Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm teasing...

...but I won't make a regular thing of it, I swear. 

So I'm a teacher.  My students are on the young end of the YA age bracket, but I admit that they, along with  my own memories of being a teenager, influence my writing quite a bit when I'm writing for teens.  So it's kind of weird to realize that in the three finished YA manuscripts I have, there are barely any scenes in a school.  Sure, the history teacher (and her badass metal sculptor girlfriend) are big characters in Just Think, and okay, so there used to be a couple of high school scenes in the long prelude to the real beginning of The Dharma Bum Business, back before I cut off that first 15,000 words or whatever.  (There was even a slightly...er...eccentric media center specialist who may possibly have seemed a teensy bit familiar to those who have some shared schooling experiences with me, but of course, all characters are a work of fiction.  And stuff.)

But for a person who spends so much of her life in school, writing about other people who spend so much of their lives in school, there has been remarkably little school in my books so far.  But not this one.  My current WIP actually takes place mostly at school, and it's so weird.  I have to write about teachers.  A lot of YA features terrifyingly awful teachers, or completely clueless teachers, or teachers who aren't really sure about the boundaries of professionalism.  This bothers me, as a teacher reading the book--after all, the teachers I know and love are astoundingly full of awesome at all times--but it serves a purpose, of course, which is to create conflict and personal growth for the teens who are experiencing the story.

I have decided that the only real teacher with lines and face time in my current book can't be evil.  He can't be completely clueless, either.  And he most definitely cannot be creepy.  So instead, I believe I have settled on dorky.  Which of course is true of all adults.

Anyway, I'm posting one excerpt from my work-in-progress, and it's a rough draft, but this bit makes me smile a little and wish that my main character would let the dorky teacher help her out a little bit.  Cassandra has to write a "Song of Myself" based on Whitman's poem, and she feels like there is nothing about herself to celebrate. 

Mr. Dawkins taps the edge of my desk.  "So did you make something up?" His voice is gentle, but the set of his mouth means business.
"I'm still working on it."  I work on shrinking down to a size so insignificant he will forget that I exist and pass on to the next slacker, but he doesn't budge.

"Let's see what you have so far."  His persistence is admirable for a veteran teacher.  Most of the faculty at Gordon have already settled into the pre-retirement mode of half-hearted, long-memorized lectures and prolonged sessions of busywork.  Mr. D. insists on being one of the ones who still pushes, relentlessly, against the tide of student apathy.
"It's too rough," I say.  "I'll show you when I get it polished."

"Show me, and I can help give some revision ideas."
Panic.  I can't show him what I have; he'll be harder on me than Darin was.  "It's on my computer at home."  The old stand-by excuse.
"Recreate it here," he says, and he officially becomes the second person to pick up my notebook without my permission and open it up to a blank sheet of paper.  "Now.  I'll be back to check it out in ten minutes."
"Now you're screwed," says Darin out of the side of his mouth.

"Sure."  I draw geometric shapes in the top margin of my paper.  "I celebrate myself and sing myself, for I am screwed."

"Write it," says Darin.

"Write that?"

"Write your song.  Write Cassandra."  He's doodling, too, like he always is, except is that me he's drawing?  A spiky-haired girl with manga-eyes glares up from the faint blue lines.  In her hand she wields a crystal ball.

 "I'm not…"  I don't finish it.  Somehow I don't mind his vision of me.

 Ten minutes later, my paper is still empty, and Mr. D. keeps me after class to discuss my midterm grade, which will be an F unless I turn in my poem on Monday.

 "I will, Mr. D.  I'll finish it this weekend, I promise."

 "Cass?"  He looks as if  he might try to pat  my shoulder.  I take a step back.

 "Have a good weekend!"  I force a smile and start toward the door of the nearly empty classroom.

 "Is everything okay?"
I feel a little bad about blowing him off like this.  He's a genuinely nice guy, and it's not really his fault he's a teacher.  I mean, how many jobs can there possibly be for guys who wear corduroy blazers and get all jittery over the words of some dead guy's poetry?  "Everything's great, Mr. D.  See you Monday!"  And I am out, merging into the slipstream of hallway traffic before he can say anything else, anything that would change even the slightest fiber of my existence.


Well, Mr. D. might be a dork, but he's no match for me...


Anonymous said...

WOW. You aren't kidding.

elissa said...

ha! you should know... :P

Nickaf09 said...

Hi, My names Nick I enjoy you blog very much. My fiance does too because she is on her to her teaching degree. We have a new blog about being engaged at 19 and me joining the Air Force. You might find it interesting.


Nick & Kayla