We don’t sit on our asses here, he said. We move on and up. And
what are your long-range plans?
I don’t know. I suppose I just came here to be a teacher, I said.
He shook his head, couldn’t understand my lack of ambition. I
wasn’t dynamic enough. Because of him those four teachers taking
courses were moving on and up and out. That’s what he said. Why
should they spend their lives in the classroom with kids when they
could travel the corridors of power?
I felt brave for a moment and asked him, If everyone moved on
and up and out who would teach the children?
He ignored me, allowed himself a little smile with a mouth that
had no lips.
I lasted one term, September to January, before he forced me out.
It may have been the matter of the shoelaceand the rolled-up mag-
azine or it may have been my lack of dynamism and ambition. Still,
he praised me at a department meeting for my lesson on the parts of
a sentence where I used a ballpoint pen as a visual aid.
This is the plastic tube that holds the ink. If you removed this tube
from the pen what would happen?
My students look at me as if they can’t believe I’m asking such a
dumb-ass question. Man, you wouldn’t be able to write.
OK. Now what is this I’m holding in my hand?
Again the patient look. That’s a spring, man.
And what would happen if we removed the spring?
When you try to push the tube out it won’t write because there’s
no spring to push it and keep its little nose out there where all the
writing is done and then you get in a lotta trouble because you can’t
write your homework and the teacher’s gonna think you’re crazy if
you come in telling him about missing springs or tubes.
Now look at what I’m writing on the board. “The spring makes
the pen work.” What is the subject of this sentence? In other words,
what are we talking about in this sentence?