

“Well, I don’t either…my point was simply,” and he smiled in a way that immediately gave all the understanding he was making a wry but noteworthy joke.

“I meant if there were such critters, and they did speak and write, chances are they would also speak of ‘stuff’ as we might call it, which would relate to their lives, their planets, their experiences on their planet Klingon or whatever it is called.

Colby raised his hand struggling to control his laugh.

“The Klingons, Mr. Dempsey are I think the people who live on one of those planets, but I think we all get what you mean.

“In time, we will find a handmaiden, a speaker, someone who reflects the sense of themselves which is consonant with our own and a sense of the world which makes sense.

***

“Hey what do you think of the new English teacher,”

As Nini spoke, Annie tried to cram four text books, an enormous binder and all of the papers from each of the new classes into her small locker.

“It’s not going to work,” she finally allowed leaning against the door trying half heartedly to push it closed.

“I mean, it’s just not gonna’ work.

“What are you talking about’, Nini asked, standing now next to her friend from kindergarten, Annabel Devry.

“You mean you’re not going to take the class.

“What are you talking about?”

“You said it’s not going to work”

“I meant the locker silly,” Annie said.

“Yeah it will, but you just can’t throw everything in and expect it all to work.

Annie smiled.

“Nini that is exactly what Mr. Dempsey said after class.

Nini, turning to leave, stopped abruptly.

“How do you mean.”

“Well’ Annie said trying now to unpack and repack the small locker, “he said ‘you can’t be a great writer if you just throw everything in all at once.

“Good writing,” he said, “’is actually more of a taking away, kind of like good surgery, cutting out the right stuff from all the clutter.

Nini looked blankly at Annie, waiting for her to turn the dial on the padlock.

“I’m just going to stick it in my bag,” she concluded thrashing shut the locker door, done with the appearance of order and as anxious as Nini to get off to home room.

“Do you know what bus you’re gonna’ be on?

“I don’t,” she answered, heading out and quickstepping past her lifelong friend.

“C’mon,” she chided turning back her head now smiling at Nini who had dawdled for just a moment and was now three paces behind.

 

Continue reading now or wait until next week for the next installment