illustration of main character, Junior, holding a basketball and looking over his shoulder

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie
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What is the nicest thing a teacher has told Junior?

The nicest thing a teacher has told Junior is that he’s “a good kid” who “deserve[s] the world.”

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At Wellpinit High School, Junior has a peculiar teacher named Mr. P. He looks and acts “weird.” Sometimes, he doesn’t come to school. A student has to venture to the housing compound for the teachers and retrieve him. When the student arrives at Mr. P’s living quarters, he’s likely to find Mr. P asleep in front of the TV. As opposed to the other white teachers, Mr. P is neither a liberal nor a conservative. He’s not a Republican, a Democrat, or a devil worshiper. Mr. P is “just sleepy.”

Junior and Mr. P have an incident. After Junior opens his geometry book, he spots his mother’s name. Upset over the age of their education materials, Junior hurls the book and accidentally hits Mr. P in the face. Junior is suspended, and Mr. P comes to his house to talk to him.

Mr. P tells Junior that hitting him in the face with the book (and breaking his nose) was probably the worst thing he’s done in his life so far. Yet it’s Mr. P who apologizes for his actions against Indigenous students as a young teacher.

After discussing the writing abilities of Junior’s sister, Mr. P tells Junior, “You are a good kid. You deserve the world.” These compassionate words make Junior emotional and bring him to the verge of tears. “No teacher had ever said anything so nice, so incredibly nice, to me,” says Junior.

Despite his sleepiness and the fact that Junior hit him in the face with a book, Mr. P ultimately came to Junior’s house to be kind and provide hope. He encourages Junior to leave the reservation and develop his gifts. Sure enough, Junior enrolls in a different high school and excels.

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