Category Archives: Teaching

‘I try not to pay attention’: Quotes from Class of 2016

Here are statements made by my students in the graduating class of 2016, which statements I’ve recorded over the last three years. There were plenty of characters this year.

Hussein Abdallah:

It’s really quiet in here without the lights,” said Hussein during a class period where the electricity was out. 20 Nov. 2013.

Half of the things you do are only funny when you’re under 18,” Hussein said, explaining that certain pranks students could do to at school might get them arrested once they got to the age of majority. 22 May 2014.

Hussein yelled “Humble Genius!” at me after school in the hallway. I answered to that. 13 Aug. 2014.

Humble Genius, party at my house for spring break,” Hussein told me, using the annoyed-teacher voice I’d used in his class the year before. 20 March 2015.

Hussein told a story in the hallway about some other guy saying “she’s not worth cheating on Alexis for.” 22 April 2015.

Abdallah, ‘cuz I make you wanna holla,” Hussein explained his name-rhyme. 22 Sept. 2015.

As another class worked on their comic strips, Micah asked, “Do zoos have moose?” “‘Do zoos have moose,’ said Doctor Suess,” I added. Later, Micah said, “Gooses are called ‘geese.’” Student Gabby Villalobos said, “Why can’t ‘moose’ be ‘meese’?” Hussein answered, “Because they’re all whores.” 13 Nov. 2015.

He WOULD be the person to just type in ‘dicks’,” said Hussein of Tyler Ryan, who was telling a story about looking for the sporting goods store Dick’s but got organs while his mom was looking at the computer screen. 4 Dec. 2015.

How does this thing work?” asked Tyler Ryan of a long-necked stapler. “Just push it down,” Hussein said, demonstrating. 16 Dec. 2015.

Hussein, are you good at tiny, small objects?” asked Tyler Ryan as he tried to tie string in the punched holes of his portfolio. “No, just big stuff,” Hussein answered. Then Tyler said, “This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” 16 Dec. 2015.

That’s not going to fit,” Micah Davidson said. After a perfectly timed pause, Hussein Abdallah quipped, “That’s what she said.” I laughed. 17 Dec. 2015.

Many more quotes by Hussein here.

Alec Beach:

She’s talking poop about golf, Mr. Hagemann,” tattled Alec to me of some other student. Alec used one excretory term to avoid using the less-appropriate word, it seemed. 20 March 2014.

Alec, who was 15 or 16 years old, said he wanted to die in his 40s. “By the time you’re, like, 70, all you’re gonna do is suffer,” he explained. 2 April 2014.

Presleigh “Presly” Belt:

The brain named itself,” said Presley Belt in study hall. 21 Oct. 2013.

My feet are hot. I’m not ready for boot weather,” said Presley in study hall. I said, aren’t your feet hot all the time indoors? Apparently not. 25 Oct. 2013.

My birthday is next semester, so when should my birthday be this semester?” Presley said, in response to a system set up in my study hall for bringing treats on one’s own birthday. 25 Oct. 2013.

Now you’re writing just like teenaged white girls talk,” said Presley as I noted something Presley or a classmate had said. 31 Oct. 2013.

I can’t read your cat-scratch,” said Presley of my handwriting. 31 Oct. 2013.

You go to bed at 5:30. That’s what I got out of that story. You go to bed at 5:30. … Second thing I got out of that story: you only shower a little bit,” Presley responded after Megan Renick had complained about having cheerleading practice til 6. After another Presley “that’s what I got outta that story,” a younger girl said, “Do you have to get something out of every story?” “There usually is,” Presley answered. 6 Nov. 2013.

You’re the Queen of Sarcasm, I tell you what,” Presley told me. I’m not sure why she called me “Queen.” 4 Dec. 2013.

Mr. Hagemann, do you like bacon?” Presley asked me, apropos of nothing during study hall. “Nope,” I said. “Me, neither,” Presley answered. 12 Dec. 2013.

“Liam is a guy who looks like Justin Timberlake and David Beckham,” said Presley of the One-Direction band member. “Gross — he has 2 heads and 4 arms?” I replied. 12 Dec. 2013.

Do you have to take four years in math? Why am I in math?” asked Presley. 17 Sept. 2015.

You have friends — question mark, exclamation point,” said Presley to Shauna Childers. 8 Oct. 2015.

After Presley said “can’t” as a three-syllable word — “ca-ca-hant“, Angel Fulgencio said one syllable just wasn’t enough. 8 Oct. 2015.

Presley told me to not ignore her when she’s talking. “Then stop talking to me when I’m not looking at you,” I said, and Kaylie Clark said she quoted me saying that. 8 Oct. 2015.

I AM a crowd,” said Presley, after I’d said something about getting suggestions from “the crowd.” 20 Oct. 2015.

Presley came into my 10th hour class late today. I asked if she had a pass, or if she were tardy. “No, it’s a long story,” she said. “So you’re tardy?” I said. “Yeah,” she said. 21 Oct. 2015.

Later, before we read our poems, Presley said, “I need to reprint my thingies real quick.” When I started writing down this quote, she told me, “I’ll let you know when it’s good,” when a quote of hers is good enough to write down. 21 Oct. 2015.

I wonder if animals have internal monologues,” Presley said randomly. 29 Oct. 2015.

I don’t remember that. Now I do, though,” Presley said about something I’d quoted her as saying 2 years earlier. She added, “Do you remember the baby me and Devyn stapled to your wall?” She was talking about a drawing of a baby — I hope. 5 Nov. 2015.

Somebody give me a type of handgun,” Presley said as she was writing a story. Not in a classroom, I said. Presley then called me a weirdo, and I corrected with, “I’m MISTER Weirdo.” Then Presley said, “I’m Mister Belt.” 6 Nov. 2015.

Presley told Angel Fulgencio, “I feel like you’re an Angel of Darkness because you wear a lot of black.” 6 Nov. 2015.

You’re so happy — what happened?” Presley said as she looked at a picture of me from high school. 10 Nov. 2015.

After a group of students complained that our school’s library aide had teased them, Presley said, “She’s steady-roastin’ you guys.” 13 Nov. 2015.

As she worked on a creative writing project, Presley said she wanted to watch a movie about aliens. Some classmates suggested some movies such as “Alien,” but she said, “I want a real one, a documentary” about aliens. I said, “that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in two weeks.” 13 Nov. 2015.

This is due today,” said Presley Belt of some project we were doing in class. “-ish,” corrected Kaylie Clark, recalling my lenient late-work policy. 13 Nov. 2015.

Presly said she will be “a little bit less lot-behind” when she gets caught up on writing her journals for my creative writing class. 19 Nov. 2015.

“You have a gluten allergy. Just sayin,’” said student Presley to me, as she wrote a story in which I was a character. She had earlier asked if I had an allergy, and I had said, “like I’m tellin’ you.” 10 Dec. 2015.

I’m a human banana with an iron-deficiency,” siad Presley, of how she runs into stuff and bruises easily. 16 Dec. 2015.

Brandon Benge:

Brandon said of Julian Hernandez, “He has moments of brilliance, and moments of ‘you are dumb.’” 5 Feb. 2015.

Blaine “Blayne” Bolin:

Do it on me. It doesn’t work ‘cuz I’m double-jointed,” Blaine said to Damon McKenzie after she had done something to his hand. 22 April 2015.

I don’t know which one to call you, so I don’t talk to you,” said Blaine to Emir aka Eddie, after asking which name he preferred. 20 March 2015.

I like your shoes but I hate you,” Blaine said to Alex Patterson. Later Blaine added, “I don’t hate him, but he is annoying.” 9 April 2015.

Blaine told me about her school lunch, that she had “... a steak quesadilla, which was OK-er [compared to some food that wasn’t OK].” When I started to write that comment down, she added, “Put my name. ‘Blayne,’ please put ‘Blane,’” said Blaine. 4 Feb. 2016.

“Everything I ate today I mooched,” said Blayne after lunch. 25 Feb. 2016.

Look at the weird squad,” Blaine said of some younger students, all in hoodies, looking out a a window. 8 April 2016.

When Tyler was out of the classroom, someone noticed that he’d left a cup on his desk. Students aren’t supposed to have cups in the classroom. A student said someone should spit in Tyler’s cup. Blayne looked at me and said, “Look! He’s gathering his spit in his mouth!” I wasn’t, actually. Then Blayne said, “Is it a group spit?” Then, maybe when Tyler came back, Blayne added, “It was. It’ coulda been.” 20 April 2016.

After class, Blayne asked to stay in my classroom instead of going to her study hall. “Can I just stay in here ‘cuz I’m funny?” she asked. 20 April 2016.

After Tyler Jennings announced he was willing to strip his way through college because “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Blaine said. “Your personality.”  21 April 2016.

Blaine said Mallory Mershon had said she was cold. Mallory said, “oh, you heard me?” “I’m not sure no one didn’t hear you,” Blaine said about Mallory’s loud voice. 21 April 2016.

It dropped me from an ‘F’ to an ‘F’,” Blaine said about some project she didn’t do. 11 May 2016.

It smells like bacon,” said Blaine. “‘It smells like bacon,’ said Blaine,” as she was wearing a K.E.C. Police Academy shirt, I pointed out. 12 May 2016.

Myah Braden:

KA-ra, DO your JOURNal,” said Myah, sing-songy, as if she were the teacher. She and other students started using this voice as if repeating my tired-of-having-to-say-this voice. 20 March 2014.

Nobody cares,” said Myah. “Myah, shut up,” said Kara Thomas (see below). 20 March 2014.

She said she didn’t care but it kinda looked like she cared” because as “she was calling me out, she had tears in her eyes,” Myah said. I’m not sure to whom Myah was referring. 10 May 2016.

Cheyann Brewer:

Some of these quotes would be famous someday … but we’re in Rochelle so it might not happen,” Cheyann said of the students’ statements I write down. 22 April 2016.

Ethan Brockwell:

As he and I walked down a school hallway after school, Ethan pretended to trip a girl whose age I didn’t know. Ethan said she was a senior. “That’s a SHORT senior,” I said. “You’re a tall OLD guy,” Ethan told me. 2 Nov. 2015.

Sharday Brown:

I’m never chugging 2 Monsters again,” said Sharday. 11 March 2015.

Mr. Hagemann, why do you look like that?” said Sharday. “I was born this way,” I said. 20 March 2015.

About Emir Fejoski’s clicking pen, Sharday said, “I want to shove it down his throat [here was a pause while others in class reacted negatively] in the nicest way possible.” 31 March 2015.

I’m not a ho. If I had time, I still wouldn’t be a ho,” Sharday explained. 13 April 2015.

You’re irrelevant. I an’t got your stank pencil,” Sharday told Alex Patterson, at least the first sentence. The second may have been said to someone else. 22 April 2015.

Sharday said if she would start to plan a murder, she’d “just give up because it’s too much work. I’m serious, honestly,” she said. 30 April 2015.

If you want a job, you’re gonna be a nerd,” said Sharday to Rachel Larsen, who had said she had an job interview but didn’t want to tuck in her shirt because it made her look like a nerd. 8 May 2015.

Taylor Buckwalter:

Death is for the living,” said Taylor, because dead people don’t need words or ideas — dead people are already dead. 3 Sept. 2015.

Mister I-forgot-your-name,” Taylor said to me on entering classroom. 25 Sept. 2015.

Um, his name is Dally,” said Taylor, correcting Angel Fulgencio about a character in The Outsiders, which turned out to be one of Taylor’s favorite films. 15 Oct. 2015.

Taylor asked if the assignment she turned in the next day would be late. Well, yeah, I said, but I won’t take off points for that. On the other hand, I said, I COULD take off some points. “Let’s stay friends,” she said. 21 Oct. 2015.

“I like footnotes in comics,” I said as I read Taylor’s “Spedirman” (speh-DEER-man) cartoon. “I like footnotes in life,” Taylor said. 11 Nov. 2015.

After I asked Taylor why students don’t seem to like a certain teacher, Taylor explained that it’s because “she’s a crazy bee-otch.” 13 Nov. 2015.

Apparently I put severed heads in there. That’s what Doctor Perrin says,” said Taylor of her dufflebag as described by another English teacher. 17 Nov. 2015.

When Taylor turned 18 on Tuesday 24 Nov. 2015, she said. “I can smoke and date old people.”

“It looked exactly like you. It didn’t have a face,” Taylor told English teacher Mr. Perrin about a cartoon character used for reference in a 3-D drawing program. The character was dressed in khakis and a sweater as Perrin sometimes is. 30 Nov. 2015.

After junior Marco Penaran told Taylor, “You remind me of someone,” Taylor said, “I get that a lot from my mom.” 30 Nov. 2015.

After I told her that it’s good to have a hobby outside of one’s job, Taylor said, “Being bored IS my hobby.” 28 Jan. 2016.

Bob Saget!” said Taylor, as if it were a swear word. 26 Feb. 2016.

“I’m so excited to grow up, but I’m kinda scared at the same time. I can’t wait to get a bunch of cats,” said my senior student Taylor. When I teased her about wanting so many cats, she said, “it’s true, though.” 6 April 2016.

Taylor, who wants to become an English teacher, said she’d swear as she taught, saying such things as, “OK, fuckers, get out your shit.” 15 April 2016.

Alec Burgess:

Alec: “I don’t like football.” Shauna Childers: “But you play football.” Alec: “Sadly.” Shauna: Why? Alec: “My mom makes me.” 29 Aug. 2013.

Brandon Byrd:

Brandon told me that, in his own head, he sounds like “a white Barry White.” 15 March 2016.

Eder Castillo:

In the In-School Suspension room, where the punishment includes copying the student handbook by hand, Eder (ed-er) said, “I’m finding a lot of loopholes here” in the handbook, including this one: “It says ‘under the influence of drug paraphernalia.’ How would THAT work?” 22 April 2015

Eder Castillo explained the Beanie Baby Bungee activity in math class as “we’re basically lynching them.” Angel Fulgencio added, “It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had with a Beanie Baby. … I don’t understand the math [of the activity in Algebra 2 class], but, you know, Beanie Babies.” 26 Aug. 2015.

Listening to Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” album during journal-writing time, Eder said he felt like he’s in a “FANCY elevator.” 25 Sept. 2015.

Play some contemporary jazz,” said Eder in the annoyed-teacher voice kids use to make fun of my annoyed-teacher voice. 29 Sept. 2015.

I teach him literacy the hard way,” Eder said of junior David Escutia on 3 Nov. 2015. Eder was possibly referring to his line to David as quoted here on 29 April: Eder told David to enter some words into Google Translate, and added, “With a period, you illiterate piece of crap.”

Many more quotes by Eder here.

Alexis Charbonneau:

I can still see you being an Elsa,” said Alexis Charbonneau to me. I’m not sure why. 6 Nov. 2015.

You blink ALL the time,” Alexis said to Maria Belmonte, I think. 10 Dec. 2015.

Shauna Childers:

In answer to my question of what’s real, Shauna said, “Everything, especially ghosts,” after she’d been arguing for ghosts the last two days. 17 Oct. 2013.

We’re, like, the same person,” said Shauna of herself and Kara N. “red hair” Thomas (see below), after Kara said she didn’t have to go to the bathroom and Shauna asked to go in her place. 19 Feb. 2014.

A student said they should do bonding activities this day. Because the class is already too social, I said they should do UN-bonding activities. Shauna said that’s “like trust falls but actually let them fall.” 19 March 2014.

I was just singing a song in my head … I guess I was singing it outside of my head. Same diff,” said Shauna. 19 March 2014.

It’s not like gushing, but there’s definitely blood on this tissue,” said Shauna after blowing her nose. 20 March 2014.

Are we your favorite class?” asked Shauna, whose talkative 10th hour class included Kara Thomas, Myah Braden, Hussein Abadallah, Julian Hernandez, Melvin Wilton, Alec Beach, and others. I said, “you’re something.” “Soooo … we are?” Shauna said. 30 April 2014.

How ’bout chew bite me?” Shauna said to Hussein. 2 May 2014.

Shauna said someone was a “thot,” pronounced “thought,” which I had just learned means “that ho over there.” 17 Oct. 2014.

In parking lot after school, Shauna said, “Mr. Hagemann, he called me a bad word.” I said, “which one?” She said, “Zack.” “‘Zack’ isn’t a bad word,” I said. 29 Jan. 2015.

Got any more of me in there?” said Shauna, about her quotes I’d used in a list of topics for journaling. 3 Sept. 2015.

After Shauna said the McDonald’s where she works is haunted, Kaylie Clark said, “Why would a ghost chill at McDonald’s?” “Why would ANYBODY chill at McDonald’s?” Shauna said. 22 Sept. 2015.

One time, my sister took apart a couch to look for a Nutter Butter,” said Shauna Childers. I thought you said “belly button,” someone else said. 22 Sept. 2015.

After Presley Belt asked why “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “Fog” were considered poems, Shauna answered her, “Your MOM’s a poem.” I said that “your mom’s a poem” would be a funny journal topic. Then junior Alec Tilton quipped, “Easiest journal ever.” 22 Sept. 2015.

You gotta break it down Barney-style for some people,” Shauna said about explaining things this way for simpletons. 22 Sept. 2015.

After telling the class that Ethan Brockwell had said women should wear two-armed togas (on Homecoming Week’s Toga Day) so their boobs don’t fall out, Shawna said, “I’d rather have my front-boob hang out than my side-boob.” “WHY?” said Kaylie Clark. 2 Oct. 2015.

Mr. Hagemann, what are the odds that you’ll let us go home right now, one thru one,” said Shauna, and she then explained the odds game, that if she could guess the same number in the range of numbers she just gave me, I’d have to let her go home. 2 Oct. 2015.

I think you’re prejudiced against people whose dad’s name is Matt,” said Shauna, whose dad Matt, and Presley’s stepdad Matt, were both classmates of mine in high school. 8 Oct. 2015.

After Angel Fulgencio had said it’s his brother’s birthday, Shauna said, Say, ‘the creepy girl in my 10th hour class said Happy Birthday’,” 6 Nov. 2015.

Wesley, what are you looking up, a prom dress?” said Shauna to Wes Sanderson. I pointed out that Shauna just asked Wes if he was looking up a prom dress. I’m not wearing a prom dress,” said Wes. “Why was there one on the screen?” said Shauna about the computer screen behind Wes. 6 Nov. 2015.

After mocking her Dad’s high school senior photo and making him mad, Shauna said she bought him ice cream. “Did that make everything better?” I asked. “I think it did,” she said. 11 Nov. 2015.

As she began to write a story in creative writing class, Shauna said, “What’s a girl’s name?” Then she asked to go to the bathroom. To look up names? I asked. “I”ll just go see who’s being wrote [sic] about in the stalls,” she said. 11 Nov. 2015.

What’s that word I want to think of?” asked Shauna. I said I’m writing that statement down. She said, “I don’t want you to write that down; I want you to write down that word I want to think of.” 18 Dec. 2015.

Also see Alec Burgess above.

Kaylie Clark

I forgot a poem!” Kaylie said, so excitedly. Then as I started to write her statement in my notes, she said, “Is that goin’ down in your little —” I said, maybe. She said, “yeah!” 14 Sept. 2015.

Can I get a drink real quick? I just threw up in my mouth,” asked Kaylie. 2 Oct. 2015.

Sit down, I’m trying to count you,” Kaylie said to a classmate as she was handing out Sponge Bob Squarepants stickers. 30 Oct. 2015.

She could smell her own eyes burning,” said Kaylie, but what the rest of the story was, I didn’t record. Still, what a weird, wonderful statement. 3 Nov. 2015.

After Marissa Gonzalez told Kaylie about someone else, “You’re really close for not really being cousins,” Kaylie Clark said, “She’s my grandma … because I MAKE her my grandma.” 3 Nov. 2015.

In my classroom one afternoon, Kaylie said she had captured some smelly bugs in a tissue. She asked to go flush these bugs down the toilet. Just put them in the garbage can, I said. “If they come out and make babies, it’s not my fault,” she said. Then when I wrote down this quote, she said, “I’m always so flattered” when I quote her. 5 Nov. 2015.

You don’t have a butt seat — butt chair — butt holder,” Kaylie told Angel Fulgencio. 5 Nov. 2015.

As my creative writing students worked on their comic strips/graphic stories, Kaylie asked, “how do I draw zombie toast?” Use “googly eyes,”answered classmate Presley Belt. Classmate Brandon Byrd said, “What does zombie toast eat?” Classmate Sabrina Risley. said, “nothing. Butter.” Kalyie said, “I already drew him with jelly.” 11 Nov. 2015.

This is due today,” said Presley Belt of some project we were doing in class. “-ish,” corrected Kaylie Clark, recalling my lenient late-work policy. 13 Nov. 2015.

“I DID turn them in! (pause) Wait, which ones?” said student Kaylie about some missing assignments she saw on a grade report. 10 Dec. 2015.

“Someday, I want to be on that green paper,” said student Kenya Smith, referring to the color of the paper on which I was recording notes and quotes that day.“You can’t just say that you want to be on the green paper and get on the green paper,”  said student Kaylie, who has herself been quoted before, and whom I thanked for defending the integrity of the green note paper. Student Angel added, “I think my greatest achievement is getting on the green paper. [It’s] the greatest honor I can achieve.” “I’m sorry,” I said. 1 Dec. 2015.

Mine’s ‘Dammit’!” Kaylie said of the title of her creative writing portfolio. Dustin Kanas told Kaylie she’d taken the best title. “Me? ‘Dammit’?” she asked. One seldom hears “dammit?” as a question, I noted. 18 Dec. 2015.

Kyle Clark:

In my “Rhetoric & Composition” class, where we’re writing philosophical arguments, a Kyle stayed after class to argue about whether time is real: “Without time, how do we explain what I’m doing NOW as opposed to what I’m doing NOW.” Spring 2015.

Peyton Clark:

Let’s get people and let’s go to IHOP,” Peyton said to Myah Braden after lunch. 15 Jan. 2016.

I have it on the bag, but whatever,” Peyton said as she related a story of some customer complaining she got the wrong food at a restaurant where Peyton worked, I think. 22 April 2016.

Peyton told Myah Braden that, after school, Peyton’s going to buy “flowers that I don’t need. … So I’m gonna do that so I’ll be happy. Not that I’m not happy,”Peyton said. She added that she has a cactus “named Fred … he just looks like a Fred,” she said. 28 April 2016.

Ian Curtis:

During a quiz bowl match between students from my school and a nearby school, I read a question that was asking for the name of the Pac-12 university whose mascot is the Bruins. After none of the ten competitors buzzed in, I said, “c’mon, nerds,” because I thought this was fairly common knowledge (that it was the UCLA Bruins), but no one got it right. Later, as we were leaving, I said, “see ya, nerds,” to some of the kids from my school, and one of them, Ian, answered,“see ya, nerd-king.” That was a good comeback. 9 Nov. 2015.

During a discussion with Lexy Lemar, Ian said, “I love you, but …” I said I’m not sure you can use “but” after “I love you.” 29 Jan. 2016.

Micah Davidson

Talking about a new seating chart for class, Micah said, “I’m between Mario and Hussein. That sounds like a good time.” 1 Sept. 2015.

Everything’s pretty much true in there, except for the monkey,” said Micah to me about her fiction story that included a monkey passed out from drinking Jack in her grandma’s bedroom closet.  17 Sept. 2015.

If Y equals negative X — thank you,” Micah said as I handed her a paper as she was doing math while she was supposed to be doing English. I think the “thank you” was actually Micah interrupting herself. 19 Oct. 2015.

So am I part Canadian?” Micah asked after she’d said she had an English ancestor who’d moved to Canada. 3 Nov. 2015.

As another class worked on their comic strips, Micah asked, “Do zoos have moose?” “‘Do zoos have moose,’ said Doctor Suess,” I added. Later, Micah said, “Gooses are called ‘geese.’” Student Gabby Villalobos said, “Why can’t ‘moose’ be ‘meese’?” Hussein Abdallah answered, “Because they’re all whores.” 13 Nov. 2015.

Mario Montalvo, Tyler Ryan, and Hussein Abdallah all ask to go potty at the beginning of class everyday. “Do you guys not know how to use your bladders?” asked Micah. “My bladder’s like an old man’s bladder,” said Mario. I told Mario he could go to the bathroom if I could put this quote on my blog. 17 Nov. 2015.

“I always look up stuff on Google — worst idea ever,” said Micah, about seeing photos of terrible diseases, etc. 4 Dec. 2015.

I wanna graduate early, but then again, I don’t,” said Micah. “That’s true,” said Presley Belt. 10 Dec. 2015.

I literally want to scream right now,” Micah said, perhaps out of frustration with a creative project. I didn’t want to add to her frustration, but I don’t think anyone can do what she said, because I don’t know what “literally want” means. 14 Dec. 2015.

That’s not going to fit,” Micah said. After a perfectly timed pause, Hussein Abdallah quipped, “That’s what she said.” I laughed. 17 Dec. 2015.

James Davis:

I would never buy your album OR your mixtape,” he said to Shauna Childers, who didn’t know what mixtapes were. 12 Sept. 2013

I’d rather one of us die than both of us,” said James as he described a dream where he ran away from his classmate Mallory Mershon getting partially eaten by a monster. Of hearing about her abandonment in James’s dream, Mallory accused James of not caring. “Mallory, I DID care — I went back to bury you. I was CRYING. It was SAD,” James said. 21 March 2014.

It’s called a phone bill,” said James, after Mallory Mershon had asked if I have to pay for my phone. 16 April 2014.

I got pretty feet. … My feet smell like roses, and that’s on a bad day,” said football player James. “So what’s on a good day?” asked Mallory Mershon. “You don’t even want to know,” James said. 14 May 2014.

Don’t talk to me for 10 seconds, OK?” James said to Alec Burgess about some “beef” over a pencil. 16 May 2014.

Delaney Freeman:

Megan, die it back,” Delaney said, or maybe she said “dye,” as in Megan dyeing her hair back to brown, the color of her eyebrows. 31 Oct. 2013.

I sound like a man because I’m sick. … And I almost died this morning because I was coughing and I stopped breathing,” she said, 31 Oct. 2013.

Can I go get my unnatural science book?” Delaney asked after she had asked to leave study hall to go get her Natural Science class textbook, and I said she could only if she called it “UNnatural science.” 19 Nov. 2013

Can I get a drink,” Delaney asked me. “No,” Megan Renick answered. “Megan!” said an annoyed Delaney, who then said she’d beat up Megan. 4 Dec. 2013.

Angel Fulgencio:

He spoke to himself? Maybe he has 2 people inside him,” said Angel in a hypothesis of why substitute teacher Mr. Youngs name is plural. 5 Dec. 2014.

Angel said that another member of the study hall, Gerardo Garcia, might be an android. “I’m not an android,” G.G. said. “Are you positive?” asked Angel. “Yeah,” said G.G. 5 Dec. 2014.

It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had with a Beanie Baby. … I don’t understand the math [of the Beanie Baby activity in Algebra 2 class], but, you know, Beanie Babies,” Angel said. Eder Castillo explained the Beanie Baby Bungee activity as “we’re basically lynching them.” 26 Aug. 2015.

Dead people, man — they are on some OTHER stuff,” Angel said. 3 Sept. 2015.

My phone is known as my mind,” said Angel, since he didn’t have his own phone, he explained. 23 Sept. 2015.

I don’t like songs that are too happy — [they] make me want to punch ’em,” said Angel, adding, “There should be a law about how happy you can be.” 29 Sept. 2015.

Why is he a hero? All he did was skip school for one day. Some hero … and he still went back!” Angel said of Ferris Bueller. 8 Oct. 2015.

It can’t be racist. It’s not a race,” said Angel, after Shauna said it was “racist” that she got charged more (for some service, I think) because she had long hair. “It was a joke, though,” Presley Belt said. “I don’t think it was,” I said. 14 Oct. 2015.

The moment I see clippers, I’m running,” Angel said about a friend’s threat to cut his hair. 15 Oct. 2015.

I’m too much of a marshmallow to start anything,” Angel said about fighting. 22 Oct. 2015.

Just bein’ my usual Angel self,” answered Angel after I’d asked him how he was doing. 29 Oct. 2015.

Let’s make hell the best place in the universe,” said Angel in the middle of creative writing class. Then he said, soon after, why would I want to the make hell the best place of the universe? Presley told Angel, “I feel like you’re an Angel of Darkness because you wear a lot of black.” 6 Nov. 2015.

Mr. Hagemann, do you have a tiger?” asked Angel. “You seem like the kind of guy who’d have a tiger. A big cat. A panther. Or maybe a jaguar, depending on where you live. Mr. Hagemann, you seem like the kinds of dude who’d have a monkey … name it Marquis or something French,” said Angel. “Or just the generic Francois.” I was able to capture this whole quote because I was typing a freewrite (alongside students) as Angel said it. 6 Nov. 2015.

It looked really fake, but at the same time — aliens!” Angel said of the rumored alien/missile shot near Los Angeles the previous weekend. 9 Nov. 2015.

Angel said to Justin Thompson, apropos of nothing, “Hey, Justin, from your leg to your waist, you look like a different person … you match, but in that mismatch kind of way.” Later, Angel said, “Sometimes you just need a new pair of legs.” 17 Nov. 2015.

Angel asked me, do you have colors? “I gotta sack full of red right here,” I said. “I don’t know how to respond to that, so I’m just gonna not,” Angel said. 19 Nov. 2015.

Listen, man, I’m a pretty lazy person,” Angel said. 30 Nov. 2015.

Once in a blue moon do I leave my room — that rhymed and not on purpose,” Angel said. 1 Dec. 2015.

I passed by Mr. Perrin’s room and I heard ‘coordinating conjunctions,'” Angel said. That sounds like what you’d hear outside an English teacher’s room, I said. 2 Dec. 2015.

“Someday, I want to be on that green paper,” said student Kenya Smith, referring to the color of the paper on which I was recording notes and quotes that day.“You can’t just say that you want to be on the green paper and get on the green paper,”  said student Kaylie Clark, who has herself been quoted before, and whom I thanked for defending the integrity of the green note paper. Student A.F. added, “I think my greatest achievement is getting on the green paper. [It’s] the greatest honor I can achieve.” “I’m sorry,” I said. 1 Dec. 2015.

“I think they went to another dimension … so don’t quote me,” said student A.F. of the whereabouts of two of his classmates. 1 Dec. 2015.

“I think it should go down in history that I’m better at doing this than I am at doing math,” said student A.F. as he tossed and caught a spool of thread. This was before he dropped the spool. 16 Dec. 2015.

Did you ever notice how serene it is inside a locker?” Angel said. 25 Jan. 2016.

Don’t believe that guy — he doesn’t have any parents,” Angel said of another boy in my classroom. 18 Feb. 2016.

“If I’m a figment of your imagination, then you’ve got some messed up imaginations,” said Angel after we said we might be imagining him. 31 March 2016.

“If I turned you into a robot, would you tell me” that you’re a robot, asked student A.F. of me. 6 April 2016.

Angel said that, in the speech he was about to deliver in his speech class, he’d “talk awkwardly [to a roomful of white kids] about racism and sit down.” 8 April 2016.

“Shouting random things at people is my forte,” said Angel. 20 April 2016.

If something rhymes, do you believe it more than something that doesn’t rhyme?” Angel asked. 19 May 2016.

I don’t believe in things that don’t make sense,” Angel said. Yes, you do, I said, as you say nonsense all the time. “I’m a walking contradiction,” he explained. 19 May 2016.

On the last, or nearly last, day of school, Angel said, “I’m leaving! I’m burning ALL these bridges.” And he’s talking to teachers, “giving everyone the business,” he said. 19 May 2016.

Gerardo Garcia:

Angel Fulgencio said that another member of the study hall, Gerardo Garcia, might be an android. “I’m not an android,” G.G. said. “Are you positive?” asked Angel. “Yeah,” said G.G. 5 Dec. 2014.

Marissa Gonzalez:

Why are you so funny,” said Marissa to Joshua Gallinar, about the comic 6-word stories he’d written. 28 Oct. 2015.

You’re really close for not really being cousins,” MarGonz said to Kaylie Clark about someone. “She’s my grandma … because I MAKE her my grandma,” Kaylie said. 3 Nov. 2015.

Sebastian Gould:

Why don’t you remember?” said Tyler Ryan to Sebastian about a truancy officer they heard speaking freshman year. “I try not to pay attention,” Sebastian said. 29 Oct. 2015.

I don’t like drive-thrus,” Sebastian said, butting into a conversation between Demi Smith and Micah Davidson talking about working drive-thru jobs. 3 Nov. 2015.

People are weird,” Sebastian said as a girl’s voice cackled in the hallway. “People ARE weird,” Jake Meyers confirmed. 12 Nov. 2016.

When I said that students should work today on typing the fiction assignment given yesterday, Gabby Villalobos said, “My brain doesn’t work that way.” Sebastian Gould added, “My brain doesn’t work at all.” Sebastian’s self-diagnosis came to mind when, a few minutes after this, he said about the difficulties of Syrian politics, “Just nuke the world.” 17 Nov. 2015.

Wait, you’re not kidding?” said Megan Renick after Sebastian Gould told the class, appropos of nothing, that he has to pay child support for a seven-month-old whose mother he can’t identify (to us?). Sebastian assured us he wasn’t kidding. 19 Nov. 2015.

Michaela Hacaga:

We need cheer elves to clean our mats,” said Michaela, about how she’d gotten ringworm from the mats. 13 Jan. 2016.

You’re ugly, too. We look just like each other,” said Michaela to her younger sister, Teddi, after Teddi had apparently said the older was ugly. When I told their mother this conversation, she said they don’t look alike at all, and I guess she’d know, but there’s some resemblance. 9 Feb. 2016.

Mr. Hagemann, you want to regrade my whatever?” Michaela said, handing me a notebook of her journals. 22 Feb. 2016.

See also a quote of Michaela’s with one of Mallory Mershon’s.

Brian Heinrich:

After he asked me if I’d want a pet tiger, Tyler said, “I’d wrestle a tiger. … Once he gets big, I’d just beat” the tiger. After someone brought up the possibility of being killed by a tiger, Tyler said, “What a way to die, though.” “Yeah, horribly,” Brian Heinrich added. 20 April. 2016.

Send him to the office for not having a soul,” Brian said of Tyler Jennings. This was after I said that if Tyler really doesn’t care what people say about him, as he claimed, he might be a sociopath. 22 April 2016.

Is this fire real — REALLY real?” Brian said about a pretend campfire when he was in character as me, Mr. Hagemann, pointing out my philosophical proclivity, in a comic skit at our school’s year-end assembly. 13 May 2016.

Julian Hernandez:

After I joked that I’d be the meanest teacher he’d ever have, Julian said, no, Mrs. Kasmar was. “She gave me a detention for sneezing.” Another student verified this. I said, were you especially loud or something? He said no. 15 August 2013.

Melvin, what the hell are you doing,” said Julian to Melvin Wilton (see below). “Why do you have the need to say that” so often, said Kara Thomas. I agreed with Kara that Julian does seem to say that every day. 20 March 2014.

Aitch–Ee–El–El, yeah,” said Julian, after he’d said “aitch-ee-double hockey sticks,” and I’d told him that that’s not how you spell “Hell” and that he needed to be accurate in his swear-spelling during English class. 22 April 2016.

Mister Campbell lets me say stuff,” Julian said after I told him to stop swearing in class. 22 April 2016.

Holy — I’m done! It’s like the first assignment in two weeks” that he’s finished, Julian said. 28 April 2016.

Mad that he was criticized by his track coaches for the length of his hair, Julian said, “I’m gonna get everybody fired,” referring to the coaches. Then he said he was going to run slow on purpose at that night’s track meet. “Screw the team!” Julian said, adding, “My hair doesn’t even shake anymore!” 29 April 2016.

Many more quotes by Julian here.

Tyler Jennings:

My voice is beautiful,” said Tyler. “It’s weird as hell,” answered student Blayne Bolin. 3 Feb. 2016.

Tyler, stop threatening to cut people open and sew them closed again,” I said, then made a demonstration of writing down that I was annoyed that I’d had to say this correction. 10 March 2016.

Go ahead — I say that stuff TO her,” Tyler said to some other boys in the parking lot after school, as if they’d threatened to tell her rude things Tyler had said about her. 10 March 2016.

Lick my butt!” Tyler shouted at another student across the room during Creative Writing class. He may have been responding to something Cheyann Brewer said, but I didn’t hear her say anything this offensive. I sent Tyler out of class for this. 11 March 2016.

Mr. Hagemann, you should grow a mullet,” said Tyler, apropos of nothing. Tyler also accused me of playing favorites. You say that like it’s a bad thing, I said. 18 March 2016.

After he asked me if I’d want a pet tiger, Tyler said, “I’d wrestle a tiger. … Once he gets big, I’d just beat” the tiger. After someone brought up the possibility of being killed by a tiger, Tyler said, “What a way to die, though.” “Yeah, horribly,” Brian Heinrich added. 20 April. 2016.

After Tyler Jennings announced he was willing to strip his way through college because “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Blaine Bolin said. “Your personality.”  21 April 2016.

I’m gonna kill people like you,” Tyler said to Julian Hernandez about Tyler going into the military. 6 May 2016.

Brendan Kalata:

To Brendan, I found myself saying, “Stop saying ‘rape me’ in class,” after someone had said “kiss me” and Brendan answered with “rape me.” 11 May 2016.

Katelyn Kalata:

I feel like a cat — I have a hair in my throat,” said a student as she entered my classroom. 21 April 2016.

Dustin Kanas:

“Why’d you cut it all squiggedy-squaggedy?” Dustin asked me about a zig-zag-edged handout. 24 Nov. 2015.

Rachel Larsen:

I don’t get it. I don’t wanna get it, either, so don’t explain it,” said Rachel in 9th hour class. This comment came after Bailey Wing said he liked the joke of the sign I’d posted in my classroom: KEEP OFF THE GRASS. 3 March 2015.

That looks like that hurts, don’t do that,” said Rachel to Sharday Brown about some arm movement, I think. 22 April 2015.

I hope you’re not writing what I’m saying,” said Rachel, at a time when I was writing down every goofy thing students in class were doing and saying when they were supposed to be working. 22 April 2015.

Peter Malaker:

The pear trees blossoming outside the school smell like “rotting dreams,” Peter said as he left school 20 April 2016.

Damon McKenzie:

You’re a genius? Say something to blow my mind,” Damon said to me. I told him a quote I’d written down earlier, in which some boy I didn’t know had said, “Shit, I don’t even know you,” in the parking lot. Damon and others laughed. Not sure if he’d agree, but I concluded his mind was blown and that I’m a genius.  23 or 24 Sept. 2014.

Mr. Hagemann, you always put some good ideas in my head, keep me going,” Damon said after I showed him my model for the poem assignment I’d just given his class. 20 March 2015.

I was trying to reenact a civil right … sit in on the bus,” Damon said, after he’d gotten up and then did a squat and then stood and sat. 22 April 2015.

Out an SUV’s window in the parking lot, Damon said, “Mr. Hagemann, you are the [pause] man.” Maybe the pause was unintentional, but, grammatically and rhythmically, “frickin” or something worse would’ve fit quite well. 24 Aug. 2015.

Mallory Mershon:

The word ‘effin’ is a lot of things” — it can be many different parts of speech, she said. 26 Aug. 2013.

I’m not really that dumb so shut the front door,” she said after people thought she had just repeated what another student had just said. 4 Nov. 2013.

Haters are my biggest fans, what can I say?” said Mallory. “That’s so 2010,” James Davis said. “You’re so 2010,” Mallory said. “YOUR FACE IS!” said James. “You’re really boiling my broccoli right now!” said Mallory. 19 Nov. 2013.

Mallory talked about a “love octagon” among the L.A. Clippers owner and his wife and their lovers. 30 April 2014.

Michaela, wanna get a drink with me?” Mallory asked. Michaela Hacaga answered affirmatively. Mallory later said she “like[s] talking to people” while she goes to the bathroom. Michaela added, “it’s weird to go to the bathroom alone.” 6 May 2014.

He gave us all Ds and I do stuff, and I’m mad,” said Mallory about her P.E. teacher. “It’s mostly girls. He hates the girls,” she said of her class. 8 May 2014.

I kinda wanna laugh now. Can you make me laugh?” asked Mallory of anyone else in her 1st hour class. 14 May 2014.

Just tryin’ to get my anger out,” said Mallory after throwing a pencil that hit Dustin Kanas (I think). 14 May.

And if I say one little word, she makes me run stairs for 10 years,” Mallory siad of her cheerleading coach. 14 May.

I don’t text anyone … I don’t text, like, people,” Mallory said, clarifying that she texts only her family. 16 May 2014.

Your handwriting’s really like CLUCK, CLUCK, CLUCK,” Mallory said to Kaylie of her flowy handwriting, where each “CLUCK” was a tongue-click. 12 May 2016.

Jake Meyers:

Jake said he knew a particular girl who said “stop” like the “STAAAHP” quotation I’d written as a journal topic. Male student Hussein Abdallah answered back, “How would you know how she says ‘Stop’?” After we laughed, Hussein said, “I didn’t mean it like that.” 21 October 2015.

Jake said to Megan Renick, whose chair had been making noise, “What is up, Squeaky Chair Girl?” Megan answered, “I know. It’s freakin like EHRRR.” 21 Oct. 2015.

You’re in a write-down mood today,” Jake told me. 21 Oct. 2015.

People are weird,” Sebastian Gould said as a girl’s voice cackled in the hallway. “People ARE weird,” Jake Meyers confirmed. 12 Nov. 2016.

Payton Mifflin:

Kay See You Eff,” Payton said, after Julian Hernandez had tried to say swears backwards but had failed. He’d said, “Kay You See Eff.” 22 April 2016.

Mario Montalvo:

Mario Montalvo, Tyler Ryan, and Hussein Abdallah all ask to go potty at the beginning of class everyday. “Do you guys not know how to use your bladders?” asked Micah. “My bladder’s like an old man’s bladder,” said Mario. I told Mario he could go to the bathroom if I could put this quote on my blog. 17 Nov. 2015.

Mario said that the Chet Baker “Round Midnight” song I played in class sounded like “howling.” If a wolf could howl like that, “I’d be pretty damned impressed,” I said. 17 Nov. 2015.

Alex Patterson:

He’s a weird kid,” said Alex of somebody else in class. “Said Alex Patterson,” I said. 12 Nov. 2013.

Alex asked Ms. M-C during the first few days back at school, at the beginning of Alex’s senior year: “Did you miss me?” “Not even a little,” M-C deadpanned. 19 Aug. 2015.

Hailee Paul:

That is really good popcorn. Where’d you get it,” Hailee asked some other kid. “Chicago. A 4-hour drive,” kid said. 15 May 2014.

My life is so hard because I keep finding Post-It notes,” said Hailee, quoting Maria Belmonte, who was looking for cash in her pockets. 10 Dec. 2015.

Alissa Polz:

An honors student said she was once sent out of class for being rude to her teacher. “Of course I get in trouble for complaining that my class isn’t hard enough,” Alissa said. Another honors student, Chris Thomas, commented, “that’s a nerd in-school suspension.” 14 April 2015.

Earlier, Alissa had said, “Yak, yak, yak: nerds like to yak,” before the introductions to a state-level WYSE engineering competition. 14 April 2015.

Before the first test, Alissa said, “So many nerds.” 14 April 2015.

Also at that competition, Alissa said she’d have to pee like a racehorse from having drunk lots of coffee. I said, why not pee like a turtle? She said she once saw a turtle pee at the bathrooms at a camp facility, where the bathrooms were called the KYBO (long vowels), which stood for “Keep Your Bowels Open.” So we made up a new simile: “to have to pee like a turtle at the KYBO.” 14 April 2015.

Like an everlasting Gobstopper except I’m on a roll,” Alissa said of her caffeinated chattiness. 14 April 2015.

Weirdest trip to the bathroom! So, first of all,” Alissa started, continuing that a sign symbol pointed to the bathroom, the stall door didn’t lock, and then that “the soap is, like, super shiny and slippery — it’s like extra-basic [pH scale] soap” that looks like “a pearl in LIQUID form.” Chris Thomas laughed and said, “If I had a notebook, I would definitely write that down.” Alissa then said, “I have a notebook — it’s cute. Is this cute? I think this is cute,” she said of Vera Bradley-quilt-looking book in her Vera Bradley bag. 14 April 2015.

After another bathroom trip, Alissa came back and said, “so earlier, I dropped a quarter in the bathroom and I didn’t pick it up and it’s gone. I wouldn’t pick it up.

Your internal body-ness is what is important,” said Alissa, making a point that hands and feet don’t temperature-regulate well because they matter less. 14 April 2015.

It takes what falls out of your mouth and leaves money,” Alissa said as clues to get me to guess “Tooth Fairy.” 14 April 2015.

[I’m] 17 — I don’t have the energy of a frickin’ 9-year-old,” said Alissa, leaving an English classroom after school. 8 Sept. 2015.

Megan Renick

Where you gonna go, exactly, in this car with him? … Are you gonna go in the cornfield? You gonna go ‘parkin’?” said Megan, discussing a freshman girl’s dating plans with her senior boyfriend. 25 Oct. 2013.

Dude, she’s the biggest garden hoe!” said Megan about some ‘ho. 21 Nov. 2013.

To me, you look like you eat oatmeal,” Megan said to me in a discussion of breakfast foods during study hall. 4 Dec. 2013.

You’ve eaten that at my house, and you LIKED IT!” Megan said about bacon cheeseburger pizza to Presley. 12 Dec. 2013.

Holy nice outside,” said Megan on leaving the high school building on 14 Sept. 2015.

I chew gum like it’s crack,” Megan announced to class. “Who chews crack?” Eder asked. “I do,” Megan said. 29 Sept. 2015.

Jake Meyers said to Megan, whose chair had been making noise, “What is up, Squeaky Chair Girl?” Megan answered, “I know. It’s freakin’ like EHRRR.” 21 Oct. 2015.

Layla doesn’t let you sleep,” Megan said about her teacher Ms. Wheeler’s class. 23 Oct. 2015.

My MOM even called me Meggo [rhymes with “Eggo”],” Megan said about a nickname given her by a Brazilian exchange student the year before. She said some people call her “Megatron” but “I’m not an evil robot,” she objected. Of course, that’s exactly what an evil robot would say, I pointed out. 29 Oct. 2015.

[Did] Ty Ry die?” Meggo asked Hussein A. about Tyler Ryan’s absence from class. 4 Nov. 2015.

Layla counts me tardy if I have to pee,” Megan said of another teacher. 13 Nov. 2015.

“You guys are a bunch of Richards,” said Megan to some of her classmates after they made rude comments. “I make myself laugh,” she said. 13 Nov. 2015.

Wait, you’re not kidding?” said Megan Renick after Sebastian Gould told the class, appropos of nothing, that he has to pay child support for a seven-month-old whose mother he can’t identify (to us?). Sebastian assured us he wasn’t kidding. 19 Nov. 2015.

“No. You think I’M pretty, not her,” said Megan about social media usage by any of her potential significant others. 3 Dec. 2015.

There was legit a frozen cat,” said Meggo, who also performed a frozen-cat face. This was something she and her dad had seen sometime. 4 Dec. 2915.

Sabrina Risley:

You gotta even ’em out so it’s faster for me,” Sabrina said of papers she was stapling, with Shauna Childers. 10 Dec. 2015.

Tyler Ryan:

Why don’t you remember?” said Tyler to Sebastian Gould about a truancy officer they heard speaking freshman year. “I try not to pay attention,” Sebastian said. 29 Oct. 2015.

How does this thing work?” asked Tyler of a long-necked stapler. “Just push it down,” Hussein Abdallah said, demonstrating. 16 Dec. 2015.

Hussein, are you good at tiny, small objects?” asked Tyler as he tried to tie string in the punched holes of his portfolio. “No, just big stuff,” Hussein answered. Then Tyler said, “This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” 16 Dec. 2015.

Adam Saleh:

“Is he really tall and white?” asked Adam, trying to guess what kid had given me an unwelcome back rub during class after I’d related the story. 30 Oct. 2015.

Wes Sanderson:

Wesley, what are you looking up, a prom dress?” said Shauna Childers to Wes. I pointed out that Shauna just asked Wes if he was looking up a prom dress. I’m not wearing a prom dress,” said Wes. “Why was there one on the screen?” said Shauna about the computer screen behind Wes. 6 Nov. 2015.

Since I’m a guy, I work in the back,” said Wes Sanderson, of working at Target. 6 Nov. 2015.

I hope you mailed the GOOD letter,” English teacher Mr. Welle said to Wes in the hallway. “I did,” Wes told him. When I asked Wes later what letter that was, he said it was a letter of recommendation — the “good” one had some extra spaces between words removed. I’d thought Mr. Welle had given Wes a good letter of rec. and a bad one as well. 9 Nov. 2015.

Megan Schramm

My ex-boyfriend doesn’t exist,” said student Megan, who was then told that she’s used that joke before. “Do I really say that all the time?” asked Megan. 2 Feb. 2016.

Jasmine Schwanert:

I don’t care about your bowel movements,” Jasmine said to Rachel Larsen, who answered, “I’m pretty sure you care.” 8 May 2015.

Demi Smith:

A mole has an ass,” she said, explaining to Micah the joke I’d just told about how my grandfather had once said “we’d have put more molasses in the molasses cake but we couldn’t catch more moles.” 3 Nov. 2015.

I’m DEM-eye,” said DEM-ee Smith. 17 Feb. 2016.

Kenya Smith

“Someday, I want to be on that green paper,” said Kenya, referring to the color of the paper on which I was recording notes and quotes that day.“You can’t just say that you want to be on the green paper and get on the green paper,”  said student Kaylie Clark, who has herself been quoted before, and whom I thanked for defending the integrity of the green note paper. Student Angel Fulgencio added, “I think my greatest achievement is getting on the green paper. [It’s] the greatest honor I can achieve.” “I’m sorry,” I said. 1 Dec. 2015.

Chris Thomas:

An honors student said she was once sent out of class for being rude to her teacher. “Of course I get in trouble for complaining that my class isn’t hard enough,” Alissa Polz said. Another honors student, Chris Thomas, commented, “that’s a nerd in-school suspension.” 14 April 2015.

After we saw another high school’s WYSE team competitor who seemed to have thinning hair, Chris said, “Impressive. You rarely see high schoolers with bald spots these days.” 14 April 2015.

Hobos do this in the garbage,” Chris gave as a clue to get me to guess “Dumpster diving.” 14 April 2015.

After a meeting for an academic competition, Chris asked student Ian Curtis if he were going to “get swole,” meaning to get “swollen,” more muscular. 6 Nov. 2015.

Kara N. “red hair” Thomas:

Note: This name above is how Kara’s name was listed in our school’s attendance software, presumably to distinguish her from Kara C. “long blonde curly hair” Thomas.

See also Shauna Childers above for a quote involving Kara.

Mine’s different because there are 2 of me,” she said of her network login not following the pattern of others kids’ because of the two Karas Thomas. 28 Feb. 2014.

I don’t know if I should show you this, but look … all the journals I have to do,” Kara told me. 11 March 2014.

Why are you so weird,” said Kara. “‘Why are you so weird,’ said Kara Thomas,” I said. Are you saying I’m weird, she said. 19 March 2014.

Hussein Abdallah said Kara was talking too much. “I like to talk. You don’t have to listen to it,” Kara said. Hussein, or another boy, responded with “Put a sock in it.” “Are you a 50-year-old man?” asked Kara. “Oooo,” said three boys in harmony. “I would give you credit if it were a good burn,” Kara said. “You have 4 notes done out of 40,” Hussein or another boy said. “I have 6–uh,” said Kara. 19 March 2014.

Melvin, you don’t have a butt. You’re just legs,” said Kara to Melvin Wilton. “I’ve got one,” said Melvin, after slapping his own butt. “Melvin, twerk!” said Kara. 19 March 2014.

Kara asked to see my notes recording her quotes. I said no. “It’s MY words,” said Kara. Once I write them down, they become MY words, I said. “Uhn, I guess,” said Kara in a weirdly deep voice. 19 March 2014.

Why have you been SO ANNOYING today?” asked Kara. “‘Cuz we’re in a good mood,” said Alec Beach. 19 March 2014.

Nobody cares,” said Myah Braden (above). “Myah, shut up,” said Kara. 20 March 2014.

Melvin, what the hell are you doing,” said Julian Hernandez (see above) to Melvin Wilton (see below). “Why do you have the need to say that” so often, said Kara Thomas. I agreed with Kara that Julian does seem to say that every day. 20 March 2014.

Of an older student, Kara said, “She called us a mean name that starts with ‘C’ … then Myah and I flipped.” Another student told me the next day that Kara started conflict by criticizing a photo other girls were in. 20 March 2014.

If you’re gonna talk, don’t talk as if you have poop in your mouth,” Kara said to some boy in class. 31 March 2014.

Your sweatshirt is dirty,” Kara said to a boy. “You’re dirty,” said Shauna Childers to Kara. 2 April 2014.

After Hussein said, “Everybody stop talking,” Kara said, “That’s not funny anymore. It’s really not. It’s only funny when Melvin does it.” 2 April 2014.

Dude, my armpit itches really bad right now,” said Kara. This was the first statement she’d made after entering classroom. 4 April 2014.

Broc’s like a cat,” said Kara of classmate Broc Johnson. “Broc’s nothing like a cat,” answered someone, perhaps Hussein Abdallah. 4 April 2014.

Everybody else is a judgmental little butthole,” said Kara. 4 April 2014.

“... you’re a polar bear, buddy?” said Kara to someone. She calls many people, including me, her teacher, “buddy.” 4 April 2014.

Are you gonna get turnt up on the turnt-up scale?” said Kara to me, asking whether I’d get inebriated on the coming weekend. 4 April 2014.

Maybe Melvin LIKES having his hair like that,” Kara said after someone told Melvin to get a haircut. 16 April 2014.

My buttcheek was cramping. What day was that, Tuesday?” said Kara. Later, Melvin said, “Kara, stop saying ‘ass cheek’.” 25 April 2014.

They don’t know how to be funny without being mean,” said Kara of her classmates. 2 May 2014.

I’m gonna draw an Illuminati sign on your notebook, G.G. … Tell your mom it means Jesus,” Kara said to Gerardo Garcia. 7 May 2014.

Justin Thompson:

I guess horses need food to [pause] live,” said Justin Thompson. I heard this from across the classroom and I didn’t catch the context. 6 Nov. 2015.

Dylan Van Helden:

It only took 4 years, but” he finally understands the pattern of subjects and verbs in English sentences, Dylan told me at the end of writing class on 26 Feb. 2016.

I’m a special kind of figment,” Dylan said, after I told him he might just be a figment of my imagination. 14 March 2016.

GabBy Villalobos:

One day, after I’d told students about my dad’s car-accident death, perhaps in a matter-of-fact manner, Hussein Abdallah asked me if I’d shoot a guy for a million dollars. I said “no,” and then Gabby said, “Why not? You have no feelings about anything else.” Then she said, “Hussein made me say that!” and later she apologized and, when I mentioned her line again, she said, “I already feel bad about” saying it. 29 Sept. 2015.

Do you know how you talk sometimes?” Gabby asked me. I found out she was referring to my whiny, annoyed-teacher voice. She asked if I used that voice with my wife. I do not. 15 Oct. 2015.

These boys need a drug talk, Mr. Hagemann,” said Gabby as boys near her seat talked about drugs. “For or against?” I asked. 11 Nov. 2015.

“Gabby, stop figuring out what you meant after you said it,” I deadpanned, after Gabby laughed and said she didn’t figure out what she meant until after she’d said it. This after she’d said, or tried to say, something I didn’t catch. 13 Nov. 2015.

As another class worked on their comic strips, Micah asked, “Do zoos have moose?” “‘Do zoos have moose,’ said Doctor Suess,” I added. Later, Micah said, “Gooses are called ‘geese.’” Student Gabby Villalobos said, “Why can’t ‘moose’ be ‘meese’?” Hussein answered, “Because they’re all whores.” 13 Nov. 2015.

When I said that students should work today on typing the fiction assignment given yesterday, Gabby Villalobos said, “My brain doesn’t work that way.” Sebastian Gould added, “My brain doesn’t work at all.” Sebastian’s self-diagnosis came to mind when, a few minutes after this, he said about the difficulties of Syrian politics, “Just nuke the world.” 17 Nov. 2015.

“I regret talking to idiots the whole time I should’ve been writing,”said student Gabby. She said she broke her hand finishing up her writings. I said I should post this statement above my classroom whiteboard. 18 Dec. 2015.

You know how you keep a little what’s-it in your pocket?” Gabby asked me, about the folded paper on which I write quotes. 26 Jan. 2016.

Cole white:

I love their field, their turf,” Cole said of Dekalb High School’s football field. 9 May 2014.

Melvin Wilton:

No one leaves this room ’til TyRy gets his folder,” said Melvin, who likes to say teacher-things, about Tyler Ryan’s folder. 19 March 2014.

Everyone stop talking!” Melvin said in a buffoonish whisper-shouted voice. 20 March 2014.

Melvin called the hiding of his binder by his classmates “ultra-retarded” as he looked for it. 1 April 2014.

I’m not sure what prompted this next quote. Probably, I’d told Melvin to write some assignment of 600 or more words long. Melvin said, “the lowest I can go is 500 words. I won’t even make a profit on it.” Then Melvin said we should do a “Pawn Stars” show version of this class. 2 April 2014.

Of the school librarian, Melvin said, “She’ll remember me. She don’t like me.” He added that “she’s trying to creep like she’s on ‘Scooby Doo’ or something” to catch him using the library’s computers for other than doing school work, which he then admitted he did. 2 April 2014.

I can’t handle having to settle down,” Melvin said, probably after I, or a student, had asked him to do just that. 2 April 2014.

Sycamore never drops their balls,” Melvin said after another student and I were talking about whether the Sycamore school’s new WYSE team coach would drop the ball. 5 Nov. 2015.

Bailey Wing:

Would that be grammarly correct?” Bailey asked of a particular phrase. He did later correct himself with “grammatically.” 29 April 2015.

‘That’s a damn story’: Considering To Kill a Mockingbird after visiting Monroeville

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I read To Kill a Mockingbird just before visiting author Harper Lee’s hometown Monroeville, Alabama, recently, and I’m left with some questions about the nature of fiction, nonfiction, and real places, and how these intersect. Seeing the town and thinking about Nelle Harper Lee’s life story got me confused; I’ve yet to make sense of these things for myself. Since I don’t yet have an overall theory, I’m going to list some things I learned and what these things imply.

In the beginning of the novel, Maycomb, Alabama, lawyer Atticus Finch is the widowed, 50-something father of 6-year-old Scout Finch and her 10-year-old brother Jem Finch. Scout and Jem befriend a boy, Dill Harris, who spends summers in Maycomb living with his aunt Rachel Haverford “next door.” Neighbors “three doors to the south” are the Radley family, and “the Radley Place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house. Walking south, one faced its porch,” and “the Maycomb school grounds adjoined the back of the Radley lot.” Arthur “Boo” Radley was kept “out of sight” from his teen years on after a run-in with the law.

Nonfictionally, Monroeville, Alabama, lawyer Amasa Coleman “A.C.” Lee was 52 when Nelle Harper Lee was 6. Her brother Edwin would’ve been 11 then. Nelle befriended neighbor boy Truman Capote, who lived with his Faulk aunts in the house directly north of the Lee house. Neighbors two doors to the south were the Boulware family, whose property extended into a south-easterly curve, whose house faced north, and whose back lot adjoined the elementary school yard. Alfred “Son” Boulware, Jr.’s “father promised to keep him under his thumb in lieu of punishment for an adolescent theft.

A piece of the oak tree that was the model for the oak tree near the Radley house in the book.

A piece of the oak tree that was the model for the oak tree near the Radley house in the book. Also in the case are pennies, a gold watch and chain, gum wrappers, marbles, and carved soap figures.

An intriguing example of the mix of fiction, nonfiction, and real physical objects is the display in the courthouse museum pictured above. There’s a photo of the real oak tree that was supposedly the inspiration for the oak tree in the novel, and there’s a chunk of wood from that tree. The other objects represent the gifts that Jem and Scout found in the tree, an incident that may have had a nonfictional precedent, but there’s no claim that these other objects were the actual gifts. There’s a card reading “The Famous Tree,” naming a real tree made nonfictionally famous by a fictional text. About this display, visitor David G. Allan wrote, “It’s this kind of conflation of history and fiction that happily muddles your head in Monroeville.”

Of course, after the similarities, there are also many distinctions between the fictional characters and the real people, and because of the earlier similarities, these differences become that much more stark. We readers might wonder why certain things were changed when so many things were not. For instance, Nelle Harper Lee’s mother was alive until Nelle was 25, but the mother, “Frances Finch Lee, also known as Miss Fanny, was overweight and emotionally fragile,” according to Nelle’s New York Times obituary. Nelle had two older sisters; Scout does not. Dill lived with one aunt; Truman Capote lived with at least three aunts and an uncle.

 I’m very tempted to use the phrase “real life” to describe Nelle’s life. But of course, her life story isn’t real in the way the streets and buildings and trees that I saw a few days ago were real. Her life story and the town’s history are simply nonfiction, as are the old photos of Nelle and of Monroeville in the museum and in books such as this. The house where she grew up does not exist and is only a story; the Lee house was torn down in 1952 and replaced with a food stand, now Mel’s Dairy Dream (see photos here).

What seemed the most real when I was at Monroeville were the physical objects before me, but it was actually hard to keep my attention on those things because I kept thinking of them through conceptual overlays (like a heads-up display, projecting information onto what I was seeing) of both the novel and of the history. The fiction and the nonfiction were both ideas, abstractions, but I kept applying them to the physical items I saw. I snapped pictures of anything associated with Scout or with Nelle; for instance, I took this photo of the pavement around Mel’s Dairy Dream while thinking “maybe Nelle Harper Lee once stepped here.”

Pavement at the site of the former Lee house.

Pavement at the site of the former Lee house and the current Mel’s Dairy Dream store.

I realized then I’d been thinking that the possibility of Nelle having stepped in a place made that place special. I was regarding her as more than just a regular person (whose footfalls aren’t special). I realized this thought was an example of magic thinking, that somehow I must have started to believe, by being in this town where Nelle lived and about which she wrote, that I could somehow enter the story itself and live within the funny, charming sensibility of the narrator’s depiction of Jem and Scout. This sounds absurd, of course, and it is, but I suspect this thinking might be similar to that of people who visit a site of a miracle or an important historical event. Why go to a place like Monroeville, Lourdes, or the Gettysburg battlefield unless I’m expecting, somehow, to get closer to, become part of, and be personally transformed by, the reality of these places I’d previously only read about?

I can read and analyze a novel like To Kill a Mockingbird without being anywhere near the town that inspired the novel’s setting. To visit the town does give me a chance to see for myself what buildings described in the story look like and how places relate to each other (for instance, now that I’ve walked from the elementary school to where the Lee house was, I think the length of Jem and Scout’s walk at the end of the book was exaggerated. But perhaps Nelle Harper Lee knew that the walk didn’t actually take long, and she made it seem longer to increase suspense in the story). Of course, even as Lee was writing in the 1950s, the town of her youth in the 1930s had changed. It’s also foolish to compare fictional descriptions to what I saw in the real town because, well, the fiction writer is free to change whatever she pleases, and also, to say a real place is “the basis for” or “the inspiration for” or “the setting for” a fictional place is basically meaningless. The fictional town and the real town are not be the same; it’s only in our abstract thinking that we conjoin the two.

Nelle Harper Lee wrote the book because, she told an interviewer back in 1964, in one of the last interviews she granted,

“This is small-town middle-class Southern life as opposed to the Gothic, as opposed to ‘Tobacco Road,’ as opposed to plantation life,” she told her interviewer, referring to the Erskine Caldwell novel, and adding that she was fascinated by the “rich social pattern” in such places. “I would simply like to put down all I know about this because I believe that there is something universal in this little world, something decent to be said for it, and something to lament in its passing,” she continued. “In other words, all I want to be is the Jane Austen of South Alabama.”

Mockingbird does present an image of her childhood’s cultural and material conditions and does effectively convey this to her readers. In doing this, she created characters based closely enough on real people so that the real people can be identified: noble Atticus as A.C. Lee, reclusive Boo Radley as Alfred Boulware. A.C. Lee is said to have been appreciative enough to sign copies of Mockingbird as “Atticus,” but Alfred Boulware’s relatives (he died before the book was published) have not been pleased by their association with the book, as I was told by Monroe County Museum staffer Rabun Williams.

Nelle benefited from writing about real people, but since she became famous, she seemed to discourage others from writing about her:

She returned to her solitary life in Monroeville, keeping the press and the public at bay. In writing “Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee” (2006), Charles J. Shields maintained that he had conducted 600 interviews with friends, acquaintances and former classmates of his subject, but Ms. Lee eluded him, turning down his requests for an interview “with vigor,” he said. (Times obit)

After turning other people into the abstractions of fictional characters, Lee perhaps did not want to be turned into the abstraction of Author Harper Lee. She wanted to control her own life story, though she did not allow others to do this. According to the Times obit, “Ms. Lee lived a quiet but relatively normal life in Monroeville, where friends and neighbors closed ranks around her to fend off unwelcome attention by tourists and reporters,” which protection was perhaps more than Lee granted to the people she wrote about.

By writing about her home town, Lee has also reshaped it. Entering Monroeville from the south on Rt. 21, I saw a sign that said “Literary Capital of Alabama.” While home to only about 7,000 residents, nearly 30,000 visit every year. The old courthouse has become a museum dedicated to Lee and Capote, and local actors put on play of Mockingbird each year, on the courthouse lawn and in the old courthouse itself. The book and museum prompt goofball tourists like myself to wander around taking pictures. Museum staffers and other locals also become storytellers as they share their own stories of Monroeville and the Lee family. The town has many empty storefronts, and poverty seems a problem in Monroe County, but no doubt the area would suffer more without its literary fame.

The book’s title comes from father Atticus’s warning to children Scout and Jem not to shoot mockingbirds with their air rifles for “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” and it’s a sin because, as another character explains, “mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.” Mockingbirds are a symbol of beauty, of selflessness, etc. On the other hand, a mockingbird “often imitates other birds,” and so could also be a symbol for taking the expression of others and making it one’s own.

Update, 22 July: This essay makes a point about the mockingbird as a symbol of the South, and that it wouldn’t necessarily deserve the praise it gets in the novel.

Some additional links about Nelle Harper Lee:

† Google Books link to I am Scout biography of NHL by Charles Shields.

† NY Times review of Go Set a Watchman

“A Queer Look at Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman'”

† “The Decline of Harper Lee” at Vulture.com

Daily Mail article on Harper Lee from 2010

“In Search of Harper Lee” (dated 2010, seemingly written in 1997)

† Sister Louise Lee Connor obituary

Alice Lee practices law at age 100

†  The Guardian: Should Marja Mills’ memoir have been published?

† Go Set a Watchman in the papers of Harper Lee’s literary agents

†  Rabun Williams’s speech at Harper Lee vigil

Some comments regarding Boulware

19 Things about Harper Lee

10 Facts about Harper Lee from AL.com

† Southern Literary Trail: Monroeville

Two nonfiction pieces Lee wrote

† An early (1960) review of Mockingbird includes this section:

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is sugar-water served with humor. … It is frankly and completely impossible, being told in the first person by a six-year-old girl with the prose style of a well-educated adult. … A variety of adults, mostly eccentric in Scout’s judgment, and a continual bubble of incident make To Kill A Mockingbird pleasant, undemanding reading.

‘Literary Capital of Alabama’: Monroeville as Harper Lee’s Maycomb, Part 2

After my wife and I toured the Monroe County Courthouse (see Part 1) recently, we walked south on Mt. Pleasant Avenue to Oak Street, then east on Oak to Alabama Avenue, then back north to the Old Courthouse.

M-Ville map (3)

An image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Top of the photo is north.

An image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Top of the photo is north.

An image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Right side of the photo is north.

Another image of South Alabama Avenue from the early 1950s, as displayed at Monroe County Heritage Museums. Right side of the photo is north.

One of several run-down-looking buildings in downtown Monroeville, on east side of Mt. Pleasant Ave.

One of several run-down-looking buildings in downtown Monroeville, on east side of Mt. Pleasant Ave.

Another run-down-looking building in downtown Monroeville, on west side of Mt. Pleasant Ave, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Another run-down-looking building in downtown Monroeville, on west side of Mt. Pleasant Ave, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Coxwell House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Coxwell House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, southwest of Old Courthouse.

View of "Deers Pasture" from Mt. Pleasant Ave. This was an open area Scout and Jem passed through. According to Rabun Williams of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, this has always been a low spot on which there've been no buildings.

View of what the book calls “Deer’s Pasture” on the east side of Mt. Pleasant Ave. The east side of this open area backs up to what would have been the Faulk and Lee lots. According to Rabun Williams of the Monroe County Heritage Museums, this has always been a low spot on which there has been no buildings.

Maxwell/Sawyer/Barnett House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, southwest of Old Courthouse.

Maxwell/Sawyer/Barnett House, Mt. Pleasant Avenue, a couple blocks southwest of Old Courthouse. Along with the Coxwell house above, this house is one of “two blocks of houses … built by the leading families in town,” according to the “Monroeville in the 1930s Walking Tour” pamphlet published by the Monroe County Museum.

Current Monroeville Elementary school, facing Mt. Pleasant Ave. Note air-conditioners in each classroom.

Current Monroeville Elementary school, facing Mt. Pleasant Ave. Note air-conditioners in each classroom.

Facing east on Oak Street from north of school.

Facing east on Oak Street from north of school. To walk this street from the school to the Lee lot would require passing the Boulware (which I heard pronounced “Bo-ware”) house, where lived Alfred “Son” Boulware, Jr., “who, similarly to the character Arthur Radley, lived life as a reclusive shut-in,” according to the “Walking Tour” pamphlet.

School playground along south side of Oak Street.

School playground along south side of Oak Street.

Fence between school playground and Cannon gas station -- former Boulware house.

Fence between school playground and Cannon gas station, the former location of the Boulware house.

Boo Radley's convenience store. This is where the Boulware house stood. Some sources say Alfred "Sonny" Boulware, Jr., was the inspiration for the character Boo Radley.

This is a view of Cannon gas station from the north. Alabama Avenue, which runs due south from the courthouse square, turns southeast at the left side of this picture. This is the lot where the Boulware house stood. Judging from the old photos at the top of this post, the Boulware house faced north and the lot extended to the south and to the west.

View of Mel's Dairy Dream from the south.

View of Mel’s Dairy Dream from the south. This building replaced the Lee house in the early 1950s.”Go Set a Watchman” tells of Jean Louise getting ice cream at a store located where family’s house had been.

Mel's Dairy Dream stands where the Lee house stood on Alabama Ave. I can vouch for the chocolate shakes.

Mel’s Dairy Dream stands where the Lee house stood on Alabama Ave. My wife orders at the window on the left. She said the peach swirl was good; I can vouch for the taste of the chocolate shakes.

This is the view from Mel's Dairy Dream (the former Lee house lot) southwest toward the elementary school.

This is the view from Mel’s Dairy Dream (the former Lee house lot) southwest toward the elementary school.

View south on Alabama Avenue from an image at the Old Courthouse. Caption says the view is dated 1915 and the car is in front of the Lee house.

View south on Alabama Avenue from an image at the Old Courthouse. I read that the view is from about 1915 and the car is to the left of the Lee house. According to the book Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb, the picket fences were gone by 1939 and sidewalks had been installed by then.

View of Alabama Avenue south from in front of Mel's Dairy Dream.

View of Alabama Avenue south from in front of Mel’s Dairy Dream, location of the former Lee house.

View east across Alabama Ave. from Mel's Dairy Dream (Lee house lot). Across the street during the Lee house era were the Dr. G.C. Watson houseAccording to the book Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee's Maycomb and according to the Walking Tour pamphlet.

View of the Goody’s store east across Alabama Ave. from Mel’s Dairy Dream (Lee house lot). Across the street from the Lee house was the Dr. G.C. Watson house, and Watson’s daughter Gladys Burkett was Harper Lee’s English teacher, according to the museum’s Walking Tour pamphlet. Also across the street lived Maggie Dees, secretary to A.C. Lee, and Velma Dees, who tutored Nelle and Truman, according to the book Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb.

View north toward neighboring Faulk house from Lee house.

View from Mel’s Dairy Dream (former Lee house) north toward sign marking the neighboring Faulk house. The rock wall was near the old fish pool described in chapter six of To Kill a Mockingbird, according to the book “Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb” by Monroe County Heritage Museums. The post office is the brick building at what looks like the end of the street. Presumably, if one were to walk from the Lee home to the courthouse, the fastest way would be to walk north on this street, Alabama Avenue.

Marker on Alabama Ave. at location of former Faulk house.

Marker on Alabama Ave. at location of former Faulk house, the next house to the north of what was then the Lee house.

Capote marker at Faulk house and one of many audio-tour signs in Monroeville.

Capote marker at Faulk house and one of many audio-tour signs in Monroeville. This view is from the sidewalk, looking southwest.

A view looking west behind the Trustmark bank. To the left here is the north end of "Deer Pasture"

A couple lots north of the Faulk house is now the Trustmark bank, and this view is looking west on the south side of the bank.To the left here is the north end of “Deer’s Pasture,” and the street to the west is Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

View north along Alabama Ave. Note the Old Courthouse to left of bank sign and brick white house to the right. Temperature was as of 2:55 p.m. 25 June.

View north along Alabama Ave while standing east of the Trustmark Bank. Note the Old Courthouse dome to left of bank sign and brick post office to the right. Temperature was as of 2:55 p.m. 25 June.

View north along Alabama Avenue. Brick

This view is north along Alabama Avenue from the southwest corner of Claiborne Street. The Old Courthouse is just out of the photo to the left, and the new courthouse is visible just behind the van. The brick building on the right side is the post office. The mural of three children hiding and watching the street (see previous post) was directly to my left as I took this picture.

Nelle Harper Lees gr

Two or three blocks east of the courthouse square on Pineville Road is a cemetery where we found a Lee family plot. This plot and many others were outlined in stone. When we visited on 25 June 2016, we found many coins at the headstone of Nelle (not pronounced  “Nellie,” according to her New York Times obituary) Harper Lee. The church steeple in the background is that of the First Baptist Church, but Harper Lee reportedly belonged to the First United Methodist Church, which is just out of the photo on the left side.

A.C. Lee, father of Nelle Harper Lee

Also at this plot, the grave of lawyer A.C. Lee, father of Nelle Harper Lee.

Mother of Nelle Harper Lee

Mother of Nelle Harper Lee. She and her son Edwin both died in 1951.

Brother of Nelle Harper Lee. He and mother Frances Finch Lee both died in 1951. In 1952, A.C. Lee moved from his house on Alabama Avenue.

Brother of Nelle Harper Lee. He died just weeks after his mother Frances Finch Lee both died in 1951. In 1952, A.C. Lee moved from his house on Alabama Avenue.

Older sister of Nelle Harper Lee. She was an attorney who reportedly managed business affairs of Nelle

Older sister of Nelle Harper Lee. She was an attorney who reportedly managed the Nelle’s business affairs. A fourth Lee sibling, Louise, may have been born between Alice and Nelle.

Also at cemetery, family names Deas and Tate, which were used as character names in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Also at cemetery, family names Deas and Tate, which were used as character names in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Leaving Monroeville on Routes 21/47. I was surprised to see how densely wooded much of rural Alabama seems.

Leaving Monroeville on Routes 21/47. I was surprised to see how densely wooded much of rural Alabama was.

Rural house along Route 21/47 northwest of Monroeville

Rural house along Route 21/47 northwest of Monroeville

I believe this is kudzu outgrowing and covering other vegetation along the roadside.

I believe this is kudzu outgrowing and covering other vegetation along the roadside.

More kudzu.

More kudzu, under the trees here.

Along Alabama Route 21/47. Red dirt.

Along Alabama Route 21/47. Red dirt. We say several small roads leading off the highway that seemed to be made only of red dirt rather than of rocks or pavement.

Rural building along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural building along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Rural house along Routes 21 and/or 47

Kudzu

Kudzu, climbing trees.

Pine Flat Methodist Church and cemetery along Route 10, west of Butler Springs Road.

Pine Flat Methodist Church and cemetery along Route 10, west of Butler Springs Road. It may be hard to see in this picture, but this building seemed to have a foundation of brick piers, and I could see under the building.

Cotton, across the highway from the church in previous photo.

Cotton plants, I think, across the highway from the church in previous photo.

Kudzu at the edge of the church yard.

Kudzu at the edge of the church yard. I’d heard it was amazingly thick vegetation, and so it amazed me.

 

‘Literary Capital of Alabama’: Monroeville as Harper Lee’s Maycomb, Part 1

On the way driving back from our Florida vacation a few days ago, my wife and I got off I-65 to see Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee, who seems to have based many of the settings in her book To Kill a Mockingbird on real places in this town. The old Monroe County courthouse has been preserved as a museum and gift shop.

View of Old Courthouse's east side.

View of Old Courthouse’s east side, from Alabama Avenue.

The Harper Lee books I borrowed from my hometown library are at Monroeville!

The Harper Lee books I borrowed from my hometown library are at Monroeville!

Explanation. Sign reads: ...

Explanation. The Old Courthouse was used from about 1903 until the early 1960s, when the new courthouse was built. This is the building that contains the courtroom used as a model for the court in the book and in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird.

View of Old Courthouse's south side. Note the curving walls, presumably matching the courthouse wall's curve.

View of Old Courthouse’s south side. Note the curving walls, presumably matching the courthouse wall’s curve.

South lawn of old courthouse, facing west. The old bank building in which A.C. Lee had a law office is visible.

South lawn of old courthouse, facing west. The old bank building in which A.C. Lee had a law office is visible as the brick two-story with the arched windows.

A sign near statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

A sign near statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

Statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

Statues of children reading, south of Old Courthouse.

A live oak tree on the courthouse square, one of the shade trees described in the book.

A live oak (I think) tree on the courthouse square, one of the shade trees described in the book.

View of Old Courthouse's west side. The little houses are sets for the annual productions of a play of To Kill a Mockingbird put on by local actors.

View of Old Courthouse’s west side. The little houses are sets for the annual productions of a play of To Kill a Mockingbird put on by local actors.

A plaque to Atticus Finch from the Alabama State Bar located at courthouse grounds.

A plaque to fictional Atticus Finch from the Alabama State Bar located at courthouse grounds.

View of the Old Courthouse from a northeast perspective.

View of the Old Courthouse from a northeast perspective. To the right of this picture is the new courthouse.

The new (built in early 1960s) Monroe County courthouse. We were told that, like the old courthouse, there is just one courtroom in this building.

The new (built in early 1960s) Monroe County courthouse. It’s directly north of the Old Courthouse. We were told that, like the old courthouse, there is just one courtroom in this building.

Monroe County

Monroe County, Alabama, in the southwest corner of the state, has the Alabama River as part of its western boundary.

A view of the east side of Alabama Avenue while standing on east side of Old Courthouse. The two-story building was once the millinery shop owned by Truman Capote's Faulk relatives. The brick one-story to the right (south) is the post-office, dating to 1937. According to a book written by Monroe County Heritage Museums, the post office was on the south side of the courthouse square before 1937.

A view of the east side of Alabama Avenue while standing on the east side of Old Courthouse. The two-story building was once the millinery shop owned by Truman Capote’s Faulk relatives. The brick one-story to the right (south) is the post-office, dating to 1937. According to a book written by Monroe County Heritage Museums, the post office was on the south side of the courthouse square before 1937. At far right, there’s a mural of a mockingbird on a car dealership wall.

Mural on east wall of building at southwest corner of Claiborne and Alabama, southeast of courthouse and diagonal from the post office.

Mural on east wall of building at southwest corner of Claiborne St. and Alabama Ave., southeast of courthouse and diagonal from the post office.

Mural of a scene from To Kill a Mockinbird. This is on the west wall of a building south of Old Courthouse, which is at left side of this pic.

Mural of a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. This is along Mt. Pleasant Ave. on the west wall of a building southwest of Old Courthouse, which is at left side of this pic.

View of Mt. Pleasant Avenue, the street on the west side of courthouse, from northwest corner of courthouse square. The building with the slanted roof was the town jail at the time of the book's setting. The building with the two-story facade was the location of the town newspaper at that time. This seems likely to be the model for the scene in the book where Scout and Atticus break up the attempted lynching of Tom Robinson. In an old picture of this building, there is a smaller door, three upstairs windows, and one downstairs window.

View of Mt. Pleasant Avenue, the street on the west side of courthouse, from northwest corner of courthouse square. At the left side of photo is the brick building where A.C. Lee, Harper Lee’s father and the model for Atticus Finch, had his law office. Moving to the right (which is north), the building with the slanted roof was the town jail at the time of the book’s setting. The building in center of photo with the two-story facade was the location of the town newspaper at that time. This seems likely to be the model for the scene in the book where Scout and Atticus break up the attempted lynching of Tom Robinson.

Jail from courthouse lawn looking west. The short building in the middle now is labeled as belonging to Monroe County Sheriff.

Jail from courthouse lawn looking west. The building labeled “RSVP” was once the jail. In an old picture of this building, it had a smaller door, three upstairs windows, and one downstairs window. The short building to the north is now labeled as belonging to Monroe County Sheriff.

A view of the east side of Alabama Avenue while standing on east side of Old Courthouse. The two-story building was once the millinery shop owned by Truman Capote's Faulk relatives. The brick one-story to the right (south) is the post-office, dating to 1937. According to a book written by Monroe County Heritage Museums, the post office was on the south side of the courthouse square before 1937.

A view of the east side of Alabama Avenue while standing on east side of Old Courthouse. The two-story building was once the millinery shop owned by Truman Capote’s Faulk relatives. The brick one-story to the right (south) is the post-office, dating to 1937. According to a book written by Monroe County Heritage Museums, the post office was in a building on the south side of the courthouse square before 1937.

View of the courtroom from between judge's bench on right and jury area on left.

View of the courtroom from between judge’s bench on right and jury area on left.

My attorney wife was thrilled to pretend to sit (signs said to not actually sit there) at the judge's bench.

My attorney wife was thrilled to pretend to sit (signs said to not actually sit there) at the judge’s bench. She said she first considered becoming a lawyer after reading Mockingbird, and that visiting this courtroom was as exciting as seeing an original copy of the Constitution would be.

Cowhide-seated jury chairs.

Cowhide-seated jury chairs.

The third-floor balcony from where, in the book, Scout, Jem, Dill, Rev. Sykes, and others watched the trial. While the courtroom seemed to be air-conditioned when we were there, the third-floor landing was not, and it was noticeably warmer than the second-floor courtroom was.

The third-floor balcony from where, in the book, Scout, Jem, Dill, Rev. Sykes, and others watched the trial. While the courtroom seemed to be air-conditioned when we were there, the third-floor landing was not, and it was noticeably warmer than the second-floor courtroom was.

View of the court from the balcony.

View of the court from the balcony.

A note in Nelle Harper Lee's handwriting.

A note in Nelle Harper Lee’s handwriting.

The second floor of museum has a room dedicated to Harper Lee and another to Truman Capote, who were neighbors and childhood friends in Monroeville.

The second floor of museum has a room dedicated to Harper Lee and another to Truman Capote, who were neighbors and childhood friends in Monroeville.

This is a closer-up section of the poster.

This is a closer-up section of the poster.

A piece of the oak tree that was the model for the oak tree near the Radley house in the book.

A piece of the oak tree that was the model for the oak tree near the Radley house in the book.

Soap carvings and pennies, presumably there as examples of those objects mentioned in the book.

Soap carvings and pennies, presumably there as examples of those objects mentioned in the book.

This courthouse room off the central lobby of the first floor is set up as a typical lawyer's office of the 1930s, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.

This courthouse room off the central lobby of the first floor is set up as a typical lawyer’s office of the 1930s, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird.

The book mentions that lawyer Atticus had a set of the Code of Alabama in his office. This photo's a bit out of focus, but I loved that the volume titles included "Bastardy."

The book mentions that lawyer Atticus had a set of the Code of Alabama in his office. This photo’s a bit out of focus, but I loved that the volume titles included “Bastardy.”

In the Bird's Nest gift shop, among the postcards, books, and t-shirts, there's a metal tub of old photos. Museum staffer George Jones explained that these photos belonged to a town photographer and local people come in and dig through the photos and buy ones they like for a dollar a piece.

In the Bird’s Nest gift shop, among the postcards, books, and t-shirts, there’s a metal tub of old photos. Museum staffer George Thomas Jones explained that these photos belonged to a town photographer and local people come in and dig through the photos and buy ones they like for a dollar a piece.

"Tequila Mockingbird" is long what "To Kill a Mockingbird" has sounded like -- I'm glad I'm not the only one.

I’ve always thought “To Kill a Mockingbird” sounded like “Tequila Mockingbird” — and so now, there is such a cocktail.

See photos, Part 2.

‘Really interesting people look ugly at times’: An Exquisite Corpse hallway display

Here is my current display (in the hallway outside my classroom) of my students’ Exquisite Corpse poems from the last couple of semesters.

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Ideas aren’t real: A classroom discussion

 

The paint doesn't know why it's peeling, nor does it seem to care.

The paint doesn’t know why it’s peeling, nor does it seem to care.

My students are trying to figure out what’s real.

I challenged my class of high school writers, as part of our study of argument, to define the word “real.” After a couple days of discussion, we came up with a tentative definition: something is real if it can be seen or touched or proved to be present.

So, physical material is real. If it’s something I wouldn’t want to hit against my head, it’s real. But ideas, which can’t been seen, are not real.

Someone said that the desk she was sitting at seemed real. I said, the materials are real, but the idea of that object being a “desk” is just an idea. My dog, which can’t understand language as we do, still goes around objects rather than through them, but he doesn’t know what an object is named or how it can be used.

One student asked, if I have an idea to make a desk, and then I make a desk, how did that thought become real? Two things, I said: 1. How ideas in the mind cross over to the body, nobody can yet explain, but 2., what she built was still not a “desk” — it’s a new arrangement of physical things.

Another student asked whether atoms were real. We defined atoms as particles that make up all objects. They are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. We discussed the parts of this definition, including that the size of an atom is to an orange as an orange is to planet Earth. (An idea contained in this video. See also this post.) But such an explanation requires us to use our imaginations, which is a turn away from the physical world itself. We also discussed what a proton is, and how it’s got “positive charge,” and how this charge is a “fundamental property,” which is another way of saying, scientists can’t yet explain how or where this charge arises. 

And so, atoms are not real things that can be seen or touched. Atoms, rather, are explanatory ideas, and ideas are not real. Atoms are part of a scientific story, an interpretation, of how the world works. Physical matter itself doesn’t need to understand itself. Things don’t think. Only people think, and what we think are ideas, and ideas are not physical things.

Now, it can be useful to have science ideas about the world. If we want to alter the physical world — say, to build a house from wood or undergo surgery to fix a disease — it’d be nice to have the most useful ideas possible about how the house-building or body-repairing should go. Where early doctors would prescribe bloodletting to cure a variety of illnesses, modern doctors don’t. We like modern medicine because its ideas seem more successful at getting cures.

But, of course, modern medicine isn’t perfect. Much remains to be explained, to be mentally modeled. I suggested that there could be fictional ideas (which we don’t care if they are realistic), like how Greek mythology says Zeus turned into a bull, and nonfictional ideas (which we’d like to be as realistic as possible), like scientific interpretations, that atoms have parts called protons, electrons, and neutrons. And the nonfiction ideas are never perfect, are never worthy of being called “The Truth,” because they must remain open to revision, as new ideas are learned. The story of science remains imperfect.

 

So, why do we care about science? Our ancestors got by without it. The fact that we’re here means our ancestors knew enough to survive in the world (get food, form shelter, make babies, raise ‘em). However, science ideas are now taught in school because it’s important for citizens now to know these so as to be able to “join society,” as one student said. And we’d like the people we trust to do physical things — like engineers and doctors — to agree amongst themselves as to the best ideas for doing things. I don’t want the person designing the bridges I drive on to choose a different idea for gravity than what’s commonly accepted (unless his ideas are shows, through argument and evidence, to be better, the way science is supposed to proceed). 

So even though what schools teach are just imperfect stories, mere ideas, and not reality itself [ I wonder what a school that didn’t teach ideas would look like], these imperfect ideas are what we have to tie each other together into a society. If each individual had his/her own ideas about what’s real, that might be chaotic, a student said.

So we take part in civil, communal society by sharing some ideas about the best ways to think about physical reality.  And yet, of course, we shouldn’t take these ideas too seriously. I think it’s useful to form an idea about ideas. I told students that the reason we’re talking about ideas and reality is that it can be useful for them to have a theory of knowledge, and to question how it is that ideas are accepted or revised. When one student said he’d question his other teachers about how things are known in those classes, I said he could, but to remember that when Socrates asked too many questions, he got killed. Sometimes, people who like to believe that their ideas are real don’t like to have their ideas questioned.

Some students said it got them upset to think about these things, to ask these questions, to think of reality this way. I said I wasn’t trying to upset them, but that I like to think that ideas aren’t real because then it lets me think of new ideas. I also said, maybe it’s helpful to think that ideas aren’t real — real physical things themselves don’t give us ideas for how to change the things. Only ideas can direct us to change the physical things — change comes from the unreal.

A student asked if students’ grades merely tell how well they learn the unreal stories.  Yeah, I said. And I said that that’s why I like having discussions, so I can provoke students to ask these questions. Another student asked at the end of class yesterday: so schools brainwash us? And I said, well, kinda, but I’m having this discussion to help you unbrainwash yourself — unless that’s just a different kind of brainwash!

 

A sonnet of Eustace Tortoise

To have my high school creative writing students show they can write to the iambic pentameter rhythm, I assign them to finish the last 6 lines of a Shakespearean sonnet we start together in class. Rather than using our sonnet to present or evaluate a romantic claim, we told a narrative of one Eustace Tortoise, which narrative some students wanted me to post here:

So Eustace Tortoise went to chew some gum. 

He rode a unicycle to the club.

He wore a tunic but he looked a bum.

He hoped to meet a hamster with a nub. 

Then Eustace took the hamster by the leg

(which leg was made of dense and crispy lard);

they danced until the hamster lost its leg

that’s good. She hopped along the boulevard.

The students diverged in their conclusions of the narrative, but we all got some laughs out of our protagonist Eustace.