Different Strokes

One of my students from last year came to see me this morning. She's having a rough time this year, and I sort of listen to her problems and try to give her objective advice. She's struggling with her English class as well, and I told her I'd help her when she needs it.

So she comes in my room this morning; "Ms. Flower," she says, "can you help me with my English paper?"

"Sure," I say. "What's the topic?"

"We have to write an essay about a poem by Miss Emily Dickens."

"DickenSON," I say.


"Miss Emily DickinSON."

"Sure, whatever." I begin to see the problem.

"What poem are you writing about?" I ask.

"I don't know. It's something about death."

"Um, that ... that does not narrow it down AT ALL," I say.

"Oh. Well, lemme find it." And she digs around in her backpack for several minutes, trying to find her copy of this poem. When she finally hands it to me, I see that it is covered with notes about the poem. Insightful, logical, poem-explaining notes. That her teacher gave her. And it's not in a folder or notebook, or even folded into her literature book.

If it were MY poem, it would have been encased in plastic, possibly laminated, with a neon post-it trumpeting the due date attached. It would have been stapled to articles I'd copied from the library's literary journals, with all the important parts highlighted, possibly with some sort of complicated color-coordination system. It would have been paper-clipped to all the relevant information I'd printed from the internet. It would have been in a brand new two-pocket folder--with prongs!--that had "EMILY DICKINSON POEM PROJECT" written on the front with a thick black Sharpie.

This is maybe because I measured my self-worth by my grades, when I was in high school. But this student, she can play basketball, so probably she finds other ways to build up her confidence.

Hunh. I wonder what that's like.

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