Notta Gets "Woke"


So, while I was battling Mrs. ShouldBe and the other elements of what I call “The Buffoon” (aka depression), and Notta thought she had settled the four-letter word business, our students have moved on in various ways.

Two have left class without warning or reasons we can determine.

One more has passed half his tests required for the high school equivalency; he will modestly tell us that he passed the “easy ones” and is NOT looking forward to the remaining two. And with good reason: the math and science tests can be onerous when one has not been constructing or simplifying quadratic equations for some time. And formulating a scientific scenario using the hallowed Scientific Method and chemical equations is often beyond the daily experience of the merely mortal. Yet we will soldier on with him in practice mode.

As we will for the remaining students who have yet to test at all. Our newest pair, a serious young lady and gentleman, will start relearning fractions and decimals. And grammar. Always grammar.

“Ms. G, where you at?”

“Me and my friends have went to the concert last week.”

“I been outside smoking.”

“She really needs to loose weight.”

It makes an English teacher’s eyes bleed. However, one of thorniest creatively ungrammatical terms cropped up last week when Notta was working with the serious young man.

“Do you take opioids, Ms. Louden?”

I had the young lady subtracting fractions, but I could hear Notta’s breath catch.

“Not since I had my knee replaced,” she answered at length. “And not for long.”

“That’s good, ‘cos you know it’s a real problem.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“I mean, how many people die from taking ‘em? And not just taking them, but selling them or trying to stop somebody from taking them or selling them?”

“Far too many, I’m sure.” Notta tapped the worksheet in front of him. “Now, let’s get back to those decimals.”

He shook his head. “I never knew opioids was so bad until I got ‘woke.’”

Notta’s chair creaked as she stiffened her back. “I beg your pardon?”

He grinned. “Don’t you know what ‘woke’ means, Mrs. Louden?”

NOTE: there is no joy for our students comparable with ‘teaching’ the teachers.

“I know I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning,” Notta said, “but I do that every morning.”

“No, I mean woke to what’s going on in the world: the drugs, the cops killing… - “ he took a stab at Political Correctness here – “nonwhite people, all the corruption in government. That ‘woke.’”

“If you mean, am I aware of all the things wrong in the world? Yes, I’ve been aware for quite some time.”

He shifted in his seat and chewed at his lower lip. “Well, I guess when you’re old, you seen a lot more. I mean, I been doing so much and seeing so much in my life that I kinda forgot there was other things going on, but now I know. And it’s a [expletive] show out there!”

Notta grimaced. I tried to hide a resigned smile, then I reminded my tutee that she had to borrow from the whole number to complete the fractional subtraction. She was, unfortunately, too interested in what her classmate was saying. I think it was the expletive that caught her attention. Mine, too.

Notta tapped the table with the pink eraser end of her Ticonderoga pencil. “OK, congratulations on being ‘woke.’ Now what are you going to do about it?”

He sat back hard. “What d’ya mean? What am I going to do about it?”

“Being aware is one thing,” Notta said. “It’s a good thing. It’s more than I don’t know how many people are these days.”

He nodded. “Like they’re living in their own little selves and to hell with everybody else.”

“That’s right; but if you know something’s not right and do nothing about it, does that make you any better?”

He reddened. “At least I know there’s a problem!”

“And that’s a good start.”

“And I know you don’t blame the people addicted to the drugs. You blame the doctors who prescribed ‘em and the folks who made the drugs.”

“And then what?”

His eyes went blank. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, do you think it’s enough to blame those folks, bad-mouth them in conversations or is there something else to do to solve the problem?”

“Like what?” His shoulders rounded a little. His head lowered and eyes narrowed.

“Well, volunteer at places that help people with addictions. Do something to support verifiable drug rehab places. Go on line or Tweeter or whatever and get your friends ‘woke.’”

“I work two jobs and come here,” he complained. “I got no time to volunteer. Besides, what can I do? I’m only one kid and nobody’s going to listen to me.”

“Well, do you vote?”

“Huh?”

“You’re over 18. Are you registered to vote?”

“Naw, I don’t want to get called for jury duty.”

“Do you have a driver’s license?”

“How do you think I get here? My folks work and I drive myself.”

“Then you’re already in the jury pool, so that’s no excuse.”

“Are you [expletive]-ing me?”

Here I had to jump in. Once is forgiveable; swearing twice indicates a habit. “Let’s keep the language G-rated, please.”

“What does that mean?” he challenged me.

“Find some other words to express yourself, please.”

“I don’t know no other words.”

“Then read a book. You need to work on your vocabulary.” And grammar.

Notta waved me off. “We have decimals and that’s enough. However,” she said, tapping his arm with the pencil. “There’s an election coming. You want to show you’re ‘woke’ to the problems we have? Start paying attention to the candidates who could pass laws, fund programs and things like that.”

“All they do is talk,” the young man complained again.

“Then pay attention to what they do,” Notta said. “Knowing’s one thing. Talking about it is a good step forward. Doing is best of all.” She wagged a finger at him. “You know I’m right.” She winked at me. “Even if I’m not all ‘woke,’ I’m right.”


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