Thursday March 5, 1992

I guess I should not waste time attempting to predict the next day's events. As a famous man once said "Leave tomorrow's worries for tomorrow". Another weird day that makes me wonder about my skill; I realize that there is more learning to come ahead than there has ever been in the past (on Wednesday nights I sit through class with the same enthusiasm that many of my victims show--the only difference is that I know how to play the good student game). I realize the many hyphens and parentheses that I've used up to this point--evidence of a scrambled mind. Of course (sorry to say) as I go on I become more scrambled (thank goodness for the computer which allows me to recover from the horrible job I'm doing typing this document), which means that as I progress (which is merely chronological rather than emotional) toward my destiny--notice the implication of fate there--I will have to learn to rearrange my goo and turn it into (at least approximating) an omelet. (Is it possible that I could have made that sentence any more disjointed than I did?)

Hour 1 was very reluctant to get going, until... We started out today to learn to write a paragraph. Which meant they actually had to write. Groan, moan, whine. But we did it. Just one, and not very long, but an honest-to-goodness approximation of very nearly what would appear to be a paragraph to someone who doesn't read very well. We had a topic "Guns in schools". We discussed (or they stared at me with the mournful countenance of Don Quixote while I prodded, poked, and cajoled them into monosyllabic response) and then I asked them to write their response to the question. This took a lot longer than it should have for how little they actually composed, but I collected them and immediately read them. The idea was to have them do something and then have them get a few ideas about how they could do it better. They are big believers in the concept of never looking back; once a job is complete they are ready to move on. But we discussed the components of a good paragraph: topic sentence, supporting sentences, and conclusion. Complete sentences, no run-ons, all those goodies. Then, we discussed a new topic: "Whether AIDS victims should be allowed to attend school?" We tried to go through this in reasonable order but Robert, in his never-ending quest to irritate Samantha, was rude and obnoxious. He was virtually advocating euthanasia for them. However, we managed to get through this fairly well, and create a legitimate paragraph on the subject. Not a great success but a reasonable lesson that used the hour completely and didn't drag.

Hour 2 tried the same thing but the silly patrol managed to disrupt the class enough so that even some of the class members were disgusted by the infantile behavior. Again, I lost my temper. At one point, when discussing the paragraph I said that I wanted to help them learn. The found this idea somewhat odious and said I was trying to be like Joe Clark. I told them that I was familiar with the school; we played them in basketball and football) and they thought this hilarious also. They wanted to laugh at me. I did not handle it well. Then they asked if I played sports and I told them I rowed. In their vast wisdom and experience they knew nothing about it but ridiculed from their position of ignorance. I know that people think these kids are unhappy and suffering from low self-esteem and act up to compensate, but I really don't see this (I believe this is wishful thinking from the same people who feel that all people are good and act up, or murder, because they have been forced to do it). They swagger and strut in their ignorance and howl or bark when I suggest that they change their ways.

Hour 3 was only three today, and Kerri left after 15 minutes for another of the ubiquitous class meetings. They worked well, but are so easily distracted from the task, they cannot follow a thought through to its conclusion but just ramble from point to point to point. No sequential thinkers here. But they are good, try hard, and work with me rather than against me. They told me today that I try to teach what is important and they appreciate that. Nice to hear.

Hour 5 was in the library today, and I had to struggle to hold it together because Joyce is so hated by the other class members that I have no group to put her in. She was ostracized and insulted and I was very sorry for her, but I think she needs to grab this for herself and make her own way. She refused to participate in the search but just sat at the table, so I brought some of the necessary books to her and pointed her toward the answers and she did it. I was pleased and I think she was also. The rest of the class, even Rodman, ran with the competition and did much more than any of the other classes. It was neat to see it work as I had hoped. Next time I will give them far fewer questions and maybe group them so that they can have more clues. They are so poor that the task is too daunting as I structured it; they give up rather than see it as a challenge. Or some did; others really wanted to answer all the questions. But this class was much more independent and needed much less guidance. Once they learned something they did it.

Hour 6 was a very small class. Several boys left for a camping club meeting (and two of the four did not return when the other two did) and I was left with only six (one of those being Carolyn who is distraught over the apparent breakup of her relationship to Ernest, or so it appears to me--may explain her hysteria and anger yesterday; do not jump to conclusions, these kids have a social life that is far more important to them than school work). There is a new kid (today is his third day) who was kicked out of his last class; he has very poor skills but he is a good kid so far who seems to want to please me. I hope he stays that way; he was mediating in the hall between Carolyn and Ernest. She never returned to class after that. I appreciate his attempt (as I saw it at least) to work between and solve a problem.

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