Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

06 September 2005

Prep school hobos.

A late green summer day, glancing at fall.
In my blue shirt and tie I rise into lights
and windows, glass spoons before my eyes
held to drink the sidelong health
of each sly moment melting into the grass.

I made my students take off their clothes last week. Well, not really. We played an icebreaker game where they got into pairs and spent a minute looking at their partners, studying every detail, and then turned back-to-back and had a minute to alter three things about their appearance. Then they turned around again and tried to guess the changes in their partners. It was silly and fun and obvious and they liked it, because they got to get out of their chairs for a few minutes. Many of them chose to remove shoes, or untuck their navy blue shirts or invert the collar, or muss up their hair or untie laces.

Someone said they looked like prep school hobos. I liked that. We wrote it in our Commonplace Book, where we keep unusual, humorous or otherwise interesting bits of writing: words, quotes, headlines, lyrics, etc.

Today we talked about graffiti, and the ways it does or doesn't overlap with definitions of art and literature. Their homework this week is to create Left Art. Left Art? We puzzled over what I might mean by that, until someone guessed it might mean art that gets left behind. That's it! They have to create some work of art -- sketch, painting, poem, story, rant, sculpture -- and abandon it in a public place, somewhere it will be found and possibly taken by a stranger. Then they have to write a page or so about what they created, where they left it, and what the experience was like for them. I made a point of emphasizing that, unlike graffiti, this assignment does not involve law-breaking (we're all clear on that, right? no breaking the law for English class) because it requires a creation that can easily be removed by whoever notices it first.

This activity is a tie-in to the first book we're going to read together, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, which features a heroine with a penchant for Left Art.

The eighth grade is off to Yosemite at the end of the month for a four-day field trip, starting on my birthday. I've never been to Yosemite. I'm excited.

After we come back we're going to be making picturebooks for children and then reading them to the younger grades. Later on, we'll read Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea and delve into the concept of heroism, and write fiction based on the steps of the Hero's Journey articulated by Joseph Campbell. In the fall, we'll be looking at notions of social conscience and structure through a trio of books by Nancy Farmer, doing a big research project in collaboration with science class, messing around with poetry and short fiction, publishing a literary magazine, graduating . . .

I love my job. I know I already said that. I can't help it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waaaah -- I wish I were in your class! I especially want to do the Joseph Campbell assignment. And the research project/science class assignment (I love John McPhee's science writing). And the lit magazine. And ...

Damn! Forty years too late and 1000 miles too far away.

You are indeed lucky to have this lovely job. And they are so lucky to have YOU!

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Frederika said...

I really want to be in your class, too! I've already done the first assignment - creating Left Art - a few times. The best was a sculpture I created, about two feet high, of myself, seated cross-legged on the ground, only instead of clothes, I wore leaves. The statue somehow acquired the name of "Booba." (Maybe for the leaves over the boobs. I don't know.) I kept Booba for a few months, but it felt like I should do something else with her. So, I took Booba for a walk with me. I climbed down a hillside, to a spot where people often got high, and I left Booba sitting there, looking out over the town of Durango. I came back after a week, and there she still sat. I came back in a month, and she was gone.

I wonder where she is now.

Yeah, that's a great assignment. You're a good teacher.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Wesley said...

Sounds great. I wonder if anyone has found those poems we left in the house in Bodega Bay.

I like leaving Left Art, but I wish I would find some sometime -- that would be a real thrill.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Well, that's totally one of the reasons I do it. Trying to build up karma. I used to do that in a less creative way by paying the toll of the car behind me on the Golden Gate Bridge, but at three bucks a trip (and soon to get pricier) it's no longer quite the carefree act of philanthropy it once was.

I have found Left Art. Some of it was left deliberately, some of it left by mistake, some both (a piece of paper torn up and scattered to the wind, reassembled on my desk with scotch tape). There's one piece in particular that I've been hoarding for years: a cassette tape I found in Courthouse Square all alone near a redwood tree. It has Christmas tree stickers on it and pen writing that says "From May when Me + Stacy got busted for PJ's is on this side". I've never listened to it. One day the time will be right, and I will.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Wesley said...

What an awesome find. You're the only person I know who wouldn't have listened to it. Antici-

5:37 PM  
Blogger Wesley said...


5:12 PM  
Anonymous geena said...

What a neat assignment! I wish we'd done neato stuff like this in school.

6:23 PM  

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