Fifty Sons and Daughters: Show Don’t Tell

I’ve written this piece in 2007, part of a cycle called Fifty Sons and Daughters that gathers my college teaching experiences in New Jersey.
English Composition 101 Professor:
Hello students. As I said in our first class, in English Composition 101 I will be teaching you how to write. For those of you who didn’t show up on Tuesday, be it because you were at orientation, or you forgot that school started on Tuesday, January 2, 8 a.m., or you simply couldn’t get out of bed, I inform you that there is no chitchat in this class, no cell phone usage. If you miss class, you get an absence. If you get four absences, sorry, you’ll have to take this class again. Two lates count for one absence. Chit chat, giggles, talk talk talk, disruptive behavior,—Frank the Tank, this term there will be no m&m slinking in the class!—if you interfere with the diligent students’ eagerness to learn and my passion to teach, I’ll ask you to leave the classroom and come back when you are ready to behave like a mature student. And that’ll be one absence right there.
For those of you who have been in my class previously, or those who asked my previous students about me and were told I’m a softie, sorry to disappoint but upon popular demand voiced in the students’ teaching evaluation questionnaire I turned into a dragon lady over the winter holidays. I mean it. In this class, I’ll teach you how to write. That I will.
Now we’ll have a class exercise about showing not telling, about narration and description. When you talk about something, you have to be visual, sensorial. Let me hear, see, smell the person you are talking about. Don’t be abstract, abstract, abstract because I’m gonna fall asleep. That is don’t say, "My mother is uplifting me!" No! Say, “My mom is my sunshine!” Understood?
Great. Now, let’s do a practical exercise in narration. Each of you should ask me a question and I’ll tell you a story. Okay, you first. Your name? Louder so that students can hear it, paste a name to the face. Squenia. Right. Question?
Where do you hail from?
Student, we don’t ask questions about anything else, but what you see. And no inappropriate behavior, or attitudes or smirks or flirtatious looks will be tolerated. Understood? Neither eye rolling nor back talking. If I see any of this, I’ll take you by the hand and walk you across the square to the dean’s office to have an attitude problem fix. Question?
What are you holding in your hand? And why?
My wallet. Because I can’t risk you guys playing some prank on me and vanish it. Though it contains nothing but my train tickets and a driver’s license and one debit card of an empty bank account. I like this wallet. It is small, not like those that have many partitions for credit cards, no, thank you. I messed up my credit history. I also put in its side pocket toothpicks that I finagled from restaurants and paper clips I use when I commute to sort your papers and organize them. This is my son. Handsome child. Like his father. Under his picture, I have the one of his uncle. Here. Handsome. Yes, it’s an old picture. He’s dead now. Alcoholism. In my hometown most people, men, everybody, drink themselves to death. The real horror in Transylvania,—yes, Squenia, I hail from Transylvania,—is not vampirism but alcoholism and its violence. So I covered his picture with my son's. No more past. Here is the promising future.
Why are you dressed in purple?
It’s a good color and I learned this from a performer who worked at several jobs to make the rent money: during week all she wore was purple, she had purple pants and purple blouses, purple coats and purple boots, so she didn’t lose time with matching her items, whatever she put on, it was purple. Only over the weekend, she dressed in a different color. Next?
Why are you showing us your son’s picture?
Because he is on my mind. He has to study but instead he plays videogames around the clock. I didn’t come here for nothing! He has an internet addiction! Like his uncle! It is scary! He’s almost your age…
We should do an exercise on that! Take out a scrap of paper. This is an audience awareness exercise. Yes. That is you shape your discourse, essay depending on whom you write it for. Now: your cousin or younger sibling has an internet addiction. Write him/her your thoughts. Then, you go and talk to his/her parents. Persuade them it’s a bad thing. No talking. Write, write, write, dear students. I have an example. We did the same exercise in the other class for a kid who watches porn. Wait a minute. [Shuffles thru her folder.] Here it is:
Ronald Calderon: Parents: I believe that it is ok for your son to be watching porn on the base that it is natural for a boy entering puberty to start wanting to experiment or to have sex. I know you did it when you were his age. At least he’s not gay. Boy: It’s ok for you to watch porn because sex is one of the most important things in the world next to breathing and eating. Don’t ever let your parents know you watch porn son, they going to try to knock your hustle son, but when you smash always use a jimmy cap because watching porn you can’t get an infection.”
Gilberto Garcia: “To kidd: was gad lil nigga, yo don’t got cagt if you watch porn, there is nothing wrong with watching it, but you just cant do it anytime. If you do it when your parents is home lock your room and turn the volume down. Imam pass you down my collection you just gotta do it smart. Ok ma lil’ dude. Just do you but be smart about. To parent: Hello Miss ‘I dunno’ I have spoken to your child and he feels embarrassed and ashamed of watching porn. I have personally discarded his video tapes and told him he cant go out for a month. He will go into his room and do his homework and will be a more honest and righteous kid. Miss he is a good boy he was just acting upon peer pressure. His friends told him he was gay for not watching it, I told him it doesn’t matter that its not appropriate to watch it any way. Also, that his friends are the gay ones for feeling insecure and needing to watch porn to feel like men.”
Melissa Aviles:
“Ronnie why do you watch porn for? That’s just nasty. Your too young to be into that when you watch porn that means you really don’t have much respect for women. Don’t become like other men in the world women are just more than a sex toy. Would you like to see your mom, aunt, grandmother, sister, cousin, or one day you may have a daughter would you like her doing porn? I don’t think so. If your really sexual active get yourself a good girlfriend, get married and have all the sex that you want. Now go to your room and think about what I told you without watching porn. Parents: we have a serious problem here with Ronnie watching porn. This shouldn’t be taken lightly. If he keeps it up your going to have to send him to therapy. He really has no respect for women. You really need to monitor him making sure he’s not watching porn. Your son is very sexually active. And you need to be careful that he doesn’t become a sex preditor. Sometimes when a young teenager is into porn like that in the long run they always feind for sex and if they don’t get it they will somehow. So just be very careful with your son.”
Got it? Now to work!
New York
September 7th, 2013
Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being some of them, I’d be grateful.

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