Staff Elementary English Class: Seedfolks


By: Matthew Jellick and Elsa Lee

This semester in our Staff Elementary Class, we are reading Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman.  Each chapter within our short novel is told from the perspective of a different character, and for each, I ask the students to write a short response.  The characters have complex identities whom each provide different perspectives to think about, and whom each help to narrate this beautifully written story.

Below are two examples from a Staff English Student, Elsa Lee, highlighting her thoughts on two characters, Leona (Chapter 5) and Sam (Chapter 6):


Chapter 5: Leona

I love Leona for her persistence and wisdom.

My favorite sentence: When people talk to you on the phone, you’re nothing but a voice. And when you’re on hold you’re not even that. I had to make myself real to them. I was definitely real to them now. I brought that bag along with me into meeting, to keep it that way.

This reminds me of an event that happened to Bin, one of my classmates when I was a graduate student. After his shopping in a supermarket, one supermarket staff told him that he could draw a lottery with his receipt. He believed  in the staff and he drew the first prize, but he needed to pay 800 Yuan RMB to get the first prize, a valuable jade. 800 Yuan was a lot of money for a student at that time in 2011, about one or two month’s living expenses.

They convinced him that the jade was worth tens or even tens of millions of Yuan. It’s really his luck to get it only in 800 Yuan. He was bewildered then and paid 800 Yuan, got the jade.

After he was back to school, he felt something wrong. When I heard about this, I took him with his jade and asked for a refund. They refused the first time. Then I threatened to ask television stations and journalists to expose their deceptive measurements. Although they refunded his money, they continued to cheat other people. I can not help with that, and can not help other unfair things in life.


Chapter 6: Sam

Sam is a wise and respectable elder. He loves peace,  has a  sense of justice and works hard for it for all his life.

The favorite sentences about him are: I paid Puerto Rican well and offered him a row. He wanted to grow marijuana, to sell. A real businessman. We discussed this. We finally compromised on pumpkins, after I explained how much he could probably get for them at Halloween, not to mention the advantages of staying out of the jail.

From this we can learn how Sam dealt with and influence others. He didn’t push Puerto. Besides, he thought in Puerto’s position, which made Puerto accept his suggestion successfully. This reminds me of a book I recently read: How to Win Friends and Influence People. There are some ideas in the book I want to share.  

You can tell people they are wrong by a look or an intonation or a gesture just as eloquently as you can in words–and if you tell them they are wrong, do you make them want to agree with you? Never! For you have struck a direct blow at their intelligence, judgment, pride and self-respect. That will make them want to strike back. It will never make them want to change their mind. You may then hurl at them all the logic of a Plato or an Immanuel Kant. But you will not alter their opinions, for you have hurt their feelings. The deepest urge in human nature is “the desire to be important.”