teaching tom sawyer.

The Preface to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:

"Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in." --Mark Twain

I was running late. Igor and Jay were sitting in the attendance office. They had matching blue sweatpants and light grey shirts with their names on them. When I walked in the room they looked at me with the utmost satisfaction. I expected Jay to be there waiting for me; Igor was an added surprise.

"Jay, where's your stuff? We've got a lot of work to do!"

Jay looks at me with a smirk on his face. "My PE teacher kicked me out. Igor was clown'n at me and the teacher made us come to the office for the rest of the period. He yelled at me and told me that I needed to be more respectful and that I shouldn't sink to Igor's level."

Igor smiled. "Yeah, well you were dick'n around with that Asian kid too."

I rolled my eyes and laughed. "Alright, go back to PE and get your stuff. We gotta work on your physics homework. I'll write you a pass."

Jay's eyes lit up. The thought of doing anything other than sitting in the office or going back to PE was a good one. "Yes! Thank you! I need to pass my classes. I don't want to be stuck in special ed with this kid."

Igor shouted right back, "Good one, Jay. Did you get that from a cereal box?"

Jay runs out the door.

"Jay! You forgot your pass! Good heavens you kids are giving me grey hair."

Igor smiles at me and runs after him.


Jay and I met up in a small room next to the vice Principal's office.

Jay starts rummaging though his folders looking for physics assignments. He needs to finish an idea journal. He has no idea what to do with it.

He also needs to complete worksheets that are filled with definitions and symbols and examples and smiley faces that say learning is fun.

We start looking up definitions to space, time, position. I'm sitting in a puke green swirly chair. Jay is sitting on the desk with his feet propped on a chair beside me. He is playing with his fancy gel-grip pencils that he stole from a nerdy kid.

Igor's face appears in the door window.

"Let me study with yah fools. I have to do my homework."

I knew this was going to be a bad idea. But Igor had no where else to go.

"Alright Iggy, but you better get work done. Jay needs to finish his physics stuff. If you can't focus you'll have to go."

Igor nods his head in agreement. This nod essentially meant that he will do the least amount of work and the highest amount of goofing off possible without causing too much of a stir. He pulls out crumpled papers from his backpack. He starts to read a letter. "Misconduct, profanity, theft, harassment, for-- forr-- for-gory?"

Jay laughs as loud as he can. He pointed and taunted Igor before uttering a word. He tends to be theatrical at times. "It's forgery you retard. Don't you know what forgery means?"

"Oh, pff. whatever. This is all bullshit. I bet Trey has had a gun with him everyday at school."

Jay laughs, "Yeah, the kid's been to jail."

A secretary walks by the door. She opened the door, glares at Jay and firmly states, "You can sit in a chair."

Jay rolls his eyes and slowly moves off the desk.


I'm sitting with Mary, the attendance office assistant before work starts. I assumed the letter Igor was reading was in relation to Trey bringing a gun to school. I wanted to find out what actually happened.

"Hey, Mary, what's the deal with Trey having a gun?"

She is puzzled and asks, "What gun?"

I shook my head and shrugged. "Igor and Jay were talking about Trey bringing a gun to school."


The club doors opened. Students are filling in. The secretary walks into the club room as I'm signing bathroom passes. "Annie, can you come to the front office please?"

Igor and Jay are sitting in the principals office. They have on their normal clothes. Backpacks at their feet. Eyes watching the ground. A police man is in the room.

Mrs. Dowley, the vice principal, comes up to me. "The boys are being suspended for three days for false testimony about a fellow student bringing a gun to school. The police had to draw their guns on the student to see if he was armed. We just escorted the accused student's mother off of the campus. She was furious." Mrs. Dowley pauses. She looks at the police officer for affirmation. He gives her a nod. She then looked back at Jay's mother and me with poised conviction.

"In our society today we have to take extreme caution about something like this. It is unacceptable for students to make this type of claim, joking or not."

I calmly responded, "I understand your position and the seriousness of what they said, but the boys didn't mean any harm. I assumed there was an on-going investigation and that they were joking about it. If they knew he had a gun they wouldn't have acted in the same manner. Is there anyway their punishment could be less severe? They only have a week left of school and a lot of makeup work to do."

She shook her head no. The suspension paperwork was filled out.

The cop filed a report with Jay's mother. The cop asked Mrs. Dowley if Igor's parents have been notified.

Again, she shook her head no. "Unfortunately Igor's parents don't show up to things like this."

As I walk back to the club I look at Igor. "Iggy. This sucks. I am so sorry."

He glances my direction. He quietly responds, "It's okay. It's my fault. I shouldn't have said it."


Jay and Igor are going to miss a test on Tom Sawyer today. They had to memorize a vocabulary list. The words they are required to know tell a story of two boys running away, faking their death, lying, scheming, and causing a ruckus wherever they go.

1 comment:

  1. Annie,
    I love this. Not what happened but how you wrote it and that you wrote it. Read the book "Vernon God Little" if you get the chance.