After the Bell
“Our schooling makes us brave or timid, adept socially or not; it makes us team players or selfish players. Children may understand the larger implications of their classes long before they can articulate their feelings. So remember, when you urge your children to hurry lest they miss the bus, you urge them toward a complicated future, much of which is subject to random luck.”—Jane Kenyon in After the Bell
“They said daydreaming was against the law, but some of us escaped, slipping out windows and over cyclone fences, some of us flying away with heads like balloons. We taught our dogs to love the flavor of homework and became expert forgers of our parents’ signatures. We knew they were teaching us how to die but some of us said no in our stealthy and stubborn ways.”—Vern Rutsala in After the Bell
The sixty-two short essays in After the Bell describe in many voices the emotional complexity and historical record of one experience most of us have in common: elementary and secondary school, from our ﬁrst day all the way to graduation twelve years later. Whether public or private, rural or urban, school is the ﬁrst place we navigate on our own, learning how we stand apart, how we stand out, and where we do—or don’t—fit in.
The essays are by emerging as well as established ﬁction writers, poets, social commentators, and educational theorists. Told from the point of view of students, teachers, parents, and administrators through the multiple perspectives of race, class, physical and intellectual abilities, and sexuality, the stories reveal how memories of our school days haunt and sustain us.
As Naomi Shihab Nye notes, “there will never be a last day of school.” That’s the good news and the bad news about our common experience. From the staunchly Lutheran brick schoolhouse of Garrison Keillor’s New Albion Academy in 1948 to Annie Thoms’s Manhattan high school at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, from Alberto Ríos’s confusion as a bilingual child in a monolingual classroom to Henry Louis Gates’s hard lessons in the segregated South, the essays in this funny, poignant, and stimulating collection capture the many public worlds of the school community as well as its idiosyncratic secrets.
from "Indian Education"
In the Art Room
The Invisible Boy in a Jock
Esther Royer Ayers
from "Feeling Different"
from How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir
My Time On Earth
Let's Move Our Chairs and Desks Around and See What We Can See
Here and Now We Are Walking Together
The Word according to Mr. Coosak
from The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey
from An American Childhood
from Firebird: A Memoir
Violet A. Dutcher
Learning Politics in the First Grade
The Day I Stopped Hating Cheerleaders
After the Facts: Poetry and the Sophomores
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
from Colored People: A Memoir
Does Not Use Free Time Wisely
from Milltown Natural: Essays and Stories from a Life
Wrestling Mr. Dietz
Ruth Ellen Hendricks
Professional Knowledge and Practice
Faith S. Holsaert
Friday Night Heroes
Lawson Fusao Inada
Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Portrait of a Poet as a Public School Kid
Dreams of Math
Jesse Lee Kercheval
from "Everything You Always Wanted to Know"
How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life
from Planet of the Blind
from The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography
from Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
I Am a Cloud: Revisited, or an Open Letter to My Third Grade Teacher
Kenneth A. McClane
The Mitchell Movement
from "Three Lessons"
Naomi Shihab Nye
Last Day of School
from The Blessing
Vivian Gussin Paley
from Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher's Story
Under the Guidance of Falling Petals
from "The Body of My Work"
The Music Teachers of St. Augustine's Elementary
Luis J. Rodriguez
from Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.
from "Some Shelter"
Some of Us
Scott Russell Sanders
The Real Questions
Susan Richards Shreve
from Tales Out of School: Contemporary Writers on Their Student Years
Theodore R. Sizer
from The Red Pencil: Convictions from Experience in Education
from "My Working-Class Education"
High School Baseball Tryouts
Judith Gold Stitzel
One of the Men in the White Coats
from With Their Eyes: September 11th—The View from a High School at Ground Zero
Before and After
Meredith Sue Willis
What I Learned in First Grade
Notes on Contributors