Themes For English B AUTOGRAPHEDby Wicked Good Books $ 28.95
J. D. Scrimgeour was featured at the 2019 Salem Literary Festival!
In Themes for English B a teacher ponders the nature of meaningful learning, both in and beyond the classroom. J. D. Scrimgeour contrasts his Ivy League education to the experiences of his students at a small public college in a faded, gritty New England city. What little Scrimgeour knows of the burdens his students bring to class―family crises, dead-end jobs, overdue bills―leaves him humbled. Fighting disenchantment with the ideals of higher education, Scrimgeour writes, "How much I owe these students, how much I have learned. They know the score; they know they are losing by a lot before the game even begins, and they shrug, as if to say, 'What am I supposed to do, cry?'"
Scrimgeour's obligations to his students and his hopes for them glance off each other and sometimes collide with the realities of the classroom: the unread assignments and the empty desks. Is there too great a student-teacher divide? Can Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, or any other writer Scrimgeour teaches have something to say to a single mother with a full course load, two jobs, a sick kid, and a broken car? Yes, it turns out, and it is magic when it happens.
The pupil inside the teacher emerges when Scrimgeour finds unexpected occasions for his own ongoing education. Pickup basketball games at a local park become exercises in improvisation, in finding new strengths to compensate for age and injury. His collaboration on a word-and-movement performance piece with a colleague, a dancer mourning the death of a beloved niece, leads him into unfamiliar creative terrain.
A routine catch on a baseball field long ago, a challenged student in a grade school writing workshop, a yellowed statue of education pioneer Horace Mann: each memory, each encounter, forces revisions to a life's lesson plan. Scrimgeour's achingly honest, intimate essays offer clear-eyed yet compassionate accounts of the trials of learning.