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  • Christina Fotinelli

Dear Maisie,

Four excruciatingly boring years into retirement ex ninth-grade school teacher, Hal Pryce discovers a delightful new pastime. He looks up his former star students online and gives them the 'report card' he never dared to when he was their teacher.

Dear Maisie,

A friendly missive from your old teach, Mr. Pryce. Remember me? You reported me for teaching To Kill A Mockingbird, The Crucible and The Catcher in the Rye. Do you know I was suspended without pay for two weeks? You claimed to find the material offensive and in your complaint you threw around words like blasphemous, mysoginistic, ableist. Words I swear you couldn't even pronounce let alone define or articulate why you objected to them in the context of those works.

Problematic characters out of step with modern times? Sure. Challening subject matter? Yup. Difficult reading? You bet. Insensitive words that are not in use today? Indeed. But outright censorship? Banning books because they don't suit the narrow views of someone who hasn't even cared to read them? Sorry, no way! That's not how education, free society and the development of critical thinking work, Maisie. The fact is that you could barely read at all (and not for any lack of trying on my part.) Believe me, when confronted with such vast ignorance I tried twice as hard but not even my best efforts could penetrate the cotton balls between your ears that pass for your brain cells... but in the eternal words of Holden Caulfield “I digress."

Attitude C-

There you were a 17-year-old ninth-grader, illiterate, inappropriately suggestive in your skimpy clothes, nasty in your demeanour to the kids you deemed yourself superior to and vicious to figures of authority who dared to commit the cardinal sin of trying to educate you.

Well Maisie, you have surpassed my expectations. At 23, I expected to find you incarcerated or dead but here you are on social media and very much alive. Thriving I would even dare to say. I remember you always wanted to travel. And look at you, you live in a trailer and your house has wheels. Dreams really do come true.

Life D

I count three children and another on the way, plus two mangy dogs and what looks to be a severely dehydrated hamster. I notice a minor improvement in your nutrition; the cans of soda pop that you guzzled so greedily in between classes have been replaced by cans of beer. I count 6 on the floor and another 2 on the table. Sugar is a bad source of energy, yeast is a better one.

Such sound nutritional choices are giving you all the hallmarks of aging gracefully, Maisie. I see a surfeit of grey hairs, a surplus of crows feet (presumably because you've spent so much time smiling about your good fortune) and if I zoom in, I can't really tell because the picture is grainy, but are you missing your right canine and both your incisers?

Work C-

I can also tell that you're developing yourself as a professional. If memory serves, down at the Diner yellow aprons are for bussers. So that puts you at what, $10 per hour + 15% of tips? Just a word of advice, if I can take the liberty, folks around here like their table to be set by a clean pair of hands. Judging by the state of your apron I recommend a good soak and a scrub... daily! Not only the apron, just go on and plunge yourself into the tub too, along with the apron and I have no doubt you'll be promoted in no time.

Final Grade D-

Although you were never a star student, especially considering you dropped out when you found out you had to repeat the ninth grade for the third time, by today's assessment I'm placing you solidly in D- territory.

You should have paid a bit more attention but it's never too late to educate the mind, even one as challenged as yours Maisie. To prove it I enclose a copy of The Crucible. This time, instead of judging it blindly, I hope you will read it because there's a cautionary tale in there for you. Of course, if you don't want to read it you can use it to prop up the leg of your sagging kitchen table or you can try trading it at the general store for a medium sized pack of chew. However, judging by the state of your oral health I'd say reading the book is safer for your life expectancy.

Your favorite teacher,

Mr. P

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