An Ode to Mary
After watching this episode, I felt like I just needed to take a hot second and love on Mary. While I like all the kids, Mary I love.
For the past three episodes we’ve seen someone like Kyle – who got kicked out of several schools, the last of which for punching a principal – give up at the drop of a hat. In this episode he comes to school hungover and admits to smoking something, which I suspect is weed. He fools around in class, doesn’t pay attention, and then blows up if anyone objects. As the head teacher, Scott, notes: Kyle is his own problem.
Mary has every reason to pull a Kyle – she’s 18, lives in South Central (and by the looks of it, alone); has a two-year-old son, Jermiah; her baby daddy is in prison and Mary has no idea when he’s getting out; his mom usually watches Jerimiah but for some reason can’t during that month of Dream School; she’s a high school drop out… the list goes on. Life stacked against Mary something fierce. But it turns out, Mary is fiercer.
So, without further ado, the top reasons I love Mary:
1. She has her priorities straight:
2. She sees the hell around her but instead of letting it depress her she uses it as motivation and fuel for her dreams. In the first episode, right before she’s about to take the first big test, Mary finds out two friends have died – one in a car accident and one by gunshot. But instead of using it as an excuse to get out of the test (something, I confess, I might’ve done) or give up, she takes the information in and turns it around into motivation.
3. Because she knows a cardinal rule: if you want to be treated as a grown up, act like one. In Episode Two, when Soledad O’Brien’s class is disrupted, Mary gets upset and gets everyone under control by pointing out the obvious:
4. People may say things about her, but not only does she know who she is, she is jacked up to prove them wrong. When she couldn’t find a babysitter for her son, she knew the others thought they wouldn’t see her again. But they were wrong.
5. She has no time for fooling around and won’t accept excuses. At one point in Episode 3, Kyle jerks around during Cliff Dorfman’s class – which is distracting and annoying. Especially so as Cliff is a cool guy and everyone else seems interested but cant focus due to Kyle’s antics. Kyle gets called out and does what Kyle does: stomps off in a huff and gets angry. Here’s Mary’s perfectly pitched reaction:
Later, when the head teacher, Scott, had to have a sit down with Heidi, who was refusing to participate in, well, anything, Mary saw the tough love talk for what it was.
6. Mary looks for inspiration in a glass-is-half-full kind of way. When Dr. Mae, the first female African-American astronaut, comes to teach a class, Mary notes:
7. And, in this vein, Mary doesn’t see roadblocks – she sees challenges to overcome.
8. Mary is all about keeping it moving. She may not like it, but if something has to be done to get from point A to point B, she will do it and not moan. She might not have wanted to sing in Swizz Beatz’s class – but she did, because:
And finally, Mary ends all phone calls and interactions with “Thank you” – even disappointing ones (“Can’t take my son? Okay, thank you”).
So, here’s to you, Mary. You should teach your own class at Dream School.
Watch the all new season of DREAM SCHOOL, Mondays 10pm.
Paula Froelich (@PFRO) – journalist, novelist, NATJA award-winning travel writer, queen of random, fun facts, and social anthropologist.