Tag Archives: classroom

#336: Kids These Days


My intern Max
delivers a lesson
today to 9th graders
in a unit study of
Elie Wiesel’s Night.
Today, he’s asking
them to think,
write, and speak
about indifference.
My sixth period,
usually rambunctious,
squirrely, silly, noisy,
rises to the occasion
today with seriousness,
sincerity, and hope.
Max, my intern, asks,
What’s our obligation
toward the suffering
of other people?
One student says, we should
always stand up for
the weak. Another says,
we must respect differences
between people, no
matter where they are
in the world. Still another says
we should help people
out, provide for them
the things they need,
things they don’t have through
no fault of their own.
And one more voice says,
it’s not our job to help,
but because we can,
we should.
I am writing all of this
down and my heart sings.

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Diary of an English Teacher in His Penultimate Year, Redux: Kids These Days, Part Deux


Apparently, for $16.36, you can buy a tub of communion wafers from Amazon. And I know this because a student of mine came to class the other day with a tub of communion wafers. He was passing them out. Snacks for his classmates. At first, I was just sort of dumbfounded. It was a brand new what-the-hell classroom moment, one that I admitted was a career first. In 30 years, no student has ever brought a tub of communion wafers to class. He offered me one, as he offered one to anybody in the room who was interested. I declined. Still in disbelief, I asked to look at the plastic tub: Cavanagh Altar Bread, 1 and 1/8 inches, white, made from only flour and water following historical liturgical guidelines in a gas fire oven, a thousand pieces. He bought them, I’m sure, because he could. It could have been worse. He could have pretended to be a priest, moving around the room from student to student, offering up a wafer to each tongue, speaking “the body of Christ,” to which each tongue would reply, “amen,” before taking the wafer fully into the mouth, chewing it or allowing it to dissolve before swallowing. He didn’t do that, (I want to say) thank God. I assumed the boy was not Catholic. His friend knew a little about the tradition, what it meant, its symbolic significance, the notion of transubstantiation, maybe he even said something like, “You’re eating Jesus, man.” I just remembered my childhood. 18 years of Catholic mass every Sunday whether I wanted it or not, a ritual about which I have since decided, not. And yet, there is still a Catholic roaming around inside of my bones, my heart, and my brain, and part of me was, or knew that I should be, deeply offended. And I knew, also, that there would be students in the room who would be, and would have every right to be, deeply offended. So, the party ended shortly after it began, maybe the whole thing lasted less time than it would take a person to read this paragraph out loud, and I said, “Put them away,” and a student in the back row looked at me; she nodded in approval.

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