Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In Praise of a Teacher

In Praise of a Teacher by Nikki Giovanni

The reason Miss Delaney was my favorite teacher, not just my
favorite English teacher, is that she would let me read any book I
wanted and would allow me to report on it. I had the pleasure of
reading The Scapegoat as well as We the Living as well as Silver Spoon (which was about a whole bunch of rich folk who were
unhappy), and Defender of the Damned, which was about
Clarence Darrow, which led me into Native Son because the real
case was defended by Darrow though in Native Son he got the
chair despite the fact that Darrow never lost a client to the chair
including Leopold and Loeb who killed Bobby Frank. Native Son
led me to Eight Men and all the rest of Richard Wright but I
preferred Langston Hughes at that time and Gwendolyn Brooks
and I did reports on both of them. I always loved English because
whatever human beings are, we are storytellers. It is our stories
that give a light to the future. When I went to college I became a
history major because history is such a wonderful story of who we
think we are; English is much more a story of who we really are.
It was, after all, Miss Delaney who introduced the class to My
candle burns at both ends; /It will not last the night; /But, ah, my
foes, and, oh, my friends— /It gives a lovely light.
And I thought
YES. Poetry is the main line. English is the train.

"In Praise of a Teacher" by Nikki Giovanni, from Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea. © Harper Perennial, 2002.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this piece By Nikki Giovanni. In eight grade I had a teacher just like that, who opened up the sky and made it brighter for me because of poetry and writing. She made me feel like I could have power through writing, even though I felt somewhat helpless at the time.