All that March Break seemed to be to me was an opportunity to mope around the house and dwell on dark and disturbing things.
The first part of the day was pretty slow and boring. I kept wishing that Miss Hamilton was still around. But the longer the morning got, and the fact that I never saw her kind of brought it home for me.
I did really like that old broad. She was pretty cool. And now she’s lying in a hospital bed in a coma that she might never wake up from. And I can’t shake the feeling that somehow it’s my fault for being so pissed off with her. And that perhaps because of me, Death, who didn’t properly get the job done in the first place is creeping around within the shadows of her room, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.
Like I said, the morning kind of dragged on. But the afternoon was different. Today a teacher arrived. A new teacher. One who will be there until the end of the year to take over Miss Hamilton’s classes.
I was prepared to hate him. Prepared not to like anyone who tried to step into Miss Hamilton’s shoes.
But he wasn’t trying to replace Miss Hamilton. He said so himself. And he has this strange, bizarre style that I’ve never seen in a teacher before. The whole class today kind of blew me away like nothing I’ve ever seen in a classroom before.
When he first walked into our class complete with this strange little bolo tie, his brown cowboy boots, and the puffy sleeved shirt that reminds me of the pirate shirt on that old Seinfeld episode, it was one of the first things he said.
“I’m not Miss Hamilton,” he said. “Nor will I try to pretend to be her. She was a great teacher. She actually taught me when I was a student here years ago. She was in fact one of the finest teachers I ever had. She had this incredible love, this incredible passion for literature. And I loved her dearly. So I’m not here to replace her; but rather to carry on with the subject with which she showed so much passion. I have my own style of teaching, my own perspective on English class, and my own love for literature. And I owe all those things to Miss Hamilton who was the first teacher to inspire them in me.
“My name is Mr. Robinson. But you can call me Robbie if you like. Just don’t Rob me of my love for literature. And if you don’t enjoy reading, don’t enjoy writing, or don’t enjoy talking about great works, I won’t hold that against you. I just hope at the very least you do your best to open your mind for the time that we have together here, knowing there’s a possibility of seeing something in a way you never saw it before.”
Then he said something that blew my mind, and which started to kind of change my opinion of him. He said something that was a direct quote from Hamlet. And he spoke it in a deeper voice using a British accent. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio.”
He paused, just stood there and looked at the class. The classroom was mostly silent. Maybe just a cough here or a sniffle there. I’m sure that I had a huge grin on my face, because I caught the reference immediately. I’m also sure that he cast a knowing smile in my direction, picking up on my awareness. I quickly glanced over at Sarah. It was obvious from the look on her face that she caught the reference, too. A moment later a few of the students who were really into English class clapped their hands together or made strange little grunting noises that seemed to acknowledge that they knew where the reference was from.
But then he seemed to just let it go, as if to allow those of us who understood the reference to bask in the knowledge, and those who didn’t to wonder.
“If you get anything out of this class,” he continued, walking over to the desk and standing on the chair, one booted foot on the desk. “Get this. English literature is a statement -- sometimes a statement of truth, sometimes a statement of fantasy. But it’s a statement. Writing can be about showing you something about yourself, or showing you something about the world that perhaps you never considered before. A new perspective, a new way of seeing the world.
“Literature is only as limited as a person’s imagination. If we let it, it can show us something new, or show us something we thought we knew, but from a unique and distinct perspective.” Then he stood up on the desk itself. “Like the perspective of the class that I suddenly have when I’m standing up here. And reading those works, reading that literature, should be as interesting and as memorable as what I’m about to do.” He then paused, stomped his feet on the desk, smiled at the group of us, then jumped off the front of the desk to the floor with a loud thud.
“Okay,” he said. “Enough talk. C’mon. Single file, up to the front of the class. Who wants to see English, see literature in this exciting way?”
Everyone just stood there looking at him. Nobody got up. Not even the English keeners.
“That’s fine.” He said. “Nobody needs to get up. Nobody has to do what I just did. But I’d like you to open your mind to the possibility, to the grand adventure that literature can be. To the perspectives it can open. And I invite you all, at any time during the rest of class time this year, if you need to behold a new perspective, need a sudden paradigm shift, to walk up here, stand on my desk, look around and soak in the new view.”
Bobby Shay, one of the Goth guys in our class stood up then. “I’m ready to try.” He said. And he got up, walked to the desk, stood on the chair, then stepped up onto the desk, looked around and smiled. Then he jumped off.
The girl who sat directly in front of him, Alicia, I think her name is, smiled, got up and did the same.
Then, one by one, each student took a turn doing so as well.
Mr. Robinson stood silently at the side of the class, smiling a huge smile as each student performed this ritual.
When it was my turn I remember pausing to look around the room, to see the class from an angle I’d never considered before. And I felt strangely liberated. For a moment I was so ecstatic that I forgot about the death, about all the deaths that had surrounded me. I’d been freed from them. It was a glorious moment. I barely remember jumping back down to the floor. But I remember feeling lighter as I stood there on the desk in front of the class.
The whole thing reminded me of a scene from this other movie I remember watching with Uncle Bob about an English boarding school for boys. But I can’t remember what that was.