I'm totally taking it easy this afternoon. Going back into the vaults for today's post. This Classic Saint Marty originally aired on April 28, 2011, at the end of a long semester of teaching. I also have a new cartoon for you guys.
Saint Marty's going to eat dinner now. As Julia Child said, "Bon appetit!"
April 28: Final Exam, Saint Peter Chanel, New Poem
I gave my last final exam of the semester this morning. It really
wasn't a final exam. I gave that to my class last week. Today, I
simply handed back all of their graded papers and quizzes and tests.
One student, however, did take the exam today. He wasn't able to take
it last week because he had to travel downstate for a funeral.
Therefore, he showed up and took it today.
In general, I
think exams are a waste of time. They don't really test knowledge.
They simply test a student's ability to memorize and regurgitate facts
on a piece of paper. I'm really good at that sort of thing. I'm the
king of useless knowledge. If you're playing Trivial Pursuit, you want
me on your team. In most of the courses I teach (which are writing
courses), however, final exams are pointless. That being said, I did
give a final exam in my Good Books class this semester.
of the books I selected for this class had something to do with hope. I
was trying to develop my students' thinking about maintaining hope in a
world without hope. We read The Lovely Bones, The Color Purple, Mr. Ives' Christmas, Hiroshima, and The Road.
Each of these works deals, in some way, with the idea of hope. At the
end of our last class last week, I told my students they were all full
of hope. One of the more jaded of the group said, "I think hope is
unrealistic. Hope doesn't really accomplish anything." I stood there
for a second, dumbfounded. I couldn't believe I was hearing this from
the mouth of an eighteen-year-old.
Today's saint, Peter
Chanel, was born in Belley, France, in 1803. After becoming a priest,
he was sent as a missionary to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific.
When he arrived there, landing on the island of Futuna, Peter was very
successful in converting the locals, including the son of the king. The
king, in retaliation, sent warriors to capture Peter. The king's
warriors caught Peter Chanel and clubbed him to death. However, "within
five months [of his death] the entire island was converted to the
Faith." In the face of tremendous opposition, Peter's message of hope
continued to spread and bring people to God.
student made his statement, I stood silent for a moment. Then I said,
"Well, if you don't believe in hope, you might as well go home right
now." The student looked at me, confused. I smiled at him. "Why do
you come to class? In the hope of getting a degree. Why do you want a
degree? In the hope of getting a job. Why do you want a job? In the
hope of earning money. Why do you want to earn money? In the hope of
buying a house or car, starting a family, having a good life." I
paused. "If you think hope is unrealistic, you should quit college, go
home, buy a lifetime supply of Cheetos, sit on the couch, and spend the
rest of your life watching Dancing With the Stars and American Idol.
You might as well become an alcoholic and drug addict, as well. Have
some fun before you die." My student stared at me, red-faced. "Look," I
said, quietly, "we all have hopes and dreams. They're what keep us
moving and living." My hope-less student nodded.
Peter Chanel believed in hope. So do I.
Saint Marty promised you a poem. Here it is. He prays you find hope in your heart tonight.
I watch this student take
His final exam, hunched over
His desk, Ticonderoga No. 2 moving
Like a Geiger counter needle
Across the page as he answers
My essay question. I want
To tell him it doesn't matter,
This hour-long effort to earn
An "A" in my course called
Good Books. Whether he makes
The Dean's List or not, he won't
Win back the friendship
Of the boy he loved in high school
Who broke my student's nose
When my student confessed
His feelings. He won't bring
His mother back from Florida,
Where she ran after her psych meds
Failed and she saw Hitler
Buying cabbage at Walmart.
I'm lonely, my student wrote
In his journal. I have no
Friends. My family's shit.
My test will not change
Any of these things. Yet,
My student writes and writes,
In search of acceptance,
Praise, the perfect 4.0 life.
The final question I ask him
Is simple: What have you learned
About hope in this class?
Confessions of Saint Marty