Tuesday, February 18, 1992

After a 3 day weekend I was hoping for more; instead I got less. Although attendance was not bad, there was a general feeling of apathy and boredom pervading the classes. Although nothing went badly, I felt energized and excited and far too many of the kids looked at me as if I were speaking Hebrew. Or worse, assumed I was going to speak to them in Hebrew, and came in, put their heads sown, and went to sleep.

Hour 1 was the usual crew of zero comprehension readers (I read a paragraph, ask for the main point, and they stare blankly) worn out from a hard day of vacation. We started Chapter 2 of Animal Farm, with me reading some and them reading some. I cannot get the non-readers to even consider reading aloud they just say no (one thing they learned from Nancy Reagan). So we read, we stop, we review, we inquire, we ask, we question, we interrogate, we predict, we wonder and all the while they look at me as if I'm doing something absolutely repulsive to them. Of course their first response is "It's boring" which is their response to anything. When we discuss reading, they like to read teen magazines and very simple magazines (Jet, Essence) that are about personalities. They at least, with some powerful exceptions, are sort of on my side, but I can't believe that there isn't something in there they would like to know about. Could Marva Collins interest them? I'm sure she could. How long would it take? Anyway, we read half the chapter and then tried to figure out what was going to happen.

Hour 2, the more vocal and ornery group, also read half the chapter. However, there are at least two kids who, though seemingly irritating and obnoxious, are paying attention and answer the questions better than anyone else. Somehow I need to focus that energy in a more directed way, getting them to achieve something while gradually drawing them into the class. This is a positive wanting to happen but I feel somewhat overwhelmed by all the negative I am experiencing. Then, hour 3. They respond, they are interested, they like the book, they are almost asking questions and inferring from the text. We do the same thing we do in the other classes we read a little, I point out what is going on, we try a little more, and on and on we go as we move along. They understand the themes and are willing to go somewhere with those themes. They are also attempting to do not just what is necessary but what is going com. Somehow, to transfer this energy to the other classes.

Hour 5 was half awake half comatose. There is a 16 year old boy who dropped out, went to jail, was committed to a mental hospital and is on his last chance who sees the humor and satire and understands what is going on. I try to get him to help the others see, and he tries also, but they are interested in him as much as they are interested in the book. He is white and they aren't, which may or may not be a factor, but they do not care about anyone. They sit and gossip and whisper and fool and lie to me. But they do not, and will not, respond to me. Some are trying. But most are not. When I ask them what they would like to do, they say "Go on more trips" and "Have more fun" but they are absolutely incapable of determining what they want. I have little sympathy with the new salvation of education, fun, which means that everything that isn't fun cannot hold their attention. But a generation amused all day since birth with the passive masturbation of television is not likely to be willing to work at finding truths where titillations have sufficed. I look at these children, ignorant, smug and self righteous and fear. The teenagers of my youth, while all those things at least had a passion and a commitment that these kids seem to be wholly lacking. Give it to me and make it good is the slogan they seem to be giving us. And make it short, or I will fall asleep.

Hour 6, my albatross, today almost dragged me into the ocean. They embarrassed me in front of Mr. Blank by breaking his cabinet open and digging in the lollipops like children. I had to admit this to him. I lost control. And they were walking around the room and going wild as they fought me every minute of the day. I eventually gave up, which is not the proper response but the easy on when attacked by a barrage of wild beasts. If only they killed rather than merely wounded me I wouldn't have to go on with the persecution. That sounds a bit severe, but they just nag, complain, whine, scream, taunt and hate with unqualified vigor.

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