Way back when, back when I started out in my career as an Educational Professional, I could be found slogging away in an inner-city middle school, attempting each day, in my own little way, to elevate the minds of the squirmy and squirrely little 8th-graders entrusted to my care. I run into one or two of them every or so, now all shiny and grown up, and the fact that they are not drooling and picking at scabs tells me that I at least didn’t completely injure their fragile adolescent psyches. Too much.
Of course, there are the ones I don’t run into, but let’s move on, shall we?
The 8th-graders also took American history. So, at a certain time each year, their social studies teacher and I would team up to present them with a unit on the American Civil War. He would teach them about the politics, the battles, the Great Historical Characters…I would show them Gone with the Wind. I don’t know how I pulled that deal off, but it completely worked for me. So what if I had to watch it five times a day for five days? It’s not like I hadn’t already seen it 1,425 times before.
Generally, the kids loved it. It didn’t hurt that I was able to break it into 45-minute chunks, since many of my students had the attention span of a three-year old hopped up on Halloween candy (I’m looking at you, Sara Ramirez, wherever you are). All of them fell for Rhett Butler, the boys imitated his swagger and the girls just got all ootsey and weak in the knees every time he appeared on screen. The character of Ashley pretty much registered a zero, but that’s the point, isn’t it? As for Melanie, well she was “nice,” an adjective I usually abhor and forbid in essays and discussions, but…well, it’s Melanie, after all. I mean, c’mon. She is nice.
But then there’s Scarlett. I’ve always loved Scarlett…in the book, in the film…she’s plucky. She’s strong. She’s got spunk! How can anyone not love Scarlett?
“She’s conceited, Miss!”
I had plum forgot the greatest sin that can be perpetuated by a tweener…to be conceited. To my merry group of twelve and thirteen-year olds, Scarlett was the big sister you just hate! The one who steals your boyfriend and grabs all the white meat at a chicken dinner. Kids this age have a very rigid idea of what’s right and what’s wrong…in their minds, anyway.
I was taken aback. “But,” I responded, “she’s plucky! She’s got SPUNK!”
“She’s a user, Miss. And she’s conceited!”
No getting around that. And, if you’re of a certain age, that’s the death knell. Nothing is worse than being conceited. You may have to lie, steal, cheat, and kill, but you better not be conceited when you do it!
And try not to steal your sister’s boyfriend, OK? Even if he is that boring Frank Kennedy.