On Tuesday I received an e-mail: “uh, Miss, you’re not at the tutoring centre anymore. I need help.”
Walaikum is in Grade 12 this year. He’s absolutely frantic about his marks, of course. (Did you think he’d change?) This is bothering me more than usual because he has The Best English Teacher Ever and I think if anyone could get Walaikum to actually enjoy English, it’s this teacher. I’ve never had any of her students before, and her students only have wonderful things to say about her; even Walaikum says she’s funny and interesting. She seems to know about Walaikum, though, and is expecting a lot of him. This is fine by me (oh, wait, except for the verb tenses; I don’t think she understands English is his third or fourth language, so harping at him about the use of modal verbs in a personal journal really isn’t going to get him anywhere).
I don’t think Walaikum will ever like English, though. He’s the consummate engineer: he wants right and wrong answers; he wants information relevant to his society. The Grade 12s at his school get to read Northrop Frye’s The Educated Imagination; the pre-requisite is summarising Thomas Love Peacock’s The Four Ages of Poetry. Walaikum sat back in his chair and smiled in expectation when he asked what I thought of the curriculum; the boy knows me well….
The Four Ages was a little gruelling until I explained that Peacock was a poet and that the essay was satirical. Walaikum does have a sense of humour – somewhere, under the stress – and the idea that English could be funny warmed him to the essay a little.
I did notice, in Walaikum’s bag, a copy of The Time Machine. He read it last year as an independent study novel; I suspect he’s going to try to use it again this year. My point to the Head of the English Department would be this: Walaikum liked The Time Machine. Why can’t Walaikum enjoy reading instead of having to read god-forsaken Frye? Does it really matter which bag of hot air the student chooses? I want Walaikum to enjoy learning, to use reading as a form of relaxation and escape. If anyone needs to decompress, it’s Walaikum.
Walaikum is good for me, though, because I have no choice but to be my best with him. I spend more time preparing for sessions with Walaikum than I do for any other student. It’s good to know that I am still capable of getting 100% in a high school English class.