Things I Left in My Classroom Over the Summer

1. Photomosaic Darth Vader. Which isn't literary at all, in an English classroom, no less, unless you approach Star Wars through a monomyth archetypal lens, or examine composition and film techniques to uncover the film's appeal, or take a historical approach and research the 1970's political and economic situation and analyze instances of those influences in the movie, or uncover characterization, or plot, or explore how Mr. Vader has affected the presentation of villains in the sci-fi genre, or in film, or wherever. Apart from all that, it's just a cool poster.

2. This juice box. I am looking forward to drinking it, but I'll probably give it to a study hall kid with low blood sugar, or one who's thirsty.

3. A Shadowy Figure in the Corner. One fourth hour a girl, a girl with troubles I can't begin to understand, looked up at me with real fear in her eyes and asked what the man in the corner was doing. I laughed and shook my head, and she pointed quick, because she didn't want the apparition to see her, and she started shaking, and I wonder how many people would know how to deal with a hallucination, a terrifying demon in the corner, in such a way that protects her and maintains her dignity in a room full of fourteen-year-olds, and that helps her improve her writing skills and score well on the standardized test, and that gives her some sort of hope that she'll be able to find food tonight, and for the rest of her life. That fourth hour I tried my best. I don't know if I succeeded, but I tried my best.

4. $40,000. Because I get paid what I got paid in 2007, and I get it, I get it, tough times, we all had to tighten our belts, but my belt is still tight, and I just need to know when I get to loosen it. You showed me a grid full of numbers when you hired me, full of what I was supposed to be paid, and if that deal changed, if you're never going to hold up your end of that deal, you need to let me know, because I work hard and I get better every year. You need to let me know because then I can try to understand how schools work best with lowest bid teachers, because these aren't roads that can be repaved, these are kids, these are lives, these are investments and I'm how you get a payout and if you think freeways and business subsidies are a better bet, that's fine. That's not fine, but that's fine, and I just need to know.

5. A Dust Globe. It's the most incredible project student project I've received. We read Of Mice and Men and everyone made a museum artifact from the '20's and a girl made this, with her hands, with her mind, and it's impressive and creative and it never would have existed if I didn't type up the assignment sheet and set the due date. I can't take, would never take any sort of credit, but I played a role in the creation of this cool thing, of a thousand cool things. Tens of thousands of cool things.

6. A birthday card from my kids, a rock from my trip to Korea to visit my brother, and a small glass from my high school English teacher's funeral. These things mean something to me.

7. Fifteen tables, thirty chairs, a white board, and a podium. That's what I will need to take 150 teenagers and make them better at important things like reading and writing and speaking, and thinking, and avoiding the pitfalls of advertising and working with others, and using technology and researching. There's other stuff too. We start tomorrow.

Eric RasmussenEssay, Teaching