9.29.2008

Sibling Assignment # 75: Just Standing on the Radley Porch Was Enough


This week's sibling assignment came from Silver Valley Girl. Without reading hers I almost wrote a similar post about the same teacher and a similar lesson. We often agree on things and both of us remember the poetry teaching of Mr. Bachman. You can find her detailed post and video here. Raymond Pert has reentered the blog world after being away. His will soon be found here.
"Look back on your years as a student at Kellogg High School, and write about a memorable moment in one of the classes you took. This could be a postive or negative moment, but it has to be a very vivid memory, and one you can retell with much detail."

Instead of my experiences with poetry I wrote about a memorable moment with a classic novel. The spring of my sophomore year we had a student teacher. We held class in the cafeteria after lunch and she had a podium she stood behind as we sat at the lunch tables. Classic literature in junior high and high school so far had included Great Expectations, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Silas Marner. That was what I thought you read in English classes. Our student teacher taught To Kill a Mockingbird. The book was one of those Literary Guild books that came once a month for my mom. I remember it on the bookshelf in the bedroom.

One thing that stood out with reading this novel was that it wasn't in a poor part of England and the characters didn't speak in verse. To Kill a Mockingbird had characters that hung out and played in the summer. They lived in a town in rural American that I could relate to. In reading this book I understood that a novel in class could be about common people dealing with uncommon events. Many of us knew some man that created mystery like Boo Radley. I could believe I might find trinkets left in a tree. It was a rare occastion that anyone saw an African American person in Kellogg, but I knew the difference between families that lived in Okieville, Little Italy, or the big houses by the Bunker Hill Office Building.

Maybe it was having a different teacher that was also someone I had admired in our neighborhood growing up. Perhaps it was those spring afternoons when the sun shone in and we listened to her read passages of this book aloud to us. The memorable moment in that English class was when she read the last chapter. After Scout walked Boo Radley home she spoke my favorite passage from the book.
"Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough."
Something shifted inside of me that day. That quote from the book and movie stayed with me.

The next year as classmates learned of the deaths of their fathers, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers in the Sunshine Mine fire I tried to walk in their shoes. A few years later when my brother was in an accident at the Zinc Plant I tried to walk in his shoes. It took many years to understand the impact and consequences of those events.

Today I reflect on this passage when I hear students taunting one weaker than them. I help them understand empathy. It is especially difficult when our native students travel to a rural town to play basketball and they are called insulting names or people shake their fists at the bus. Can these young adults really stand in those shoes?

This book and movie are two of my all-time favorites. Our students read this book as freshmen so my last year's class is reading it right now. As they carry their copies to class I get excited and ask them about their experience with the book.
" Hey... who names their kids Jem and Scout and Dill, '' one joked.
"Stay with it," I replied,"trust me... you will love it."

I loved watching clips this week-end of my favorite scenes from the movie. Just hearing the theme song reminded me of Scout and Jem and Dill and summers and the trial and the night Boo Radley came out. If you haven't read the book or watched the movie do it before you watch this clip. It may be a spoiler!

3 comments :

  1. I loved this book and movie, too. Who was the student teacher?

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  2. Oh... watching the clip made me want to see the whole film again.

    I really enjoyed reading about your experience. It made me think about a couple of teachers that made a real impact on me.

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  3. Excellent post! I wonder why empathy is so difficult to find now? Or was it ever easier?

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