9th Grade Diversity Workshop
Richmond, VA – Mr. Kannemeyer is a teacher and a poet, and the short short story genre appealed to him because of its crispness and its briskness... the snapshot momentariness of it.
9th Grade Diversity Workshop was inspired by a few lines left on Mr. Kannemeyer's classroom whiteboard.
9th Grade Diversity Workshop Report, by Casey, Martha P., Martha V., & Josephine
Q1. 8 ways our group is alike
~ We like boys.
~ We all have or once had braces except Josephine.
~ All of us are tall except Josephine.
~ We all hope lunch is pizza.
~ We concur that Casey's little pointy gold heels today are awesome
~ We still like being barefoot better.
~ We're the Co-Worst Procrastinator Ever (but I'm berworst!!!)
~ We're all called Casey or Martha except Josephine (kidding!)
Q2. 8 ways we're different
1. Aged six, Casey saw her grandmother's ghost, standing over her bed. They'd shared the room, so her presence felt ordinary as if in the night one might naturally, sometimes, half-wake in "the forever place", where time hoards its best stuff. [Like Hank slobbering over Casey's sneaker ] So Casey mumbled hello, fell back asleep, and never saw her grandmother again; but now she knows that place is there, outside time, where nothing's lost; whereas we don't know that at all, we come from planet Earth; but Casey, your planet sounds very sweet.
2. Because P. is the only non-blonde [non-paleface, black/slash/Pamunkey] person in our foursome, she knows "in a different way" what this exercise is about. [Which the others won't get, no matter how she "helps".] So she'd rather we talk. [She'll listen.]
3. Josephine is the only only child. She had a sister, once. She died, Josephine barely remembers her. Her name was Marian. [And Josephine was Josie. But her dad said, You're the big kid now.]
4. Although people call the Marthas the twins, because, duh, they're physical opposites, best friends, and both named "Martha", V. comes from up north, and still thinks of herself as the outsider. [And wonders how she'd have made it, had P. not adopted her. She's a big-boned 5' 11"; at her old school she tried to hide but wasn't good at it; she was the kid kids were mean to. Here, personality-wise, thanks to P., she's pretty much unrecognizable as that girl. Except, of course, to her secret, well-hidden self.]
5. Casey wants to talk about religion. She wonders what makes her "forever place" so funny: haven't we heard of Heaven? Casey actually likes church; ask her. The rest of us do not want to talk about religion.
6. Josephine supposes she's the only non-virgin. The Marthas aren't buying this without details [which Casey prays they won't goad her into]. V. asks was it diverse or segregated, was he white, black or other? The Marthas laugh. Sorry, says Josephine, strike that, someone else go. P. asks, Friend, stranger, or relative, and they laugh. Josephine bites her lip [he's a shadow in her door; she clenches her eyes; he's the dark inside her lids]. Casey says, Ew.
7. V. doesn't watch television; the others say nor do they, much! Which sparks a debate about what she so should watch [But her mind has drifted, to something her mom said. That for people who have gotten where they are by being socially exclusive for whom exclusivity is a brag inclusivity just isn't desirable. "The trick for them, Martha, is more to seem to be open to diversity; to believe they are; but not be. " Well, sometimes. Maybe. But mostly Martha's less cynical. Martha has faith in people. Faith matters. ] Scratch the TV, she says. Put we're a Catholic, a Methodist, an Episcopalian, and an atheist. Oh, says Josephine, am I the only Christian?
8. Y'all, focus! says Martha P. [Come on, she thinks, one more difference and we're done!]
-- Derek Kannemeyer teaches at St. Catherine's School in Richmond.