Thursday, March 12, 1992

Another day older and deeper in debt. Though ultimately I am not in debt, just deep in frustration. Another day of minuscule attendance, though this was at least officially sanctioned. Some field trip today gave over half my kids the day off. So I didn't progress on to Chapter 5, as planned, but did the lesson on reference books that I should have done before the trip to the library. We discussed 5 major references: Reader's Guide, almanac, atlas, encyclopedia, dictionary and newspapers and magazines. They all were very bored with the subject. If I had more time to plan I could have created some activity to give them a personality; this way I just questioned, lectured and encouraged them on this topic. A very exasperating day.

Hour 1 was its usual vulgar, rambunctious and querulous self. They were unhappy with the results of the test (though the test results were purely the result of their preparation; they are clearly waiting for my departure and a return to the old ways) and they sit and stare unhappily. I worked on what I was looking for, and I do not know if they understood or not, but they did not seem especially interested. Then we went to the reference books, but we had other fish to fry. They were excited about the kid who attempted to hold up a grocery and was shot in exchange (another famous East student, in addition, I was told that dead Rick was a big-time drug dealer and his death most certainly had something to do with drugs). We then went on to the question of if I were researching marijuana what would we look for in different references, and we got off onto long talks about drugs, drug use, crack babies, foster children and how drug users cannot get their lives together enough to accomplish the smallest things. They are half teenage bravado and half the honest disgust based on real life contact with this blight. They are more aware of it because they are closer to it, and they see (or have seen) how lives are damaged or abbreviated by its unrelenting grip. Some claim to want to sell, but they are reluctant to say it too loud in the face of their racial pride as to why people are voluntarily murdering each other. They are confused and desperately in need of direction.

Hour 2 was a replica of Hour 1, except that the transformation was more profound. Heads that had been lying on desks came up at the talk of drugs and people killing each other. They were responsive to my talk of my friend's sister and her 3 confused children, abandoned by a mother who doesn't know one day from the next and one child from the other. The haze in which she resides is deep enough to engulf her children and make them its victims without their even getting the alleged high. They are losers who may never live long enough to get a chance to win. I don't know if they learned about the ways to look things up in the library, but I hope they did understand that compassion is something that transcends race and age and becomes a part of a person in the same way that hate anger and envy do. I am hardly a saintly person, but I do care for them and want them to succeed. They are a part of my world, and race and a few miles are nothing more than part of a diaphanous line that distinguishes nothing. Maybe they'll recognize that someday. Hour 3 was its usual reliable self, though Mark was unwakeable today. Nothing could get him aroused, so we let him go. I'm not sure what we can do in this environment, but in my class I will make people understand that they cannot sleep and get credit. I am reading Joe Clark's book, and I want them to recognize that my rules are for our benefit. There is nothing if not reciprocity in my class.

Hour 5 began with 6 but Nigeria was ejected early for rude, insolent, and obstreperous behavior. She hates me and is refusing to do anything I ask, though I hardly think I am vicious or unreasonable in my requests. She sees me as Whitey trying to oppress her. As long as she carries that burden there is no hope of our relationship progressing. We did the same lesson, and it was even less successful here. They had no heart for work and no interest in this boring stuff. It is boring, but not as boring as workbooks, which are far worse (to me; they eagerly await their return). We will alternate workbook TAP test preparation with Animal Farm for the next 2 weeks and finish both at the end of the quarter. They will enjoy the methodical nature of what is to come. I am endlessly discouraged by their lack of heart, has it all been crushed from them or is it an acquired skill they never found? They are so blase and resigned!

Hour 6 was a hell-hole. Horace, back from 6 days was really nasty and whiny. He turned the television on (thinking I wouldn't notice) and managed to do it one too many times. I was pissed and told him so, he told me to fuck off. I told him I didn't quite hear him (he did mutter but I do have exceptional hearing, despite years of rock and roll) and would not repeat his remark, so I did win. I have to defend my turf daily with this crowd. It's like The Call of the Wild where Spitz is forced to reassert his right to rule daily. Will we ever get past that point? Anyway, they were either smug (foolish answers and glib remarks to each other) or remote (Jamaica went right to sleep, several others followed quickly). This is not the way to teach this lesson. There is no automatic respect, and how!

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