The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

On some occasions, you simply have a really bad strop on.

Another year, another five exam classes, another chance to teach Edward Kamau Brathwaite's excellent multilayered poem about slavery, 'Limbo'.

Usually, I sing the thing to them, to demonstrate that not all the hideously boring tomes of 40 examination poems they're set are actually poems.
This year, however, I felt cruddy. "I'd usually sing this to you." I say, deflated. I sing a line, feeling mean. Tap out the background rhythm. Ask if any of them would like to sing the poem?(as if! At sixteen? Social death!)

Sudden brainwave. "If Andre were here, he'd sing it. You know he would."
Andre's been remanded in a juvenile detention centre for the last few months, and the next few, too.
He's a livewire, and we all miss him. The classes' faces light up imagining how eagerly Andre would have taken to this task, how he'd be the only one with the verve to actually try it properly, and face down any comments or ridicule with a good humoured grin.

And then it simply feels good that we're thinking about Andre without a heavy sense of regret at what's gone wrong, or worry about what's going to happen to him next, whether he'll even make it as far as the exams on his release. It's nice to remember what we enjoy about his company, and to recall his infectiously catching grin.
It all suddenly feels a little better.

Perhaps I'll sing it next lesson.