assignments & things

I assigned my students a poem to read for homework. I didn’t choose the poem directly–I’m a substitute right now. It was one of the poems left by the teacher.

Adrian Mitchell’s “Norman Morrison.”

The suggestion was to teach it as a reason people write poems about true events, which I fully intended to do. But, then I got in my own way.

Before I tell the story of what happened, I have to put a disclaimer on this. I’m politically a liberal. But not the kind of common liberal that you find everywhere–you know the one that believes in gay marriage, is against the death penalty, and overall just thinks things should be “fair.” Socially liberal. All of which I am. The bigger problem is that I am economically liberal as well–which almost every liberal I know is not. I DO think I should pay for other people’s health care. I DO think I should pay for other people’s social security. Whatever the reason you can’t do this for yourself is not my place to judge, and I think we’re supposed to share.

So a couple of weeks I was talking with a friend and the first thing he said about my subbing job was “just another place for you to spread your socialism.” And, I laughed, but it’s so very true.

When I taught math, I taught about health care. We analyzed budgets and figured out how it would be possible to keep public hospitals open, insure more people, and provide preventative care.

When I taught American Literature, oh my goodness. It was a free for all.

Social Justice? Why would you even give me that class?

But for some reason, I thought I could keep it out of a class if it was not my intention to do it.

Which brings me back to the story about Norman Morrison. After my students read the poem, I asked them three questions:

  1. What did Morrison do?
  2. Why did he do it?
  3. Hero or Fool?

We had a pretty engaging discussion until it turned to why not choose a different form of protest (which is really insight about the next generation for another time). So, I said, well, why would lighting one’s self on fire be the perfect protest for this particular war.

Blank stares.

Does anyone know what napalm is?

Blank stares.

So they had an assignment tonight. One was to look up napalm. The second was to look up Robert McNamara.

And presto! Without even thinking about it—lesson plan gone. And political feelings right back into the forefront.

I think I’m kinda hopeless.


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