INP Blog Post #1: Teacher Calamity

I recently finished reading the extremely interesting and deep “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. This American classic, aside from being a symbol of American literature, is open for “countless ways of interpretation of the deeper meaning and provides a myriad of opportunties for connections”, according to the New York Times. I wholeheartedly agree to the second component of that quote: I had a plethora of connections just within the exposition of the novel. It will be of my great enjoyment to share and elaborate on just one of the connections I made with the characters and setting in the first 27 pages.

The connection that I would like to share is the uncanny relation between Mrs. Caroline, Scout’s first teacher during her first year at school, and my fifth-grade teacher Mr. Cooper. As a newcomer into Maycomb county, Mrs. Caroline was ignorant with all of Maycomb’s intricate traditions and mutual understandings. As a result, Mrs. Caroline was largely unsucessful in effectively controlling the class, and her actions were laughed upon by every student. For example, it was of common knowledge that the Cunningham family was financially pitiable, and that the only way they paid for goods and services was through a barter system. Their actions slowly became acceptable within the Maycomb community, but Mrs. Caroline wasn’t aware of it. Walter Cunningham, a boy in the Cunningham family, had classes with Mrs. Caroline. Ignorant as she was, Mrs. Caroline persisted in offering Walter a quarter for lunch downtown, which humiliated Walter greatly because of his inability to pay her back. This, in turn, embarrassed Mrs. Caroline, and she felt extremely pressured to learn all the ways of Maycomb in order to make it a beneficial experience for all students. In fact, the pressure was so great that Scout found her “…with her head buried into her palms and crying hysterically, her back trembling with each gargantuan sob.” (page 31).

This experience Harper Lee outlines vividly is reminisce of an experience I had in Mr. Cooper’s classroom. Although it didn’t get to a point where Mr. Cooper let loose a barrage of waterworks, it did embarrass him greatly. We had a student who was autistic, and his speech was uninhibited by any inhibitions. During the second class we had with Mr. Cooper, that student stood up and said in a brash voice: “Mr. Cooper, I don’t understand why I can’t say s***, because I like the sound of it!” This remark made a profound impact on Mr. Cooper, as we watched his face flash through the spectrum: from normal to red to purple to violet. Long story short, they fired phrases at each other unsuitable to be repeated in this blog post, and resulted in the student crying hysterically, and Mr. Cooper apologizing profusely for not “understanding his condition”. We all felt a pang of sympathy for Mr. Cooper, as he was new that year and started off on the wrong foot.

If you think this connection is elaborate and complicated, briefly contemplate this fact: I experienced four of these just in the exposition! This intriguing novel encourages deep thinking and connections, and I really enjoyed experiencing all those throughout the course of reading it.