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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Susan Kay Anderson: About the Roster Check


 Rest on Flight to Egypt (detail): Caravaggio, 1596-97, oil on canvas, width of detail 48 cm (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome)

.....He went missing for the whole semester.  I only saw him in the hallway about twice, cuddling up to the Food Science teacher and smoking on the corner by Security.  The last encounter did not go so well, him storming into my room and yelling that I told everyone where he lived.  He must’ve meant the time I picked him up hitchhiking near
Kaloli Drive and took him way down through the subdivision to where people squat in their jungle shacks. On the way there, I told him about Oregon and the ash from Mt. Mazama, how unique Oregon archeology really is because of it.  He was half listening, sweating and agreed to come to class if I’d reward him with McDonalds coupons.  He accomplished this a total of one time; disappearing, invisibly angry, already over it.  Over it already. Refusing to work on his job portfolio binder because the page that said references made him so mad.

.....I can’t read, she said, reading the story about the little green shark and the Great Red Shark that is the ancestor of the people of the southern part of the island.  Yesterday, she showed me her new tattoo. Her brother’s names around a heart on her wrist, self-made. Her foster mom is her aunt and she baby sits for all the little kids. She gets to see her mom on the weekends if she stays out of trouble.  Nobody can disturb her when she makes a poster. The one about No Drugs with a red slash on top of a pot leaf.  Her ex and current girlfriend got in a fight the other day before school in front of H Building.

.....Nobody knew what they were fighting over, she said. Security came after A. and D. had bashed each other around for what was two minutes but seemed like ten.    

.....Come on, she said to the two girls, then pacing in a circle.  Do you want me to take your whole class, then, the guard asked sarcastically. No, just these two and these other two instigators, she said.

.....A lit firecracker rolled from the door a few minutes later, bursting in a cloud of grey smoke. Hello, could you please send security, someone just threw a firecracker into my room.  Could you check the camera in hallway of H Building, upstairs from around 1:30? Alright, everyone back to work. 

.....What are you going to teach us, then, Miss?  How to talk like you? How to talk about the Mainland? How to be a hippy or a hillbilly?  I hate this school and I hate this class.  We don’t learn shit.

.....Listen very carefully.  Pick the answer that is best.  Remember, listen very carefully to the following.  You will have 40 minutes to complete this test. Look only at your own paper.  Do your best and then wait for the next question. Listen and then choose.  Your score will be determined by the number of questions you answer correctly. I will repeat a question only once.  Please raise your hand to signal that a question needs to be repeated.  Mary is waiting by the bank and sees her mother drive by in a car. Mary waves and then picks up her cell phone to call her mother because she and her brother have been there 20 minutes and maybe she didn’t see them as she drove past.  What happened first? 

Susan Kay Anderson: About the Roster Check, from Hawaii Teacher Detective, 28 October 2011




Susan's day in the life of a teacher in the trenches (they are fortunate to have such teachers) coupled with Caravaggio's detail of "Rest" -- yes, very nice.


light coming into fog moving across top
of ridge, unseen towhee calling chweeee
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

thought disclosed as “thing,”
means to pass through

picture shadowed by looking,
stop, epistemological

white circle of sun in fog above ridge,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Here's to the teachers in the trenches and and the poets in the channels and the unseen towhees in the extreme foregrounds then.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I knew I needed to get up early this morning--here in Oregon thinking of my Eugene friends Denise Hall and Robert Christie, both resting in peace, somewhere in the June rain. Mourning them, both summer birthdays--thinking it feels like my birthday today on Tom Clark's famous, generous blog site. Thanks. Is the life of a teacher really the life of poets everywhere? Is this the allegory? Is rest an allegory?

Wooden Boy said...

I had two years of doing the teaching and then fell apart in the last months.

The closing instructions here are altogether unsettling. The prose of that world always is; the way in to that administered stillness.

I don't know if I can thank you for this (what with the remembered hurt and that) but I'm very glad you wrote it, Susan.

TC said...

Allegory, I pick. Both trains arriving at the same time, I think. Help me out here, Teacher.

(The idea of pinning an apron on Caravaggio and unleashing the Delinquent Furies of Home Room upon him did seem somewhat Figurative, truth be told, being appropriate to a Poet's Life, in the Keats formulation, perhaps.)

TC said...


Many of us have gone to pieces in the trenches.

Susan continues to soldier on, though god knows how.

I think perhaps it's the sense of humour gets her through.

A rare thing always anywhere, that.

Wooden Boy said...

It's a bloody jewel, I'd say, TC.

Hazen said...

Carvaggio states the theme, all about care and caring and taking care, and the art of doing that. That wonderful riddle the teacher poses at the end seems especially to be about paying attention, taking care. As a narrative device it loops the story back on itself nicely.

Teachers are like smoke-jumpers out in the Gila wilderness, fighting a fire that threatens to burn away everything. 'Disaffected youth’ is a universal condition—and not just among the young either. It's a hard slog down the imperial highway. Sometimes I feel I’m just a carney, working the biggest show in town.

TC said...

Thanks so much Hazen, you've again read my mind (or shown me how to read it) by pinning the tale of feeling and care on the Caravaggio.

"Teachers are like smoke-jumpers out in the Gila wilderness, fighting a fire that threatens to burn away everything. 'Disaffected youth’ is a universal condition—and not just among the young either..."

And there are more and more fires to be put out, every day, every hour.

Nin Andrews said...

I love this, but of course. I love Susan's blog. Such a gift she has. Teaching, writing. Honestly, I don't know how she does it. But her brilliance, both heart and mind, shines through her words. Thank you, Susan!

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

I taught steadily 6-8 hours M-F for 35 years at my language school (finally semi-retired) and never wrote such a poetic tribute to the teaching profession. I hope Susan never burns out as a wonderful teacher nor as the fine poet she most assuredly is.

TC said...

Nin and Vassilis,

Lovely to be joined by you in Susan's classroom, where I too take instruction.

She's such a quick, adroit mind -- all those small swift leaps, sign of genius in my humbled view.

The spaces of muddle and misdirection few of us can ever quite manage to edit out of our precious creations -- Susan has banished them, and left no seams.

This I would regard as mastery.

Instruction, yes, but it is not taken lightly.

WB's sobering comment reminds me of many things. Teaching city college students once in Santa Barbara, none of them white, and...

In my family few had ever gone very far in formal education, but there was much credence given to the life knowledge to be gained (unavoidably) through what was termed The School of Hard Knocks.

As opposed to Fort Knox & c.

Tonight in one of my now very rare and timid night forays I found myself in the crossfire between a car from which loud music and laughter emanated as it stopped at a light, and a young man, passing at the same moment by the bus stop where I stood; he shouted angrily toward the people in the car, they laughed and shouted back and in the instant it could be sensed from the palpable signs that guns were perhaps not far away, nor far from being used.

To the young man I foolishly said, in that moment, naïvely seeking peaceful resolution of a problem far older and deeper, probably, than I could ever guess, "Let it flow off you."

And he looked down at me from the great height of an infinite disdain, taking in the ragged head bandages and beyond-the-paleness, and said:

"Don't you dare talk to me, I do not let white people talk to me, if this was LA I would shoot you for that." And in long sauntering shooting-guard strides was then gone into the night.

So later on, on the bus I was thinking, Were that young man to have been a student in Susan's class (well, he wouldn't have been, the Mainland harbours special terrors of its own, but still...), and given that problem to solve... What would have happened first?

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I am usually saved by the bell. I live and die by it.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Poet Teacher Detective Secret #2
It is always good to thump on the muscles of your flexed arm and pretend you've hurt your fingers and then shake them out--this is a good one that has let me slide out of lots of sticky confrontations. Plus, there is always that bell.