To be a teacher is to sometimes find yourself on an emotional roller coaster you can’t quite remember queuing up for. One moment, you’re at the top, heartened by the excitement, the wide views, the suddenly expanded sense of the world. The next, you’re hurtling downward, fending off mutiny for daring to teach the difference between “their/they’re/there” in a college class. (The nerve of me.)
Using a mix of straightforward narrative, imagined conversations, inner monologues, and illustrations, Williams weaves together a tale of a novel teaching technique gone very wrong, and in so doing, reveals both his humor and himself in the process. …
“What’s that?” my daughter asks me, pointing to an illustration in her book.
“A vampire,” I say.
“And what can vampires do to you?”
I pause for a moment, calculating the right level of information to share given that she’s four and we’re ten minutes out from bedtime.
“They can bite people with their sharp teeth.”
“Oh,” she says, her eyes squinting, satisfied and not with my answer.
The next day we’re out for a walk.
“Why do vampires like to drink blood, Mama?”
“What do you mean, kiddo? Did you hear that somewhere?”
“Yeah, we were talking about it at school. And Daddy said so, too.” …
When I was six years old my grandmother took my cousin and me to Disneyland. I had been there before, but this time was different. This was a big kid trip. My cousin, seven years older than me, was not interested in “It’s a Small World” or “Dumbo” or “Peter Pan.” She had her own plan for the park: roller coasters.
Not long after making our way down Main Street, we said goodbye to my grandma, who preferred waiting to riding, and headed straight for Space Mountain. I had never been on a roller coaster before and I was terrified. My stomach whirred, my limbs felt floppy, and I wanted to run away every time the line inched forward. But I pretended everything was fine. I smiled and laughed. I feigned excitement. …