Not All Perspectives are Speculation in Jail

Laundry fresh from the dryer. Catching straight green lights down Liberty Avenue. My student interrogating me why we didn’t have class the week before. Ahhh, yes. The smile inducing ‘good stuff.’

I suppose my simple pleasures on a week-to-week basis may differ from the average soul, but gosh dang it I love soft laundry. Or maybe it’s the other facets of my Friday mornings that could seem odd. I suppose, as an aspiring educator, I shouldn’t take gratification in correcting a student when he demands answers to the wrong question—but hey, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? Or is it to each their own? Or my jolly’s? Whatever.

It wasn’t the student’s wrong question that put a smile on my face, flushed me with warmth in what is normally a chilled room, it was his reaction when he realized he was wrong. See, sometimes when teachers enter their weekly class at Allegheny County Jail, students stop joining us. The rosters dwindle. We teachers can’t get discouraged—shucks, most are well aware the first class is the only one that really requires a roll call. For whatever reasons the students don’t come to class, I’d never take it personally, they’re adults, they can make their own decisions. Though typically, when a student misses a class, I don’t count on seeing them again. Yet I digress.

When that student entered the room, he demanded to know why there was no class the week before. I casually explained to him, Of course we had class. Every Friday Morning. He fired back that no one had called for him. This was one of my first experiences with someone else not coming through, as in, he didn’t come because he wasn’t summoned—the opposite of the aforementioned unwilling participant.

My student was pissed. He wanted to read his poetry to his teachers, his classmates. He wanted feedback. He wanted to be there. He’d been robbed of those opportunities.

His attitude wasn’t what provided me with the simple pleasure I’m doing a back-entry of explaining. It was his next question.

Well. Can I get the stuff I missed?

            My first realization in regards to the source of his absence was rapidly replaced by a new surprise.  He wasn’t willing to miss a class in any respect. He wanted the handouts, he wanted the instruction and he wanted to write. He wasn’t going to be robbed of his time.

 

If I think back on any class I missed as a student, when I returned, I hoped the teacher hadn’t noticed my absence. I didn’t want any extra work, didn’t care to know how class carried on without me. Yet, I can’t think of a class I missed because of someone else. I don’t know of a time when I sat on my bed, journal full of poems in my lap, staring at the clock, waiting for someone to call my name and lead me, allow me to enter the room where I could read those poems aloud, voice the words I chose to put on the page. What’s more, I’ve never sat on my bed and watched the minute hand move passed the start of class time and not hear my name called. I’ve never had to wait a whole week before I stared at the clock for the same reason, only with added variables that maybe I won’t get called again, maybe I don’t get an answer for last week’s disappointment.

But if I did know of a time like that, maybe, as a teacher, I wouldn’t be so surprised when such a student asked for what he missed. Perhaps, for three hours on Friday mornings I can put me aside, leave the smile inducing string of green lights back on Liberty. Maybe if I got robbed like that, I’d know the joy I find in my soft laundry isn’t the only simple pleasure in that room.

-Cody Leutgens, Teacher