Tuesday, March 10, 1992

Another day of surprises. Today was review day for the quiz. Hour 1 performed excellently, accomplishing most of the worksheets (some finished) and giving us time to go over them and fill in any blanks. The worksheets met with a positive response, and they attacked them diligently. (The quantity was virtually perfect; they did it and those who did it completed it.) They liked the puzzle format and they liked the level of difficulty. I felt optimistic and looked forward to the rest of the day. That was my mistake.

Hour 2 took the same worksheet and moaned, groaned and fooled for the whole hour. The only 2 who worked at it did not quit for the entire hour but consistently and conscientiously struggled (which they did because they were absent or not paying attention during the reading). John and Byron were these two, probably the least reliable students I have. But everyone else just jerked around for the whole hour. Or almost everyone, they just couldn't get their brains on task. In fact, tonight I called 3 parents and they were positive and encouraging and willing to provide the necessary kick in the pants that their kids need. They have wasted several days in a row and I have had enough of their goofing. They also were vigorously rude to Joyce (who wasn't there again) laughing at a picture of very black baseball players and suggesting that they must be her family. I desperately try to stop this stupidity, but they just go on and on. Tomorrow there are going to be some disappointed kids, and they will blame me for their misery. I gave Chante and Jewel permission to go to the library and get their books, but they never came back with what they had selected. Tomorrow they need to show me something.

Hour 3 had a mere 2 students. We did the review together, I cajoled, suggested, encouraged, directed, and advised and they finished and even remembered something about what we read. I am so disappointed though, it looks as if I am discussing a book they have never heard of. Even the most prominent characters require several excursions into the book to refresh memories. But we got it and finished it and I was so grateful that they did not riot but worked through it as they needed to.

Hour 5 was a replica of Hour 2. They did not cooperate or do much of anything. Monica started strong but put her head down and went to sleep. The usual grade-driven girls worked at finding the answers (and again I was astonished that they knew so little) and filling in empty spaces. But the other side of the class did almost nothing, though I encouraged and suggested they do what they need. However, they are too cool to spend their time on this. Life is too full and they are too busy to recognize any importance in English class. They believe they can sit and talk and fool and ignore me and my directions. They will suffer the consequences, but they care very little. I can only care for those who care for themselves.

Hour 6: the albatross of my day. We had a quest speaker today who spoke for almost the whole hour about self-respect and how to present yourself. The kids are too literal to recognize their needs on any level other than the most superficial: "Can you get me a job?" is what they want to know rather than "What can you teach me that I can use for my whole life?" They listened respectfully, if not attentively, never really tuned in to what he said. I wish they were as responsive to him as they are to me; he is everything I would want a "role model" to be. Ex-failure, ex-con, ex-gun carrier, ex-fool, ex-everything wrong who decided to redirect his attentions to something better. I will bring him back to teach interviewing skills and hope that they will be a bit more comfortable with him. They should query his expertise. Some things he said that I they needed: "Ro-mance without fi-nance is a nui-sance" and "No will and no skill to succeed" and "Prior planning prevents piss-poor programming". But more importantly, he was interested in big ideas, not pithy phrases. He was talking about subject verb agreement and using that as a metaphor for having one's behavior agree with one's true person. A nicely conceived idea. He used the language and the ideas that they know. Worked well from my point of view. I'll try to find tomorrow what they think.

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