Letter to Ed, from Grambling

Written by Jane Ellis Morrow, Jane Trigère’s mother, during her time teaching at Grambling State University, Louisiana
Click here to view her other writings.

A classroom writing assignment, in a class of Juniors and Seniors, produced, rather to my surprise, a description of me by almost every member of the class. It was quite unsettling to spend the afternoon reading descriptions of myself. And it was even more unsettling to read the quality of prose they produced.

I am sending you some verbatim excerpts which may amuse you, and perhaps also distress you.

“Very unique in her skills, strange in a sense, a very understanding person she is.” “A very vigorous and cheerful smile she has. Makes one feel at ease in her company rather than uneasy.” (Almost everyone mentioned the smile. I wonder if their other instructors glower at them.) “She is a Caucasian with a slender nose.” “Mrs. Morrow is a lady with a very smooth brown complexion. Through the years she has obtained a slight thickness around the middle.” “Mrs. Morrow is a middle-aged lady who loves poetry.” “She is a female in her late thirties. She has a deep voice that’s quite pleasant.” “Seems to want to help you all she can so that we may one day really become somebody.” “She smiles easy and has a clean tongue for speaking.” (That I must say was my favorite.) “She has very shiny eyes, sort of like a cat’s eyes at night.” “She has a gold neclas [sic] around her neck and sometimes wears a pair of brown glasses.” “She has what appeared to be blue eyes that blended in with what seen to be a professional look face, when she smiled.” (Verbatim.) “Mrs. Morrow is a beautiful and down to earth person.” “Very strange lady sitting in front of the classroom with a brown dress on, long hair.” “Mrs. Morrow is a female wearing a brown and white poka-dotted [sic] dress. She is a white lady with brown hair.” “Unlike most teachers, Mrs. Morrow has a pleasing personality and is most understanding.” “By my knowing her for only a short while, she seem to me to be a very likeable [sic] woman.”

I have a complete range of students in every class — from those who could do well at Barnard or Berkeley to those I can only describe as semi-literate. This makes for interesting teaching problems. What do you do when you have in the same class students with superior command of language and those like one who said to me during a conference, “I writes good, but…”? The great aid I have is the great courtesy and close attention — close, as I have seldom seen in a classroom — of, so far, all the students. I love the eyes, so intent, so seeking, with an occasional blaze of wonderment of scepticism [sic], following me as if in a sense they were hearing through their eyes. I leave every class quite high from the experience, but gnawing my lip because such attention seems to deserve perfect teaching, and I am certainly not giving them that.

This is by far the hardest job I have ever had and by far the most interesting. I talked to colleague the other day who is writing her PhD. dissertation in Education. I asked her if the teachers’ colleges know the answers to certain of my problems, and what sort of courses they were found in. “They don’t know the answers,” she replied. “You will have to find them yourself.”

Dear Ed, More reports from Abroad. This is no job for the faint-hearted; the least I can conscientiously spend is about 60 hours a week, not counting the reading. But I like these students so much. I have hopes they will learn from me – great hopes. If you can’t write, send clippings.

Love, Jane