During the last week of September, gang activities have been occurring frequently. A stabbing and a shooting happened on the same day. Little decides to integrate the events that happened with their discussion of The Crucible. She is impassioned by ethical issues and wants her class to realize that there’s a little of all of them in each of them.
Miesha was only four years old when her 15-year old brother Raymond started taking care of her. Their father lived in Texas while their mother worked as a bus driver in Los Angeles. Raymond made a vow to become the parent that Miesha truly needed. It was his desire to raise his sister well. He took charge of showing her the importance of school and respecting her teachers. During her last year of elementary school Miesha grew rebellious. Raymond had already moved out and was no longer around to serve as a buffer between Miesha and their mother. Miesha moved to Texas to live with their father and stepmother. During the ninth grade Miesha returned and enrolled to Crenshaw and Raymond assumed the role of her surrogate once again to help her down the right path. Despite being small girl, she had a lot of attitude, never backing down from fights. She was almost kicked out of Little’s class because of her behavior, but she promised that she’ll change for the better and kept that promise. However, Miesha experienced hardship when her mother sank into debt. She had to work two jobs but still managed to retain straight As; ranking fourth in the class during her junior year. By her senior year, she was a candidate for valedictorian.
Little has a one-sided battle against the head of the English Department, Anita Moultrie, with Little being the constant aggressor. They share the task of teaching English in Crenshaw and have to work together to make an effective four-year plan for the students. They’re polar opposites and have contrasting views on teaching. White men and women—no black authors, write all the literary pieces discussed in Little’s class. She believes that her students should learn about their culture at home or in church. Moultrie discusses classic pieces in her class as well, but she makes it a point to include pieces from black authors for her students. She wants her students to leave her classes with more than just literature and grammar.
Moultrie reveals to the author that she and her husband run the largest black-owned party company in Southern California. She motivates her 11th grade class to strive hard to excel in school, because they are the ones responsible for improving their own lives. She teaches them how to communicate during job interviews. During her next class, Moultrie wants to discuss The Scarlet Letter in a historical context. She tried to draw parallels at how Americans treated the Indians and other examples of oppression in history. She warns her class and asks them to choose their friends carefully.
Her discussions consists of points wherein they remind the students of what their ancestors went through during the early years, and how they overcame slavery and racism so that they could live freely. It told them that they needed to fight in order to get out of their situations.
Aside from being a teacher and running a business with her husband, Moultrie is a mother of five, with her youngest at 8 months old. She is a well-organized person and wants her students to emulate her example. The assignments that she provides to her students are unconventional but relatable to their personal experiences and views. While Moultrie treats her classroom as a sanctuary for the students, Little is different and sees it as something that’s akin to a college course.
Before Moultrie started teaching at the gifted magnet program, Little had complete control and autonomy on how AP English classes should go. Little viewed Moultrie as someone who was sabotaging her and feels that it’s something personal. A student walked in to Braxton’s office and told him about how Little criticized Moultrie’s way of teaching. He massaged his temples and thought that this is his most stressful September.
Note: The first part of the book was a great opener for the lives of those in Crenshaw High School. The students’ childhood years and their aspirations for the future were also covered extensively. It also provided an insight to the feud between Little and Moultrie.