Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sixth Grade Moments

Someone in my class came back from gym wearing Love's Baby Soft today. Remember that smell? Try. I'll bet you can bring it right back. I had some when I was maybe 13, and it always smelled to me like Things About to Happen. By the time I was old enough to wear it (which would be...what? Sixteen, maybe?) I didn't want to anymore.

The boys in sixth grade still spray Axe all over themselves. Ever smelled that? It smells like...some combination of Trying Too Hard and Gym Socks Coverup. Not enjoyable.

We are holding auditions today for Greek Mythology plays, so I've now heard the tale of Demeter and Persephone and Echo and Narcissus told over 7 times. There's one girl with a terrible lisp who insists on getting up and trying repeatedly. She's the bravest girl in this room, I swear to God, especially since she read for Persephone and one of her lines, in response to eating the pomegranate seeds, is "Juicy." Go on...say it out loud. See? Brave.

The gayest boy in my class (and I inevitably have one or two...they send them to me special, as you might imagine) has read quite fabulously for Narcissus, and I simply will have to cast him in the role for my own pleasure and amusement. He'll be happy, I'll be happy, the kids will snicker, but he will literally be having too much fun to care.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how much courage they all have, to just show up in my wacky classroom, to audition for a play, or to read books with hugely intense themes like abandonment death, even if they've recently lost a parent, which two of my kids have in the past year. I have children of poverty, one whose father is in jail, one who's father was shot to death in front of his eyes a year ago, another with chronic arthritis who still insists on playing a monkey in the school play, kids with weight issues, learning issues, neglect issues...and yet they write their essays and answer their comprehension questions and discuss the metaphors and similes in Tuck Everlasting and can name the major rivers in India.

Meanwhile, I registered my daughters for summer camp this morning, where they will take swimming lessons and Amelia will learn to ride a horse (Abby's still afraid) and they've already been to see a Broadway show. Three times. They're at the top of their class, both of them, and are stable and safe and loved. The injustice of it all overwhelms me some days, but all I can do is to try to make a safe haven for these twelve year olds, teach them novels about kids their age who overcome difficulties with fortitude and gumption, and distract them with lessons on mummies and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Terra Cotta Army in China.

It seems the least I can do.

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