Friday, 20 September 2013


      Today in the seventh grade we read an excerpt from Gary Paulsen's work How Angel Peterson Got His Name, a non-fiction book of his memoirs. You may know Gary Paulsen from his Newbery Medal winning book Hatchet, which Mrs. Shirley Baldwin read to me and my class in the second grade. We read the bit entitled "Girls" which details thirteen-year-old Paulsen's first awkward encounters with girls and his nerve-wracking first date. Obviously it is one of the best pieces we read all year, mostly because I make the boys read it and it is just so much fun to watch them squirm and protest the subject matter. "Ms. Gabriel, you can't make us read this!"

Oh, yes, I can.

Paulsen describes the painful experience--his ridiculous get-up, the waxed hair, his sweaty shoes and clammy palms, his dead buffalo impersonation, how he keeps offering his poor date movie theatre sweets. At this point in the story, I make a joke. "Yeah, he probably said, 'Would you like an M&M? Melts in your mouth, not in your...nevermind."
A silence falls across the room. Glassy stares.
Then, a light.
Abel straightens in his seat. "Ooooooooh," he says, "I get it. That's funny."
The penny drops for a few more of them. They laugh sheepishly. A few clap, nodding in a sort of pleased defeat. Well played, Ms. Gabriel. Well played.
"Thank you. You're a great audience. I'll be here 'til Friday."  

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