Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dandelion Wine and Other 7-12 Tales

My friend was telling me about the Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild performance of Dandelion Wine. This reminded me of how, when I was in middle school, I had to read Dandelion Wine, and I ranked it as one of the worst stories I had ever read. (Of course I finished it--I was a "jeune fille rangee," a dutiful child.) Digression: a few years ago, reading a book on the herbal properties of dandelions, I saw a suggestion to make dandelion wine, and was completely turned off by that idea--only because I couldn't stand the book of the same name.

In any case (because this is the way my mind works), thinking about Dandelion Wine reminded me of a high school encounter with literature. I was in 12th grade and decided to opt into the Humanities (2-semester) course in the second semester. The teacher had a reputation of being slightly ditzy, but also nice, and the class read interesting pieces--for instance, Antigone. As a condition of coming in during the second semester (into what was essentially a year-long course), the teacher asked me to read a few of the pieces they had read in the first semester. A little extra work for me, but I didn't think it would be a problem.

A couple of weeks into the term, the teacher (I'm sorry I don't remember her name although I do remember what she looked like) runs into me in the hall and asks me how my reading is coming along. "Fine," I report, "except for Waiting for Godot."
"Why?" she asks.
"I can't stand it, it seems endless, and I'm only reading it for the class," I say.
"Oh no!" she says to me. "You don't have to read it if you can't stand it. I really don't want that. I want you to enjoy what you read."

Many years later, I still appreciate that teacher's attitude.

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