A few days ago I finished reading Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I’ve personally read the play “the diary of Anne Frank” a few times as a student and have now taught it several times as a teacher; but this was the first time I read the diary – from which the play was based – itself. Having said that, I knew the story, as it is fairly common knowledge – Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, spends two years in hiding with her family in order to avoid be arrested in Nazi-occupied Holland – but I was surprised at how much the play glossed over some of the real-life facts. Granted, the play would have to leave out some details for the sake of time, but I think that the play does so to a point that it doesn’t do Anne Frank – the young girl or her thoughts and experiences in hiding – justice.
3 things prompted me to read the diary at this time: One, As a teacher on summer break, I have the time. Two, Anne Frank and her experiences have been discussed in two movies I recently re-watched: Freedom Writers and The Fault in Our Stars (both based on books themselves). Three: While teaching the play this past spring, I had a student ask me “What is the big deal about this book?” I thought the answer was so self-evident that I struggled to even answer it.
I’m not going to try and critique the diary or say anything new about it. Countless other critics and historians who are far more articulate than I am have done that. Rather, I want to point out some difference between the play The Diary of Anne Frank and the original work The Diary of a Young Girl.
Some of the things that stuck out with me:
- the extent of frustration Anne felt with both her mother and her father. This is not so surprising to hear from a teenager, but the play glosses over Anne’s clashes with her mother and virtually ignores her growing disconnection with her father.
- Anne’s burgeoning sexuality and the fluidity of it. The play addresses the courtship of Anne and Peter, but completely ignores Anne’s innermost personal thoughts and curiosities about members of the same sex.
- The sheer monotony of life inside the Secret Annex. The Anne Frank of the play talks of life in the Annex as if it is some adventure. While in the diary Anne does at times romanticize her time in the Annex, she makes sure to address the sheer monotony of life there.
- the hardships that come along with living in forced isolation: having to remain silent out of fear of being discovered; being forced to eat the limited food options available, never being able to go outside, as a young person, growing out of the few clothes – among others.
If I could have a conversation with that one student who asked me “What is the big deal about this book?” I would probably tell them this:
The Diary of Anne Frank was written by a girl who was your age (or close to it) and tells of her first-hand experiences trying to survive through perhaps the greatest atrocity in human history – The Holocaust. It is a story about a young person going through a lot of the same hopes, fears, dreams and anxieties as yourself. From a historical point-of-view, The Diary… is the great primary-source about life in Nazi-occupied Europe. For millions of people worldwide, it has been the gateway into learning about the Holocaust. And finally, it well-written personal journal by an extremely gifted writer who was cut down way before her time.
I don’t normally talk about stuff like this on this blog, but I have toyed with the idea of having a “Rob’s Book club” type feature on here for some time.
The pressures of teaching all caught up with me yesterday: Coming in late in the school year, getting to know the kids, their backgrounds, the pressures they fact and the expectations placed upon them – or in some cases lack thereof; report card grades coming up and preparing for my first formal evaluation all hit me with the force of a Mack truck.
I literally worried myself sick.
The truth is, I
think know that I have dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. Even as a kid, people told me I was a “worry wart”. I was so intimidated by my second grade teacher that I worked my stomach into a tizzy throughout that entire school year. A few years ago, I was prescribed anti-depressants which may have fixed a short-term problem, only to hide something I’ve been dealing with all my life, namely anxiety.
Yesterday was my breaking point. Enough is enough, I decided. Yesterday was the last time I will ever allow myself to make myself sick. I’m seeing my family doctor in two days, which makes me feel better about things.
The one thing I’ve always said, even when I had my teaching job down South is that education programs do not prepare teachers for the psychological aspects of teaching. It’s not an easy job. Teachers take their work home with them every single night. their kids become a part of their everyday lives. Sure you get weekends and summers off, but you don’t get to take long lunches, or cut out early or even go to the bathroom whenever you fee like. I know this may sound like whining, and maybe it is, but I’m ranting.
Wow! It has been way too long since I’ve last written!
A lot has been going on and I haven;t really allowed myself a chance to come up for air; and when I’ve had down-time, I’ve chosen to do nothing with it.
About 3 weeks ago, I flew The Kid up to Michigan to spend a week with me. Yes, I was entitled to a whole month with him but with me starting a new job recently, I didn’t think any more time off wold have been very realistic. It was some time well-spent between The Kid and I. He had a meltdown when he and I were visiting with the Auteur, and it became a turning point. It led to Jabba and I having probably the best, longest, most honest discussion since our separation.
We made plans to conduct Facetime discussions among the fours of us: Me, The Auteur, the Kid and Jabba. So far, we’ve done only one so I am skeptical about the prospect of doing more.
This past Tuesday I learned that the state has re-certified me to teach in Michigan! I knew it was coming, but it was still a great feeling. It has been a long time coming. Not just for the time that I’ve been back in Michigan, but even for the few years that I bounced around from job-to-job in South Carolina. I feel vindicated, but it’s going to seem pretty hollow if I don’t land a teaching job soon.
As for the present, this weekend is the 48 hour film festival. This year, The Auteur decided to head up her own team and asked me to help write. I was very flattered that she asked me to be a part of it and I think that the others writers and I came up with a pretty cool script, if I may say so myself. I’m dying to see how the story evolves through the creative process: Me and two other writers wrote. As director, the Auteur has he own take on how she reads the script and what she wants to see on the screen. In turn, her director of photography is the person who actually films the movie. Finally, there’s the actors themselves who are the physical manifestations of the characters we’ve put to the page. and i cannot forget the post-production crew, who takes the pieces we’ve all built and puts together a movie from them. It’s all very fascinating and all very new to me. No doubt I will have more to say about it in the days ahead.
Clearly this is a lot to be glossing over. I’m sure that I will be going into more detail in the entries that will follow…
Today I substitute taught at a juvenile correctional facility.
I had heard about the facility a while ago, and i was tempted to fill-in there but it wasn’t until I talked to some teachers at another local school that I really thought i’d give it a try.
Like a lot of people, I was nervous to go there. I was intimidated by the fact that the kids there are…incarcerated. But the more I heard about it, the more intrigued I was: small class sizes, no possibility of snow days, kids whose very freedom depends on their cooperation with authority. From what I could see, these weren’t bad kids. they are kids who did some really dumb, or even bad things; but they themselves did not seem like bad people.
I played basketball with the boys’ PE class. It was probably the one time of the day that they are allowed outside and the closest thing they currently have to a sense of freedom. I’ve never been much of a basketball player. I’ve always lacked the coordination for the sport; but I wanted to connect with the kids. I actually scored 8 points.
The entire day was a very…humbling experience. It really helped me put a lot of things into perspective. Concerns and stressors that I’ve had lately suddenly didn’t quite so important. The kids with whom i worked were pretty much stripped down to the basics – literally. These are young people who have lost their freedom. The experience mad me not only appreciate the small things; but it also made me realize that things currently can and will work out .
Naturally, seeing these young people there naturally got me thinking about The Kid and hoping that he stays out of trouble. Given the chance, I would most certainly work at this facility again.