Awards English Careers Society Wide

With Mirth in Funeral: A Lesson from the Start of a P.C. Somerville Teacher’s Career

A small sampling of the delicacies my students will be devouring this year
A small sampling of the delicacies my students will be devouring this year.

Laura WilliamsLaura Williams
Alpha Mu Gamma Chapter
Rockhurst University
Kansas City, MO

It was a dark and rainy Thursday as I slogged my way up the steps of Bishop Ward High School. I pulled up the blinds in my room, revealing a roaring, pitch-black world. Perfect. I made a passable lectern by stacking a stubby podium on a desk and shrouding it with a cardigan. I fanned out a bouquet of raven-colored roses on top of the cloth and added the finishing touches—a pink and cream conch shell and a framed picture of Piggy. A funeral march wafted softly from my speakers as I headed into the hall to welcome students to my first class of the day, Honors Sophomore English.

The lectern and display for the memorial service
The lectern and display for the memorial service.

After morning announcements, I walked up to the lectern, exchanged solemn gazes with my students, and began: “Friends, we are gathered here today to mourn the loss of a true, wise friend called Piggy. Piggy was wise beyond his years, of which there were all too few.” I produced a Kleenex box I’d hidden in the podium and dabbed my eyes before continuing. “Piggy believed in a better world, a wiser world, a world in which novels written about the theme of savagery vs. civilization would end with civilization proving victorious. He gave his life pursuing that vision. Rest in peace, Piggy.”

The students broke into applause as I stepped back from the podium. Surprised, I swept a grateful bow. So far, so good. Now it was time to reveal the assignment. When I told my students that they would share their own words for Piggy later in the lesson, there were shy shrinking-backs, nervous glances, and the obligatory do-I-have-to?’s. However, my scholars rose to the challenge. One by one, they stepped up to the podium and took the stage.

A small sampling of the delicacies my students will be devouring this year
A small sampling of the delicacies my students will be devouring this year.

If I had any doubts about whether Lord of The Flies was having an impact, they were laid to rest by the humorous and heartfelt eulogies my students shared. The first student quoted a Fall Out Boy song, promising that Piggy would be remembered for centuries. A few confessed that they had found him annoying at first but had grown to love him. They commended him for his intelligence and perseverance and lamented the bullying that had dogged his days. One student even said that Piggy was one of the best and bravest characters he has ever read about. The second the final speaker returned to her seat, a thunderclap shook the room. I may be an English major, but the timing was beyond words. My students and I savored the perfection in awed silence. For all the time that goes into lesson planning, the best moments are often the ones I could never anticipate. As I continue my work as an educator, I greatly look forward to sharing more times like these with my students.

Bishop Ward High School
Bishop Ward High School

First, I would like to thank my exceptional students for their creativity and energy (and for allowing me to get away with eccentric lessons, like memorial services for fictional characters). I also want to thank my esteemed colleagues at Bishop Ward High School for welcoming me to the Cyclone Family. Next, I want to thank my friends, family, and professors for encouraging me on my journey to a classroom of my own. A huge thank you goes out to Sigma Tau Delta for supporting my academic work on both sides of the desk. To close, thank you, dear reader. I hope your year is filled with both glorious words and with moments so perfect that they are beyond words!

About the Somerville Awards For Future Teachers

Laura Williams received the P.C. Somerville Teaching Award ($2,000) for the academic year. Named in honor of Sigma Tau Delta’s first President, applications for the Somerville Awards are currently being accepted from active undergraduate members who will begin their first year of teaching elementary, middle, or high school English by September 2015.

The deadline for the Somerville Awards and other academic scholarships and awards is November 10, 2014.

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