Monday, March 16, 1992

Another day of wild and exasperating highs and lows. Every day has enough to keep me coming back while also having enough to make me turn my back and never return. As every day progresses I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating as I struggle with these smug, self-righteous and ultimately foolish children. Attendance was very poor and those that were there felt as if they deserved some special treatment for having made the effort to show up. And yet, every day something happens that reassures me that I have made the best possible decision I could. I hope that I stay on track, find more of the latter and learn to diminish the former. I know that it is my ignorance that keeps me from accomplishing much of what I want; my fear that prevents me from pushing the way I want to push. I am getting better, though hardly good, every day.

Hour 1 was in many ways the most successful class of the day, we finished what I wanted to without all the usual problems they so eagerly send my way. We read Chapter 5 of Animal Farm, and though it was a struggle we did it. They would not volunteer to read, they hate it so much. So I did most of it, and we got through. I tried to give them pointers about what is going on and how it is pertinent to their lives, but they are so isolated (and so remarkably leering about that ignorance) that they tune me out (if I was ever tuned in) whenever I speak like that. So the words were spoken aloud and heard, more or less, but little if anything was absorbed. One interesting thing, we played the guess the four letter word game, and they were good. Most of the time they got it in 5 guesses and I didn't have to help them much at all.

Hour 2 managed to add the untouched part to my career. I had a death, I had a fight (almost), and I had the heckling, repulsive anger characteristic of these kids. Today I had sickness. Joyce, the girl whose dark skin has already made her a perpetual victim among her mates ("Shut your black ass up!" "Those people must be Joyce's relatives, they so black" "You're so black you make us look white") came in before class and promptly put her head down and went to sleep (as she often does). When the bell rang I said "Joyce, you've had several minutes rest. Would you care to join us now?" She lifted her head, looked woozily at me, shifted the position of her plump body in the chair, turned her head away from me, and immediately went back to sleep. Karen had been ejected from Mr. Phillips' class and asked sweetly if she could come into my class to do her work. (Is this a new trend?) She talked a little, but she was not the main problem. I paid no further attention to Joyce; she rarely attends and often sleeps when she does. This is a girl who needs major help, but it is help I am unqualified to give in this environment. (I have spoken to her and asked how I could help, she always says no way.) We struggled through the chapter (why are they so inattentive when it comes to the work they are supposed to be doing, but capable of such interest when we discuss other topics?), getting near the end, but lurching rather like Mr. Jones when we first meet him. Joyce lifted her head (with 13 minutes to go in the class) and asked if she could go to the restroom. I said that as she had been asleep, and there was only a bit more than 10 minutes to go she would have to wait. She put her head back down, then about 30 seconds later lifted it, turned toward her right and vomited a purple-black substance that looked very bizarre. The students leapt out of their chairs as if they had been suddenly jolted with electricity, and they all went to the windows, where they flung them open wide and gasped and choked as if asphyxiated. I gave Joyce her pass, called the janitors and tried to make everyone realize that getting sick is not something to be blamed for. Their generosity does not go that far. But we never recovered enough to accomplish anything for the rest of the class. Lost cause.

Hour 3 was quiet and torpid, with little response to the chapter (which was completed) and little activity of consequence. We read, I talked, they listened, we did it. They don't care enough to have a good attitude about it, they want to pass and that is all.

Hour 5 was rebellious in that childish way that especially irritates me. The usual trouble-makers were absent, so new ones took their place. We read, more or less, Chapter S, and they pay so little attention that I'm stumped. No matter how I plan the lessons and how exciting we turn the class, it is all based on the premise that we will read. If we don't we are wasting our time. How can I make the reading more interesting if they refuse to even look at it and see what it says?

Hour 6, I'm glad there was no class after that. Mr. Blank was absent again so they had a sub. She made the mistake of sitting in the class while we attempted to accomplish our tasks. I had two small objectives, we were going to finish the preposition tests we had from weeks ago and talk a little about Joe Clark and how schools can be arranged. They were out of control, at least by me. I suppose they felt cheated that they couldn't fool with a sub but had me instead. So we got through, but Tonikka and Stephanie, consistently the two BIG mouths in the class that constantly disrupt, kept up a small buzz that eventually proved impossible to overcome. It was largely a wasted hour. I resent their taking my time and my inability to recover it.

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