Wednesday, March 25, 1992

Another day of TAP tests, an unfortunate day that began poorly, floundered, and finally was somewhat successful. But only somewhat. I have such greater dreams for these kids than they have for themselves. Will they buy into that when I teach my own class? Will they accept me as someone worth paying attention to? They have to recognize both need and value before we can accomplish anything.

Hour 1, the pre-test class, was devoted to a brief review of verbs and their conjugation. The TAP has a big chunk on fake verbs, and they have to recognize how to use verbs in context, and use the proper endings. Not something they are comfortable with. We did that briefly and then went on to other skills that they may see. We talked about paragraphs (topic, supporting sentences, conclusions) and the kinds of information on maps, and a very brief reminder of dictionaries, thesauruses, etc. and they all nod knowingly and mumble that they understand. Do they? Anyway, we went upstairs to the so-called breakfast, but not before Mr. Wundermann got on the intercom. He chastised their behavior in the cafeteria and told them they need to do their best because he was disappointed with what he saw of students quitting early. For those who did do their best, it was an additional irritation. The whole group took the test, but finished a bit earlier (though whether they finished or quit is debatable) and we had a little chaos at the end of each hour. Not too bad, but clearly a period of release and refreshment that helped keep their mind on the task at hand. Which they seemed to do, though we never checked any tests as we did yesterday.

Hour 5 was a bit more learning and a bit less talkative than yesterday. We talked about hypotheses and the scientific method, both of which they will see on tomorrow's test. It was okay to do it as I did, I didn't tell them things on the test but told them the kinds of things that they should have learned before. I felt a bit weird, as there is this competitive thing about which subject can raise their scores most. Am I a traitor to the English department by helping the science scores? If 5 kids get 2 more questions right and 5 more get 1 that is a significant piece of growth for them, though over 500 students it doesn't amount to much. Anyway, I want them to have as many tools as they can. Danika, ever confusing (clearly can read better than the others but infrequently there and often sleepy when she is) showed up with 10 minutes to go without a pass. She got up to leave about 3 minutes later, and apparently bumped into Nigeria out in the hall. (She had also been resting and woke up to ask to get a drink.) Danika followed her into class, and a shouting match full of "Watch your fucking ass, bitch" developed. Clearly, Danika had other problems that required her attention and could not handle a trifle such as this. I was pleased that Nigeria managed to keep cool and didn't lose her mind or her temper (especially after yesterday's confrontation). She is often so irascible that I was fearful blows would develop, but no such thing occurred. She laughed at her and managed to put it behind her. She chose not to return (at least too much) the threats of "You better not turn your back on me." Did I have anything to do with it? I hope so, but who knows.

Hour 6, my albatross and my eagle, was a messed up group today. Half the class wanted to leave, either to go out and write (how can I complain about that?) or to finish typing (also a good thing). I want to encourage scrupulousness and thoroughness. So they left, and those that remained listened to a publishing attempt, the final stage of the writing process. However, they were not eager to have their work read. Several of them refused to let me read their (including two of the best) papers and I was disappointed. They seemed unable to handle my praise, which was specific and qualified, but apparently too much. They only wanted a grade and be done with the work, I was eager to get them beyond the grade (one of my missions as a teacher) and on to "Art for art's sake", but they weren't buying. I hope they will someday soon. I have such anticipations, and I have seen them perform. They accomplished something substantial today and I want to build on it rather than forget it. They of course want to just go on and drop it.

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