Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to Become the Kind of Jerk Teacher that Gives Pop-Quizes Over Reading Assignments

Admit that your students have more interesting things to do than read a five page description of clouds from Peter Camanzind.  Don't become bitter and admonish them for being a generation of You Tubers with the attention span of goldfish.  Or gnats.  Bottle up your rage when they look at you like unthinking, unfeeling automations.  Ignore the fact that they are still bleary eyed from having worked the night shift at the kind of restaurant where one's feet may, more often than not, stick to the floor.  It is at 9:47 pm when you will loose this rage in the form of esoteric multiple choice questions.  You will print the questions on the back of old driving directions because you are too proud to steal paper from work.  Wield this quiz as if it were a cudgel or some other cruelly blunt object.  Sleep with satisfaction knowing that you are singlehandedly vindicating the poor, neglected snow-globe that is modern literature in public schools.  Have a dream in which you knock Shakespeare's books out of his hands and make fun of his goatee.  

“How to Become a Writer”                                                Name_______________________________

1.  Why does the narrator’s mother prefer to wear the color brown?
a)     It complements her dead husband’s eyes
b)    Trick question.  She actually prefers orange.
c)     It is the color of her skin.
d)    It hides spots.

2.   The narrator writes what spiteful quip beneath her English teacher’s comments?
“plots are for dead people, __________ face.”

a)     Horse
b)    Fart
c)     Doughnut
d)    Pore

3.  Instead of a bird-watching class, the narrator finds herself enrolled in:

a)     Creative Writing
b)    Underwater Basket Weaving
c)     Dermatology
d)    Child Psychology

4.  Find the only plot the narrator has not admitted having written:

a)     A man and woman have their lower torsos blitzed away by dynamite and with the insurance money they open a frozen yogurt stand together.
b)    A tale of monomania in the fish-eat-fish world of insurance sales staring the menopausal suburban husband “Mopey Dick”
c)     A woman accidentally severs her boyfriend’s head with a malfunctioning laser pointer and, with the insurance settlement, has it put on ice for when she is elderly and alone.
d)    A married couple stumble upon an unknown landmine in their kitchen and accidentally blow one another to pieces: called “For Better or Liverwurst.”

5.  In what terms, unfortunately, does the narrator come to judge all new people?

a)     Some like to dip their food into white substances while some do not.
b)    Some have a great sense of humor while some have no sense of humor.
c)     Some are smarter than her while some are dumber than her.
d)    Some wonder where dust comes from, while some do not.

Extra Credit

The expression “face as blank as a ___________ “ is used three times in “How to Become a Writer,” in which Lorrie Moore compares a blank face to what three specific objects?            


Hannah Matheny said...

I just stumbled across this tonight as I was searching through the Internet and wanted to say I remember this day at school where everyone was complaining and trying to persuade you to not give us this quiz when in reality when has a teacher ever listened to a bunch of whiney students over something that has been so routine ever since middle school. I just couldn't help but to laugh at the dream you had the night before and the fact that you didn't steal paper from your work. This comment is probably pointless but I enjoy what you have to write and say. Your teaching has caused an impact on my life.

^^^ I apologize for the lack of comas and or spelling as well as sentence structure but I am an 18 year old teenager who is apart of the laziest generation the world has yet to see.

P.S- Thank you for making me actually think!

- Hannah M.

John Skarl said...

Hannah, though you're no longer with us, I want to thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog. I wish I would have been able to say this before your life was cut short. I'll always remember your unique sense of aesthetic and creative way of interpreting the world. This post may have confused nearly everyone that took the time to read it, but I knew you'd see the humor. You had a way of seeing the best in people. This post was intended to be funny and a kind of lighthearted evidence of how I obsess over how to teach in ways that inspire... and how I so often fall short. Our school year was filled with some very real drama, but I could always count on you and your classmates for support. It's students like you, and like so many in your class, that help me realize that it's all worth the stress and the heartbreak.