I OFTEN TELL PEOPLE . . .

gramophone

Emily Zdyrko

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​to​ ​sit​ ​down​ ​and​ ​shut​ ​the​ ​hell​ ​up.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​the​ ​more​ ​they​ ​behave​ ​like​ ​adults,​ ​the​ ​more​ ​I​ ​can​ ​treat​ ​them like​ ​adults.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​to​ ​put​ ​away​ ​their​ ​lip​ ​gloss,​ ​eyeshadow,​ ​lotion,​ ​perfume,​ ​body spray,​ ​gum,​ ​chips,​ ​candy,​ ​bacon​-​and​-​egg​ ​sandwiches,​ ​sunflower​ ​seeds,​ ​mirrors, homework​ ​for​ ​the​ ​next​ ​class,​ ​and​ ​cell​ ​phones.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​not​ ​an​ ​idiot,​ ​and​ ​they​ ​can​ ​put​ ​their​ ​cell​ ​phones​ ​away for​ ​real​ ​now.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​to​ ​indent​ ​their​ ​paragraphs.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​to​ ​double​ ​space.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​for​ ​god’s​ ​sake,​ ​they​ ​should​ ​get​ ​in​ ​the​ ​habit​ ​of​ ​using​ ​MLA format.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​to​ ​begin​ ​their​ ​essays​ ​with​ ​a​ ​hook,​ ​possibly​ ​consisting​ ​of​ ​an interesting​ ​question​ ​or​ ​idea​ ​related​ ​to​ ​their​ ​topic​ ​of​ ​choice.

“Have​ ​you​ ​ever​ ​wondered​ ​what​ ​the​ ​word​ ​‘society’​ ​means?”

“Have​ ​you​ ​ever​ ​wondered​ ​what​ ​the​ ​similarities​ ​and​ ​differences​ ​are between​ ​Huck​ ​Finn​ ​and​ ​Stanley​ ​Kowalski?”

“Have​ ​you​ ​ever​ ​wondered​ ​how​ ​regional​ ​geological​ ​differences​ ​affected​ ​the economic​ ​conditions​ ​that​ ​led​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Civil​ ​War?”

No,​ ​I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​never​ ​in​ ​my​ ​life​ ​wondered​ ​any​ ​of​ ​those things.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​things​ ​are​ ​ironic.

“It​ ​is​ ​ironic​ ​that​ ​Oedipus​ ​vows​ ​to​ ​hunt​ ​down​ ​the​ ​murderer—​because​ ​he does​ ​not​ ​know​ ​that​ ​the​ ​murderer​ ​is​ ​himself​.”

“It​ ​is​ ​ironic​ ​that​ ​Lady​ ​Macbeth​ ​asks​ ​the​ ​spirits​ ​to​ ​make​ ​her​ ​like​ ​a​ ​man, since​ ​she​ ​would​ ​have​ ​been​ ​played​ ​by​ ​a​ ​man​ ​in​ ​Elizabethan​ ​times.”

“It​ ​is​ ​ironic​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​in​ ​this​ ​room​ ​who​ ​seems​ ​concerned​ ​about your​ ​upcoming​ ​test,​ ​considering​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​also​ ​the​ ​only​ ​one​ ​who​ ​does​ ​not​ ​have​ ​to take​ ​it.”

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​they​ ​are​ ​using​ ​the​ ​word​ ​“ironic”​ ​incorrectly.

“It​ ​is​ ​not​ ​ironic​ ​that​ ​you​ ​got​ ​wet​ ​on​ ​your​ ​way​ ​to​ ​school.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​raining.”

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​things​ ​that​ ​are​ ​not,​ ​strictly​ ​speaking,​ ​true.

“You​ ​are​ ​really​ ​going​ ​to​ ​regret​ ​missing​ ​out​ ​on​ ​the​ ​lesson​ ​about​ ​quotation marks.”

“If​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​learn​ ​how​ ​to​ ​write​ ​a​ ​good​ ​essay,​ ​the​ ​New​ ​York​ ​City Department​ ​of​ ​Education​ ​will​ ​not​ ​let​ ​you​ ​graduate.”

“No​ ​we​ ​are​ ​not​ ​sitting​ ​around​ ​the​ ​teachers​ ​room​ ​talking​ ​about​ ​you.​ ​We have​ ​better​ ​things​ ​to​ ​do​ ​than​ ​that.”

“Of​ ​course​ ​I​ ​agree​ ​with​ ​the​ ​principal.​ ​I​ ​always​ ​agree​ ​with​ ​the​ ​principal.”

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​the​ ​truth,​ ​but​ ​tactfully.

“Your​ ​daughter​ ​has​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​potential,​ ​but​ ​it’s​ ​important​ ​for​ ​her​ ​to​ ​work​ ​on her​ ​social​ ​skills.”

“This​ ​essay​ ​has​ ​some​ ​good​ ​ideas,​ ​but​ ​you​ ​should​ ​be​ ​careful​ ​to​ ​spell​ ​the title​ ​of​ ​the​ ​book​ ​the​ ​same​ ​way​ ​every​ ​time​ ​you​ ​mention​ ​it​.”

Sometimes​ ​I​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​the​ ​truth,​ ​not​ ​tactfully​ ​at​ ​all.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​if​ ​they​ ​lean​ ​back​ ​in​ ​their​ ​chairs​ ​far​ ​enough​ ​and​ ​often enough,​ ​they​ ​will​ ​almost​ ​certainly​ ​fall,​ ​and​ ​I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​I​ ​do​ ​not​ ​want​ ​to have​ ​to​ ​explain​ ​to​ ​the​ ​dean​ ​or​ ​to​ ​their​ ​parents​ ​that​ ​their​ ​daughter​ ​cracked​ ​her head​ ​open​ ​in​ ​English​ ​class​ ​because​ ​she​ ​was​ ​leaning​ ​back​ ​in​ ​her​ ​chair,​ ​because damn,​ ​that​ ​is​ ​stupid.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​things​ ​more​ ​than​ ​once.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​things​ ​more​ ​than​ ​once.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​pretty​ ​sure​ ​they​ ​have​ ​no​ ​idea​ ​what​ ​I​ ​just​ ​said,​ ​even though​ ​I​ ​know​ ​I​ ​said​ ​it​ ​more​ ​than​ ​once.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​annoying.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​boring.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​mean.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​too​ ​nice.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​they​ ​definitely​ ​did​ ​turn​ ​in​ ​their​ ​assignment,​ ​it’s​ ​just that​ ​my​ ​email​ ​must​ ​not​ ​be​ ​working​ ​very​ ​well,​ ​but​ ​maybe​ ​if​ ​I​ ​give​ ​it​ ​a​ ​few​ ​days​ ​the email​ ​will​ ​magically​ ​show​ ​up.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​I’m​ ​a​ ​saint

But​ ​that​ ​I​ ​get​ ​too​ ​much​ ​vacation.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​that​ ​they​ ​could​ ​never,​ ​ever​ ​do​ ​my​ ​job,​ ​let​ ​alone​ ​do​ ​it

well—

But​ ​people​ ​who​ ​do​ ​it​ ​badly​ ​should​ ​be​ ​punished.

Sometimes​ ​people​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​about​ ​their​ ​own​ ​teachers

Who​ ​are​ ​usually​ ​heroes​ ​or​ ​villains​ ​in​ ​their​ ​stories.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​like​ ​neither.

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​to​ ​conclude​ ​their​ ​essays​ ​by​ ​restating​ ​the​ ​main​ ​idea,​ ​and​ ​giving it​ ​a​ ​new​ ​spin,​ ​maybe​ ​by​ ​making​ ​a​ ​critical​ ​statement​ ​or​ ​a​ ​new​ ​connection.

“In​ ​the​ ​end,​ ​Huck​ ​Finn​ ​and​ ​Stanley​ ​are​ ​both​ ​characters​ ​in​ ​American Literature.”

“Ultimately,​ ​everyone​ ​is​ ​a​ ​tragic​ ​hero​ ​in​ ​his​ ​or​ ​her​ ​own way.”

“Society​ ​is​ ​still​ ​important​ ​today.”

I​ ​often​ ​tell​ ​people​ ​that​ ​a​ ​conclusion​ ​is​ ​the​ ​hardest​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​essay​ ​to​ ​write.

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Copyright © 2019 by Emily Zdryko

EMILY ZDYRKO is an English teacher at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music, Art, and the Performing Arts. In her spare time she acquires shoes and degrees in English. A New York City native, she lives on the Upper West Side with Calypso, her semi-feral immigrant cat.