Friday, March 27, 1992

What a day, at the end of this day I think I've managed to experience everything student teaching has to offer (!?!?) and live through it. At least I hope so, for there is nothing left, short of a murder in the school or an act of violence directed toward me. Let's hope I have no predictive skills, at least as far as ESP rather than reading skills are concerned.

We assembled Hours 1 and 2 together to reward them with a film. Mrs. Korman was going to get "Black Orpheus", but did not get to the video store. I was dubious, though she said she showed it last year and got a good response. However, she brought "Blackboard Jungle" and she said "They'll just have to like it". They didn't. When they saw it was in black & white they immediately wrote it off. There was no way a film like that could be good. I talked about prejudice, but they were so stupidly irritated and negative that I made no further effort. We had the "real" teachers there, and they could not accomplish anything either. There was so much talking that if anyone had tried to watch they would have had a lot to overcome. The video was rather quiet and could not be heard all that well anyway. It was a waste of all our times. After 1 1/2 hours of watching a silent movie, Mrs. Korman put on "The Color Purple" (the last 15 minutes). They had all seen it before, but they laughed at the tenderness exhibited. I asked Mrs. Korman how Alice Walker would respond to their callous and heartless feelings; she said "She probably wouldn't be surprised." I hope that's not true. Yet I also hope that these kids are not unusually old. The other part of this that's so depressing is how violent and vindictive they are towards ugly and handicapped people. They laugh at the retarded and berate anyone who is not beautiful. If I can, I hope I will be able to help them not be so nasty. Boy, do I have huge goals. Anyway, she said she won't do another movie, I agree. We all wasted our times, it is boring beyond words to do this.

Hour 3, after cleaning up the spilled popcorn and tortilla chips, putting the chairs back together and recovering from the frustration of watching these guys behave like fools for 2 hours, worked incredibly well. We started with 2 students, and grew to 3. Whopee! We continued our lesson from Monday, and it went really well. At this point it seems like such a small part of the day. I led them by the leash through the first two paragraphs, and they did what was expected and then some. It was really pleasant to have something work as well as this did, kind of restores one's faith. Especially nice was the fact that I was observed today, and though they were not wildly responsive we did get through what I wanted to do. I gave them the old facts/skills dichotomy and they did great. They managed to do some thinking and between them we arrived at something approaching a letter, based upon sound paragraphs, that would begin to do what we wanted. I hope we can maintain the enthusiasm (sluggish as it is) for a little while longer.

Hour 5 was the main event. In one corner, Danika Ainsley 5' 4" weighing 125 pounds. In this corner, the challenger, Nigeria Cox, 5' 2" weighing 120 pounds. While everyone was coming into class, someone came in and told the others that Nigeria and Danika were going to fight. I ran out and stood between them and told them not to do it. I said they would be sorry, and we could work out any problems they had. Suddenly, a punch was thrown, (by whom I'm not sure) and they were at it. I grabbed Nigeria and tried to restrain her. It was tough as they were ready to kill each other. While I was holding her, Danika came in and threw several punches, a rather mean thing to do as I see it, but apparently perfectly fair for her. Someone grabbed her, and it became a shouting match of violent cursing "You HIV positive bitch" and equally silly things. It is easy to see why they kill each other, as far as I know this all started over the collapse of Joseph's chair the other day. I held Nigeria tightly while she flailed and kicked, and then I gradually moved my grip to her wrists and held with all my strength. I'm glad I'm stronger than she is; what would I have done if not? But I held her tightly and told her I'm not going to let her go, despite her cries to the contrary. I wanted to say something about how I care about her too much to let such stupid things happen to her. Why is it that these "problem children" are the ones that hold our hearts the most? She has been belligerent, cocky and annoying (bordering on obnoxious) since I arrived. Yet I know she has lots of good things in her, I know it! She has a sister who is a social worker, and every time we talk about careers or my foster kids I bring her up, and mention that Nigeria wants to do that as well. I affirm at every chance I can, and she, the "Black Hole" of emotion, absorbs endlessly without reflecting anything. Sometimes she is evil, especially outside the classroom, where I always try to be friendly. But she is adamant that she won't care, no matter how much someone else does.

Anyway, all this writing and we haven't even begun fifth hour. The fight was over, the security guards taking the combatants away, and the hall cleared, before the bell even rang. After all that, it was hard to go on with Animal Farm, despite the obvious parallels. We ended up talking again about communication and how those who can communicate survive, and those who can't perish. They may perish literally, and die, or they may only go to prison, or get divorced, or get fired (I certainly could not communicate with the man who fired me, and I'm glad I couldn't) or end up as the loser in a fight that hurts nothing more than their ego. Words save.

Hour 6 began with 4 and grew all the way to 5. I talked to August about his paper (which isn't bad, but reflects almost as little work as he could put in, much like what I used to do when I was in high school) and we ended up playing checkers, which bored me. They just had no desire to do anything, and asked that I not punish them for coming to class. Now I don't want to make the idea of learning sound like punishment, which it isn't. Yet what could I do with the five I had? Start a lesson? Talk about their speeches? Won't work. They know and I know. So we let it slide, the beloved "Free Day" though the only thing it was free of was pleasure.

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