The SMITH Diaries Project

Reading Siddhartha in Oakland Archive

Goodbye, Mr. Thompson

Monday, July 24th, 2006

The night for the eighth grade dance arrives and, never having attended a school function before, curiosity inspires my wife and I to attend. Young ladies in silky evening gowns totter on high heels beneath an illuminated floral archway to join the suited boys, invariably shorter, at circular tables around a temporary dance floor in [...]

Growing Pains

Monday, July 17th, 2006

Six black girls dance to a rap track in the middle of the classroom, while three Latino boys fumble with a digital video camera. Another 15 students sit idly around the classroom perimeter, some asleep, others watching a DVD on television, while still others walk aimlessly in and out of the room. While I try [...]

Oaktown Tweens Get Hyphy In Da Classroom

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

A few days before I left on paternity leave, an African-American teenager ran down the street in front of my school firing a gun in the air. Cops were soon patrolling the school grounds, and a television news helicopter flew overhead, eager to see if Oakland’s double-digit homicide rate had risen again.
Luckily it hadn’t, and [...]

Hello Class, My Name is Mr. Thompson (Dawg)

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

“Wassup Mister Thompson my nigger.” A 14-year-old black girl offers her clenched fist to mine in a gangster salute. I think she has a crush on me. Must be the English accent.
I’ve been teaching English literature to 11th and 12th graders at Wilson Prep, a public high school in Oakland, CA, for six months. I [...]

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