Noah and Junior High

“Everybody get out a pencil and piece of paper and write a poem about peace.” Mrs. Fried gave the command to a junior high class back in the eighties. Darron Aronofsky, director of the movie Noah, described her as a “magical teacher” on CBS This Morning on March 29, 2014. I rewound the interview several times to be sure I heard and recorded it right.

Darron dutifully wrote his poem about Noah, though I have no idea how he connected it with peace. He entered and won a contest with the poem and from that point saw himself as a writer. Thirty-two years later, he became the director of the movie.  Thinking that he needed to honor the teacher who put him on this track, he looked her up and cast her in a scene with Russell Crowe. This was a story to warm a retired junior high teacher’s heart until her picture came up. He cast her as a one-eyed crone! She gets maybe thirty seconds of time in the movie.

I think I did better with the junior high student who wrote me a recommendation to send to the selection committee when I was nominated for Teacher of the Year. He did characterize me as a “sorceress” and said I taught him to “soak my writings as well as my decisions in a deep cauldron of thought to rid them of mistakes.” His accompanying portrait was a good likeness, embellished with a sorceress ruff and a wand.

With this connection, I had to see the movie. It was a creative telling of the story with a passing nod at the Noah of the Bible and none at all to the Sunday school version where the animals line up gently two by two to march into the ark. Truth to tell, you’ll get closer to that in Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Unicorn.” The Lord in his quest for two of everything said, “Noah, don’t you forget my Unicorn,” but the unicorns kept playing silly games out in the driving rain until Noah had to close the door because “We just can’t wait for them Unicorn.” The poet’s conclusion was, “You’ll see catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born, you’re never gonna see no Unicorn.”

Mrs. Fried lived up to the standard for junior high teachers everywhere and portrayed the stereotype of an old crone, as they are often seen by students – at least until they’re mature enough to appreciate what they’re learning. I’m sure Mrs. Fried is proud of the success of her student as I am. You may wonder what happened to him. He’s making a name for himself in the field of graphic arts. My story – and I’m sticking to it – is that he got his start when he drew pictures in his corner desk during class discussions and impartations of great wisdom from his teacher.