Monday, May 23, 2005

life of buddy don, chaptur 136: teachin or taught?

once i gut into the swang of thangs at kc, i luved my job n felt lack i wuz doon the worl sum good. i had been a’studyin teachin my hole life much moren i real eyesed on a counta seem lack ever teacher i had wuz showin me sumthin that eethur wurked or dint. i wuz eager to try out sum of my idees. i wuz eggcited bout whut a grate teacher i wuz a’gone be. corse, i had lots to larn my ownself.

furst thang i wonted to do wuz make shore my students wonted to cum to class, that they wuz havin fun. fack is, i bleeved then (and bleeve now) that play is a verr importunt part of larnin. ifn ye watch them natchur shows on tv ye see how jes bout ever new generayshun of animulls finds out how to survive by playin. fack is, thats part of whut makes em so cute. ye see them lil lions or tigers or house cats or dogs or bears or mos inny mammal a’playin n larnin how to survive in a hard worl. frum all that play, they larn whut wurks so they gut it down by time they need it when it cums time to eat or be eaten.

i tuck that mane idee into the classroom n tride to make shore the process of larnin wuz as much fun as could be. fer eggzample, in that mornin comp 101 class, we had to cover them basick essay forms: compar n contrast, narrayshun, descripshun, process, classificayshun, n argument, jes to menchun to mos obvious of em. fer a collidge freshmun, tiz hard to make such thangs fun. mos students druther take a beatin than have to rite sumthin. quick as ye ast em to git out thar pens n paper, they git to moanin n groanin. i wood ast em did they moan n groan whenever they wuz larnin to play basketball by playin or larn to dance by dancin or larn to ‘conversate’ by ‘conversatin’ or kiss by kissin? that gut a laff n purty soon the papers wuz out n they wuz a’ritin.

nuther thang i dun wuz to brang over a box of used books me n emily had bought up out at the flea market on alcoa hiway n used em as prizes fer the bes thangs writ in class. i wuz always a’lectchurin em on how ye gut to read, how whenever ye read, ye train yer brain in how language wurks n how ye deevelop yer ear fer whuts rite n whuts rong. sumbidy ast did it matter whut they read n i tole em innythang. did that include letters to penthouse magazine? i tole me twuz fine to read innythang n ifn pornogruffy wuz thonly thang they kep ye innerested, then i reckund twuz bettern not readin atall.

they laffed n sed twuz easier to larn thangs by a’watchin tv, but i ast em did they know bout innybidy that had em a job whar they wuz paid fer watchin tv? dint nobidy anser n i sed thay had to face the facks, that they lived in amurka whar ifn ye wonted to be respeckted, ye had to be able to read n rite standurd english. that led to a lil discushun bout how standurd english wuz white english n sum of em wuz mad bout it. they sed twuznt fair fer it to be thataway. seem lack they wonted me to add mitt how they dint need to larn it, but i dint bite. i dint even add mitt standurd english wuz white english, witch thats why everbidy hates takin english class.

in sted, i tole em that everbidy speaks moren one form of english. i tole em bout how my fambly wuz a big fambly of talkers n story tellers n how one thang that gut me wuz how whenever they tole a story, they wood use hillbilly. even my granddaddy that wuz the judge of morgan county n could speak good english jes fine wood speak hillbilly whenever he wuz a’tellin a story. i tole em how fer me thay wudnt no better way to tell a story, that ye could hear the musick in the langwage.

they laffed when i spoke a bit of hillbilly to em n then they laffed even harder whenever i tride to speak lack they dun. but i ast em did they thank i wood be respeckted ifn i wuz to take my standurd english n go over to thar side of town to visit a friend a’talkin lack a collidge perfesser, witch i tole em to magine i had a black friend that i wood visit n that near lost the class while they talked bout how wudnt no white man a’gone visit no black man at his house, not in deetroit! not on the south side of chicago! not in east st louis! not in harlem! not in dc! i had to add mitt how thay wudnt minny a white man that wood doot, but i wuz thar amung em then, wudnt i?

but i changed the subjeck a lil n ast em ifn they wood be reespeckted ifn they wuz to go home n insist on speakin nuthin but standurd english. that gut a feller name of james coleman to raze his hand n say he wished he could doot as good as i dun n ifn he could he wood doot at home, witch dolores ast him wood he doot out on the corner? they all laffed at that, witch i sed i figgerd the point wuz how we use whutever langwage is appropriate to the time n place.

rite or rong, i tole em, standurd english is cunsidderd rite fer the bizness worl n tiz sumthin that kin be used to hold ye back. that gut em talkin bout how white folks use innythang to hold black folks back, witch i sed ifn twuz true, wood ye let em have it easy by not larnin thar lingo? then i tole em bout the perfesser in west germany who tole us how in 200 years, amurkin english wood be jes lack whut they call black english, how over time a langwage gits simpler n yet more eggspressive. i sed that folks quit a’usin the parts of speech thats obvious. as a eggzample, i sed how in black english ye could say, ‘he ugly,’ n woodnt nobidy miss whut ye meant even ifn twuz proper to say, ‘he is ugly.’ n as fer bein more eggspressive, wudnt thay a differnts twixt ‘he ugly’ n ‘he be ugly’?

thay add mitted twuz so. then dolores ast me to speak sum more hillbilly n i dun it fer a bit, a’tellin em ever langwage kin tell innythang that needs to be tole. they laffed n laffed. i ast em why n they tole me how it made me sound so ignernt. i add mitted it n sed twuz a sad thang how folks did that. fack is, i sed, folks’ll use it to hold ye back jes lack they wood do to folks speakin black english. thay wuz quite fer a bit after that. i tole em i dint have no choice but to larn standurd english since dint nobidy give hillbilly no respeck. but i bleeve ever form of english has gut its place n ever one is verr useful, dont make no never mind ifn tiz black english or standurd english or even hillbilly. they all gut thar own beauty n time n place.

they ast me did i thank sumbidy could rite a hole book in nuthin but hillbilly. i tole em i figgerd it could be dun but mayhap woodnt nobidy read it. on tuther hand, mayhap twood make the readers hear the musick in the langwage n fer all i knew ye could tell yer hole life story in hillbilly n have folks read it frum start to finish n even wish thay wuz more n even wonta speak hillbilly thar ownself. that gut everbidy to laffin n they sed they wood shore lack to see sumbidy try such a thang. did i speck em to bleeve folks wood really read such a thang? i ast em had inny of em read the color purple by alice walker n that shut em up purty quick. i tuck it out of my pack n read jes a page or two n ye mite could thank i had pulled a rabbit outta my back pack frum the sprize it give sum of em.

james coleman ast me wuz that book in the box of prizes? i sed twuznt yet, but thay wuz otherns jes as good. fack wuz, whenever sumbidy won the opshun of gittin a book, i wood announce the winner tords the end of the class n that person wood git to walk up in frunt of everbidy n pick thru the books till they found the one they wonted n they figgerd twuz jes fer the glory of bein up in frunt of the class, but after i had read that, seem lack they tride harder to win n whenever james coleman won he picked out richard wrights black boy n held it up n sed did innybidy ever here of a black man ritin a book name of black boy? thang bout james wuz how he dint hardly know whut a sentence wuz whenever he started that class, but he wurked hard as could be till he larnt to rite n pass the class.

i wuz jes full of idees bout teachin n seem lack thay wuznt class a nuff to try em all. fer instunts, i gut a idee bout how to git em to rite a narrashun paper that gut em all to talkin n turnt out i larnt as much as they dun. twuz rite near thanksgivin. i had me a ole pair of overhauls i had bought at the flea market in clinton, witch twuz blue n coverd ye frum head to toe jes bout. fack is, twuz jes lack them they wore out at union carbide n i speck sumbidy had borried it n never brung it back. i give $3 fer it but hadnt never had a chants to wear it till i gut this idee.

whenever the mornin cum fer me to use my idee, i gut up n putt on my bes suit with a white shirt n tie n everthang ceptn thonly shoes i had wuz them beat up clodhoppers i had been a’wearin since mama bought em fer me rite befor we went to west germany. after gittin all dressed in that suit n tie, i putt on them overhauls n gut that witches mask that cuverd my hole head into my back pack n walked on over to campus.

once i gut thar n tuck the role, i tole my class i wood be rite back. i sed that whenever i cum back, i wood be a guest they had brung to thar house fer thanksgivin. they wuz to watch everthang i dun n deescribe jes whut happend. then i went out into the hall n pulled on them overhauls n putt on that mask n went back in. whut a sensayshun that created! they wuz a’laffin n carryin on lack nuthin ye never seen. i had dun splaind bout how they wuz to rite a in-class essay, so when they dint do nuthin but laff fer a bit, i rote up n the board sumthin bout how they had 45 mints lef. bout then dolores g miller cum in rite bout then, witch that made everbidy laff n that made jerome mad to whar he tole em ifn they dint shut up n rite, he wood shut em up. i give im a thumbs up n they gut started.

generly i walked round the class n made shore everbidy wuz a’ritin, but this time i stood up thar actin lack i dint hardly know whut to do. that mask wood make ye itch n easiest way to scratch wuz by usin the air holes in the nose, witch that made it look lack ye wuz pickin yer nose. i knew that wuz good fer a laff n sumthin to deescribe, so i dun a bit of that n by time the laffs died down, they wuz all jes a’scribblin away, ritin fer a bit n then lookin at me.

so happend that class wuz also the practiss room fer the choir, witch that meant it had a grand peeano rite in the middle of it. i had jes been larnin a chopin walz, so after they had been a’ritin fer a bit, i went over to that peeano n played it. wuz they ever sprized! they dint have no idee i could play the peeano n even tho i wudnt much good, i could play it thru mosly n i dun jes that. then i gut up n went to the frunt of the class n tuck off them overhauls n purty soon they wuz a’hollerin out bout whut a fine suit i wuz a’wearin, witch thang wuz that suit had gone outta style durin the seventies whenever leeshure suits cum in but now twuz rite thar in the hart of fashun.

whut a bunch of essays i gut frum that! twuz funny how i wuz a’hopin to make thangs fun fer the class but ended up makin em fun fer me too on a counta them essays wudnt nuthin but fun to read. but whut sprized me mos wuz how i hadnt speckted whut them students wuz a’gone see:
  • near everbidy talked bout how sprized thar fambly wuz over them a’brangin a white man with long strangy hair home fer thanksgivin. i hadnt hardly thunk bout race whenever i set up the scene, but twuz the furst thang menchuned on near ever essay writ.

  • near everbidy talked bout how twuz odd to have a homeless white man home fer dinner but sed how thar mamas had always tole em how innybidy that wuz hungry wuz wellcum fer dinner in thar home.

  • near everbidy wuz struck by how the homeless white man couldnt talk, witch i dint mean fer that to be part of it, but truth is i never sed a wurd once i gut the costume on.

  • near everbidy sed twuz the hi point of that thanksgivin whenever that deaf n dumb homeless white man turnt out to play the peeano fer em n bout half of em menchuned whar jesus sed that when ye treat a pore stranger with kindness ye mite be entertainin a angel without a’knowin it.

  • sevrul of em sed twuz a murkle frum god that a deaf n dumb homeless white man could play the peeano, witch they writ how ye woodnt thank a deaf person could do that on a counta how kin ye larn to play peeano ifn ye caint hear nuthin?

  • near everbidy wuz struck by the change whenever i tuck them overhauls off, but whut gut em mos wuz how twuz jes whut ye mite speck frum a white man to be all dressed up n still a’wearin a pair of ole dusty boots that orta dun been throwd out years ago.
sevrul of em writ how twuz jes as importunt to wear the rite cloze as twuz to speak the rite form of english. did i wont respeck frum that class? did i wont respeck at knoxvull collidge? did i even know whar i wuz? ye dint cum into no house all dressed up in a suit n tie but a'wearin a pair of dusty ole boots. twernt proper. ye had to dress the part ifn ye wonted respeck n ifn ye dint, twuz a way of showin disrespeck to them ye wuz a'visitin.

i had to add mitt how that stung me purty good. i tole emily bout it n even tho we had a fuss n fite all they way over to millers on henley street, i went over n bought me a pair of shoes. after that, i gut to lookin more keerful lack at whut folks wuz a’wearin on campus n seen how i stuck out lack a hillbilly in deetroit. i hadnt never figgerd twuz a form of disrespeck. i figgerd twuz jes bein myself. but i wuz rong n ever after that, i real eyesed i had a lot to larn, even ifn i wuz the perfesser.

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