Ruta: Kit Masters
The life of an artist is not always that simple and the feelings expressed by the painter, artist, sculpture are often depicted within the pastels, paints, watercolors or charcoal used to create the images, structures or events that the artist creates on the canvas. As you hear the voice of this author and understand his rationale for his work, the reasons he singled out certain paintings of the masters he will blend his own thoughts, his life, that of others that he came in contact with in this unique novel that teaches many lessons in life about children, hardships and much more: Meet Ruta and hear the words of author Kit Masters.
Everyone wants to be accepted and fit in with not only his or her peers but with society too. Teens face extra-added pressure placed on them by those they encounter in the social media, teachers and parents that require they follow rules and adhere to rigorous schedules. The author relates his feelings and firsthand experiences about his tutoring and how those starting out are idealistic and hopeful and later realize that things change, rules are defected and hopefully some students will be successful.
He then goes back to expressing his feelings about Dylan and playing Guthrie. Imagining himself as not only them but Bowie too says that he appears to feel lonely, lost, cold and needs to find a purpose just knowing the type of songs these three artists play and their words.
Explaining next the plight of his students, the poverty level of the school and the fact that the as he puts it “the mediocrity got to me.” As an educator and working with students who had learning difficulties I had to find ways to help each one and use different teaching styles to create a reading program that would reach most if not all. Not easy but I guess there were times that you feel frustrated and deflated but you need to move past those times because teaching and working as a reading and writing staff developer was the most rewarding and amazing experience I have ever had.
Each student is different so that very special one that you can ignite with an interest is the one you remember the most and makes it all worth while. Then the author expresses his frustrations with the curriculum he had to teach, the everyday battles to get students to focus and learn and the finality of it all including an incident involving a missing phone. Schools where I live do not allow students to have phones in school. They have to leave them home or they are taken away upon entering the building and returned at the end of the day.
The next chapter deals with World Heritage and he enters two quite different photos that are of the Peragamon Altar on the museums island in Berlin. As you look at the two figures one with only partial limbs and the other a head and partial limbs you being to see the fractured world he is living in and the fractured student who wanted his attention for all the wrong reasons. Even bright students change and this young lady he refers to as Lump, the same one whose phone was missing, claimed her entire bag was too. Read the chapter and decide if this was handled the right way or if she was just as the author aptly states and realizes using it to get attention. But, did anyone try and figure out why she changed and what caused her to need negative attention when she was definitely bright and seem to want more. He continues with his focus on another artist’s work.
Migle is the name of this young lady and the short chapter devoted to her says it all. In spite of someone taking her bag, in spite of the situation he was elated and surprised that her work ethic did not change. She kept on writing as does our author to keep us informed about what happen next.
Educators can be falsely accused of many things as our author relates to the reader what happens when he is accused of rape. However, apologies and saying you are sorry does not erase the after affect of what others might think even though you are innocent. This young lady continued to pursue him in many different ways to say she was sorry. When realizing the core of her attack, he learned she wanted his attention and decided this was the only way to get it. Ruta who also lost her phone and his reaction to her was quite startling.
Dealing with child protection can be quite difficult. One of his student’s complained about abuse at home. Hiding their feelings students that are abused at home or anywhere else often have a change of character, demeanor, get quiet or even act out. Protective and definitely realizing his true feelings about the children in his group the author never realized that this could occur. All too often when something like this occurs we reflect on our own lives and more important he began to reflect on the lives of his other students. Paying closer attention to their actions and their moods often helps to assess any major changes that occur. This is a vital issue that the author relates to the reader, as it is not something just germane to the schools.
The author seems to be floundering as he travels through many phases of his life trying to decide whether to paint, write, teach, and take pictures or just sketch. Each career worthy of the time yet not all blending together as one. Prejudice rears its ugly head next as the author relates how Ruta won an award in his class and that her mother sought a better school for her closer to home. But, class, social status and snobbery often win out when high schools are selective about whom they enroll and whom they won’t. So, Ruta won the award but lost the place in the better school as the author explains his own inner turmoil and discord writing his dissertation. Ruta played an important part in his life each time she went through something, each time she was taken from a class she enjoyed and each time her lip quivered letting even the reader know she was hiding something and upset. The author went through many phases too where he could have used someone to give him so direction so he wisely chose writing this book and his outstanding illustrations that depict the work of famous artists, structures and his own inner feelings about life.
Added in are many moral issues that schools face today and behaviors that should have been addressed in a more stringent and formal way. Jonas, Migle and Ruta all faced the same obstacles in a school that seemed only there to house the bodies of the students but not really deal with their needs. Each one coming from poor backgrounds which should not have any bearing on the education they receive or their intelligence factor, each one dealing with some type of abuse either in school or at home. How can these kids grow into kind and nurturing adults if the role models are not there?
To add to my point Corridor Girl is described next and the school twisted her moral compass as the author states and even more some might succeed. Lithuanian and Latvian students were being enrolled and they were middle class and worked hard like Ruta, Migle and Jonas. But some like these three floundered from hardship to hardship and had to deal with economic changes in their family dynamics.
There were other ethnic groups and the author defines Roma. Roma refers to kids that stay up late, have poor attendance and school is on the bottom of their must do lists. Music is utmost at home, traditions oral not written and their behaviors defiant from the norm. Schools have students of many different backgrounds economic and ethnic and they should be able to focus on all of them but they do not in the case of where this author teaches.
The next chapter is titled Derision where he author sounds off and expresses his frustrations to it seems one feral child yet I think it is meant for all those who defy authority, rudeness, lack of effort and definitely show no attempt at respecting teachers, themselves or others. Added in he continues with his own guilt and torments. The sculpture of the Thinker definitely gives you pause for thought and lets you know that he too is pondering his next idea, thought and creative moment. But, the next few chapters allow the reader to hear the voice of the author loud and clear as he expresses his inner most thoughts about teaching, his new attitude and demeanor and the changes within him as his tutoring group was changed and he missed his previous group and till this day images of Jonas, Migle and Ruta come to light wondering just where they are and what they are doing, especially Ruta. At one point he felt alone and exiled in a world filled with students, teachers and his own loneliness.
Isolation comes next as he leaves his job and enters a different one faced with inner turmoil and conflicts comparing himself to the artwork of Goya and each illustration that is included is graphic and expresses the emotions of not only the artist but the writer too. Concluding his book by fast -forwarding to 2014 and his thoughts about Ruta. Wondering where she is and what she is doing. There is always one student, in his case Ruta that leaves that lasting impression and hope that you in some way made a difference in that person’s life. That year the school was out of control and the kids seem to be in charge. The staff did little to stop the crime and the end result you will have to learn for yourself.
But, something brings him back into focus and the reality of what happens might just change him and make him into more than just an observer of his own life and a man who compares his emotions and life to that of the paintings of many artists. Jonas and Ruta were in trouble and a feral boy seemed to want to take them on. One young boy taunting another and not getting the reaction hoped for. One young boy that did not understand what he was supposed to do how to react while the other just wanted to inflict pain and take control. So, why didn’t he move? Why did the writer stay silent and locked where he stood? What happens you won’t believe and what the end result was you have to learn when you read the chapter titled Resolution. But, was there really one?
The author includes a graphic illustration to help the reader understand what happened and what happens next. The end result is related and if the incident was really stopped read Brave Girl and you need to decide. The story is really not over but just beginning for this author. I think he has much more to share with the world and I think he needs to continue his writing and journey to find himself and learn that writing this book is your first step to finding the respect you deserve for yourself.
Fran Lewis: reviewer