In which we see a pair of teachers muse on youth—their own, and that of their charges.
—Was heading off to lunch. Want to join me?
Ah. Love to. But I gotta grade a few more papers first.
—I hear ya. I was planning on slipping out of the assembly this morning to do a set of quizzes, but then I got caught up in those movies the kids made.
Yeah, I always enjoy the clips they show to advertise the student film festival. There’s some good ones this year.
—How about that Jonquil? Very clever.
Yes, I was impressed. I guess that was her mom reading that bedtime story. And then when she says, “the baby had button eyes” —
—And they cut to the shot of the plastic doll? Like the girl had turned into that? It really creeped me out. That was amazing.
It’s funny, because I’ve got Jonquil in my survey and she keeps such a low profile. I had no idea she was a filmmaker.
—I didn’t, either. She’s also a pretty good softball player, from what I understand.
—These kids can surprise you.
I think that’s why I like the film festival so much. It’s always kind of a guilty pleasure, though, because I always feel like a voyeur.
—I know what you mean.
Here they are, making up stories, acting (with greater or lesser degrees of skill), but all the time they’re revealing far more about themselves than they ever realize. I love the glimpse into their houses when they use them as settings. The piles of dishes in the kitchen. The books in their parents’ bookcases. The rhythms of their phone conversations. Acting comes so easily to them because they’re so saturated in social media.
I’ll confess I had kind of a funny moment this morning when I felt a stab of jealousy. It was such an ordinary moment. Two kids in the movie were coming out of a Duane Reade drugstore—
—I think that was Judy Rowe and Andy Dreiser.
Yeah, I think I know Andy. Anyway, I had just been thinking that so many of these kids are weighed down by uncertainty. What will I be when I grow up? Where will I go to college? What’s going to happen? And I’m usually so glad I’m not dealing with that. But when I saw these kids, especially the girl, I saw they’re not worried about that stuff at all. They are so in the moment. They were skipping out of that store. They were floating out of that store. I asked myself: was I ever that young?
—Sure you were, Abe.
I don’t think so.
—I know you were, Abe.
Oh you do, do you?
—Yes. It’s what makes you a good teacher. I hear it sometimes when I walk by during your classes. When you tease the kids. Or when you’re excited about something. You channel your inner little smartass.
Oh, so you’re the voyeur.
—Absolutely. But I understand what you’re talking about all the same. It sucks getting old.
Yeah, well, you’ve got some catching up to do on that front as far as I’m concerned.
—No, not really. Actually, I think it’s harder for women. Let me take that back partially. In some ways it gets easier because people don’t take young women seriously, and you have to take a lot of shit—from students, parents, administrators, even other teachers. But as you get older, people don’t question your authority as much. You become like a man, in that sense. And I look at these girls sometimes and I think, “Jesus, they’re so lost.” That’s half of them. The other half of them think they’re going to be young forever. They revel in the power of their sexuality, and of course there’s nothing you can tell them to convince them that it’s a bad investment, that it doesn’t last. And they’re wrecks anyway. So it’s another version of what you were saying when you expressed relief that you weren’t them. But I do know what you mean: that spring in your step. I miss that. I was like that once.
This job can be brutal that way. No one really acknowledges that.
—Yeah, it can. But that’s also the escape hatch.
What do you mean?
—Well, these kinds of thoughts would drive you crazy if you had the time to really focus on them. But those quizzes are waiting. And when I get home, there are two loads of laundry. Then I have to come back here to get the kids after practice, and make dinner, and then Aimee has a piano lesson. Never a dull moment.
—Atlanta. Sales conference. He’d be good for dinner if he was around. Anyway, I gotta get lunch before it gets too late. Happy grading, Abe. Maybe if you get done fast enough you can skip on over to the drug store. There must be something there to make you happy.
Yeah, after I forge a prescription. Take care, Jill.
Next: Those damn immigrants