Teaching Saroyan

I’ve been flustered and terribly emotional these last few days. What’s going on? Is that the “getting older” mood? “I’m going soft in my old age”. This is  a quote, but I can’t remember where I heard it. It was a TV movie or series, can’t tell you more.   OK.  Add "has bad memory" to "gets flustered and emotional". 
These last days I have been giving my last lessons to my last year’s students (doesn't that sound really final?) reading them a couple of chapters from The Human Comedy by William Saroyan,  which I had chosen to say good-bye and wishes good life to them. And what happened?  I just couldn’t avoid it: my voice went broken,  my  eyes filled with tears.  Problem is they were all so silent and so focused on me and some girls had tears in their eyes too. Boys? They must be tough, you know.  But they were not giggling, nor being distracted. They looked, let’s say,  surprised?
This has actually hardly ever happened to me before. Not that it was a bad experience, it was just … weird. That’s all. Here are the “guilty” words:

Homer’s mother, Mrs McCauley ( chapter 7) :

“Everything’s changed”, she said – “for you. But it is still the same, too. The loneliness you feel has come to you because you are no longer a child. But the world has always been full of that loneliness.” (…)“Schools are only to keep children off the street, but sooner or later they’ve got to go out into the streets, whether they like it or not. It’s natural for fathers and mothers to be afraid of the world for their children but there’s nothing for them to be afraid of. The world is full of frightened little children. Being frightened, they frighten each other. Try to understand. (…) Try to love everyone you meet. I shall be in this parlor waiting for you every night. But you needn’t come in and talk to me unless you wish to do so. I shall understand. I know there shall be times when your heart shall be unable to give your tongue one word of speech to utter.”
And then Marcus’s  letter from the war to Homer, his younger brother (chapter 33):

“Dear Homer:

First of all. everything of mine at home is yours – to give to Ulysses when you no longer want them : my books, my phonogram, my records, my clothes when you’re ready to fit into them, my bycicle, my microscope, my fishing tackle, my collection of rocks from Piedra, and all the other things of mine at home. They’re yours because you are now the man of the Macauley family of Ithaca. The money I made last year at the packing house I have given to Ma of course, to help out. It is not nearly enough, though. I don’t know how you are going to be able to keep our family together and go to high school at the same time, But I believe you will find a way. My army pay goes to Ma, except for a few dollars that I must have, but this money is not enough either. It isn’t easy for me to hope for so much from you, when I myself did not begin to work until I was 19, but somehow I believe that you will be able to do what I didn’t do.I miss you of course and I think of you all the time. I am OK and even though I have never believed in wars – and know them foolish even when they are necessary – I am proud that I am involved, since so many others are and this is what’s happening. I do not recognize any enemy which is human, for no human being can be my enemy. Whoever he is, he is my friend. My quarrel is not with him, but with that unfortunate part of him which I seek to destroy in myself first.I do not feel like a hero. I have no talent for such feelings. I hate no one. I do not feel patriotic either, for I have always loved my country, its people, its towns, my home, and my family. I would rather I were not in the Army. I would rather there were no War. I have no idea what is ahead, but whatever it is I am resigned and ready for it. I’m terribly afraid – I must tell you this – but I believe that when the time comes I shall do what is right for me. I shall obey no command other than the command of my own heart. (…)More than anything I want to come back to Ithaca. I want to come back for Mary and a family of my own. We leave soon – for action, but nobody knows where the action will be. Therefore this maybe my last letter to you for some time. I hope it’s not the last of all, but if it is, hold us together. (…) I am glad I am the Macauley who is involved in this War, for it would be a pity and a mistake if it were you.I can say in a letter what I could never say in speech. You are the best of the Macauleys. Nothing must stop you. Now I’ll write your name here, to remind you: Homer Macauley. That’s who you are. I miss you. I can’t wait to see you again. God bless you. So long.
          Your brother, Marcus”  

At the end of the lesson, I felt they said good-bye to me with different eyes. Some asked me if they could use the materials from this lesson for their personal project for the exam.
Because those students, as I said at the beginning of this post,  are going to leave school soon but first they’ve got to pass their final exams. They will be tested in English too, but by an external teacher this year, while I’ll have an early summer for once.

I feel the responsibility though and I’m worried for them, I hope they will all pass. What I am sure of is that I feel proud of having been one of their teachers in the last five years, though I can’t deny I’ve felt frustrated or disappointed at times.  I really feel as if we got closer while walking along a common path and I grew better thanks to them. They’ve been my challenge,  they are my reward.  No matter  what, no matter their final results.

“The world is full of frightened little children”…   


Reading Cassandra Clare

"Freely we serve, because we freely love, as in our will to love or not; in this we stand or fall".

I'm not exactly quoting John Milton, Paradise Lost - though those words come from there - but more Cassandra Clare and the Shadohunters Codex.  I appreciate Mrs Clare's fondness for quoting great literature but much more her skill at creating a series of characters I really like.  

Now, can an experienced English teacher be moved to tears by  a YA novel? I bet many would answer "no, definitely not". Many imagine teachers first of all NOT reading that stuff, or at least frowning and abhoring those books as something extremely foolish and useless, or if they unfortunately happen to like them,   maybe hiding their guilty pleasure. 

Not in my case, I've always been so perversely proud of my guilty pleasures! So much that I often blog about them.  It is because I think they have got a reason and a motivation. As for YA fiction, first of all they answer my need to escape in order not to go depressed or knackered, but also I've lately discovered these books are fun, often well written and extremely useful to motivate students to read in English. They must learn a foreign language, hence they can read what they like to that aim. Especially if I like it too! Joking. 

But not joking when I say I like reading YA. 

Now to the point. I've been reading City of Heavenly Fire, book 6 in the saga The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, which is the epilogue of the story. No more Jace, Clary, Simon, Izzy, Alec, Magnus, Jocelyn, Luke after this one and the thought made me a bit sad while following them in their last adventures, though I really enjoyed Mrs Clares's twists, turns and witty remarks.

In this book  the plots of The Mortal Instruments and of The Infernal Devices intertwine  and characters from both series interact. It's a gripping ride. When I got my kindle copy on May 27th, I promised myself I'd prolongue  the pleasure of reading this last instalment as much as I could but I read through its 725 pages in 4-5 days, instead. I couldn't do better since I was hooked and  I had to know what happened next, and next and next. 

I don't want to tell much more since I don't want to give  spoilers away . I'll just say that nothing I expected happened and that I got the impression, while reading,  that Cassandra Clare wrote this final book with the actors who played her characters in the movie adaptation in her mind. Or perhaps was it me who saw Jamie Campbell Bower, Lily Collins, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Turner, Kevin Zegers and the others while leafing through the pages? Well, let's say that both author and reader were influenced by them, probably.  

In conclusion,  I feel like I must  thank  Mrs Clare heartedly for not doing what I expected and for surprising me with a totally different scenario. I'm really grateful I was wrong. What? Teachers always want to be right? Not me. I beg to differ. 

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