Tuesday Feb 11, 1992

As Franklin Roosevelt said, a day that will go down in infamy. Today was challenge the new guy everywhere, with both passive resistance and active defiance. I was assaulted all day by rude, difficult, loud, obnoxious self centered ignorant and incredibly vain teenagers. We had newspaper reading, hat wearing, book tossing, chair tipping, and the usual array of "This is boring" and "I don't need to know this shit" type of response before I even started.

Hour 1 was as I expected; they tried to go on strike, and a fellow who didn't know about it was shushed into a confused silence. However, they couldn't help themselves, and finally responded a bit to my reading of the fables. We even got to contemporary applications of their themes, but they were basically rebellious. At the end of class all their pent up silence exploded as they got into a vehement discussion about the Mike Tyson verdict. It's funny, we read Langston Hughes' poem about tolerance and not demonstrating one's superiority by violence and they immediately talked about "showing that bitch" and "giving her what she deserves". Clearly there's a lot of teaching going to be required to get this to go anywhere. So at the end of this hour I was not defeated, just frustrated.

Hour 2 used the same materials and themes to better, though more chaotic results. We got through the fables with relatively good response, though their immaturity is astonishing. Every time the word oral was mentioned they laughed like 6th graders. I read "The Hare and the Tortoise" and they said "the hair in the toilet?" and again laughed uproariously. I was ashamed for them, not of them. It is incredible that they can be sexually active and still have so little maturity they can do it but they can't say it. Well, I am wondering about establishing a contract with them to get them to agree to perform their work. I've always hated contracts, but these guys seem to want worksheets and their work laid out clearly, and maybe a contract might help. Also, I am thinking about allowing the office chairs with wheels to be a kind of prize, offering a question of the day, based on the day's work, and letting them sit in it the next day (or possibly asking the question at the beginning of the day and thereby forcing them to remember at least a little about what they did the day before.

Hour 3, interrupted by a senior class picture (from which 1 student never returned) covered the same material, but we didn't get through as much or as well. They let me answer, almost no matter how long I waited. And if I waited too long, Mark, who gets up at 3:00 to deliver his papers, is dozing off. I watch his eyes roll and call him back to us. We did not have a great class, but we did at lest give them the background I want them to have.

Hour 5 was misery. They had decided before the class to fight me at every point, so no remark was left unchallenged and no activity unquestioned. They whined, they groaned, they slept, they complained. I had wanted to let them listen to a couple of tapes, but they were so bored (they just don't know how to listen without pictures, I think MTV?) that I gave up. I won't use it tomorrow with any of the other kids. One of the talented but mouthy girls said "I can teach this class better than you" and I let her. She talked about who watched what on TV, what was on Donahue, the NBA All Star game, gifts for Valentine's Day and similar trivialities. I was pleased to see that several of the kids said "This is even worse" and "We aren't learning anything" (revised to agree with standard English syntax and grammar).

So, I look at tomorrow with fear and trepidation. If I had some time I would go back to my text and look for some reading strategies, though they are bent on hating anything I do. "We want Mr. Reynolds" they chant. "You're not our teacher." "Thank God" I think, and almost say aloud. Today, I checked myself. Tomorrow? Well, Scarlet, we'll see.

Hour 6, with no Mr. Blank, was also a mess. After the quality work they did yesterday I thought we were on to something, but one of the big time jerks, absent the last two days, returned, and made sure nothing was accomplished. He managed to disrupt everything (I believe he may be under the influence, he is so hyper and he has such a glazed, determined look that I'm just not sure). Some kids wanted to hear, most wanted to shout and fight. I can handle them well one-on-one, they respect and are eager. I know I have something to offer. But if they do not want anything from me, and refuse to even accept the possibility that this may mean something to them, then I'm not sure how to get them to open the door. I know that they don't give a darn about Langston Hughes (just as I wouldn't have when I was in 11th grade) but I want them to realize that the skills they could be learning are more universal than just 1 poem. But they want me to tell them; "Just tell us whet it means, quit asking what we think". Do I? Am I helping them by telling them or by letting them figure it out, if they ever do? Do I help them by making them work or by making them listen? I hated, hate and will hate lectures, they are truly dull and tedious. Why make them endure them? Yet....

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