Wednesday, April 1, 1992

A new month and a new set of catastrophes with which to inaugurate it. First Hour decided that what they had been doing up to this point was not nearly irritating enough and they had to exacerbate their antagonism. Additionally, all the other classes, very sparsely attended, were just a little off today. It was one of those days that I look back on and fail to see a single high point. Not much to show for an entire day's interaction with the educational system; not much that anyone can put on paper and say "See how they are improving and moving toward a goal!" There is no goal that was inched toward today, except the goals of my completing my student teaching and them completing their school year. Both would be just as close if I had stayed home today, and I wouldn't be feeling nearly as deflated or jilted as I do now.

Hour 1 was to continue on with Chapter 7 of Animal Farm. However, Orwell was not their cup of tea today; they preferred something a little more meaty, pasties or steak and kidney pie perchance. Anyway, they read some and I read some and we all read some and got very little out of it. They need more exercises and less time actually reading I think, frightening thought, but they begin to understand as they have to perform exercises. What a burden that places on me, as I have to select all the important parts I want them to understand and make sure to phrase it in a way that they will remember. More than just a few minutes. Anyway, about half way into the class, Robert had to leave for the second time since I've been there. He was vulgar and obstinate (not unusual) but I had asked him to be aware that I was not going to tolerate another outburst. He said "Is that a threat?" (at least he will remember one thing from my being here!) and I replied in the affirmative. He then said "Don't you threaten me" to which I said he made it necessary. He was passive for a few moments, and then he was outspoken and rude again. I had to ask him to come up, and he came and got his ticket out. He was somewhat mirthful about the whole process, clearly he had decided to see just how far I would go. I hope he saw. About 3 minutes before the conclusion of this horror I was attempting to make a specific point. Not that it was important, but I did want to finish that day. Samantha and Karen were talking in their usual "Don't bother us with your irrelevant trivialities." I asked Samantha to wait 3 more minutes, at which point she could continue in the hall. She glared at me for a moment, turned, and continued her conversation. I sent her out as well, though the point was never made. At the beginning of the class, I had told them they were going to see a play next week. Karen, always positive, warm and friendly, growled "What play?" with the exact tone that New Yorkers use when they say "Shad dup!". I told her she didn't have to go if she didn't want to; she replied, affronted, "I didn't say that!" They definitely need to learn some interpersonal skills, at least if they want their lives to go on much longer.

Hour 2 provided a contrast with Hour 1, though they were just foolish. A large part of the problem is that kids like Stacy, who cannot read, can understand, and he loses interest as we have to stop and explain as we go. But I cannot not stop, and I cannot let him read silently. I do hope his reading skills catch up with his mental skills. He will be a terror when he does. But he has to practice, which, as far as I know, he never does. I encourage him, but I'm sure he does not come from an environment where reading is respected. Is it possible for school to overcome his peer/family unacceptance. They are satisfied with good enough, in fact their quest is for good enough. I am not and never will let them. There were several D's given to those whose grades were better than that but lost points for attendance (as I was leaving today a teacher of one of my challenges in 6th hour, Stephanie, asked me if she had been here the last two days; I replied in the negative and she told me that Stephanie went from an A to a low B totally due to not showing up. I had the same story, though we were both assured that her attendance would improve) or crappy behavior. They were upset, but will they learn? I will have a better system when I have my own class; points posted and clearly specified. I hope I can enforce them.

Hour 3 had just 2 members today, and the worst two (though most reliable). However, with just 2 sluggards there, we struggled on through the most dreary and depressing assignment, though they both read (until Mark left half way through the class and there were just two of us). Coryanna did read and respond and pay attention, which is an improvement over what we usually see. But she is not good at making connections.

Hour 5 had a whopping membership of 6 today, and Samantha relocated her consciousness rather early. We tried to do poetry, I had selected 6 poems to read, but they were fabulously bored by them. How can I make this interesting, I will have to do a lot of research about teaching poetry and literature as I have been unable to get anybody interested in it. I read constantly in my spare time at school and try to make it appear fascinating, but they regard it as they would snake-charming: curiously interesting to watch but not something they would want to do themselves. I read the poems aloud with as much gusto as I could manage and forced them to at least hear, if not listen. But poetry does not easily lend itself to right answers and worksheets, and they want that.

Hour 6 does too, and I explained today that we will have a test on poetry next week. We read the same poems and they were as lifeless and hostile (and not there, physically and mentally) as 5th hour. We had 10 there, and toward the end of class 4 were asleep. I wanted to hit them with something, but I'm not ready to begin a fight that I can't even begin to win. I make it clear that I am not tougher than they are, and also that physical toughness is not important to me. In their world it is, in fact it may be a prerequisite to mere survival, but I refuse to become an adherent of that philosophy. Force accomplishes nothing but perpetuating force. I have some large goals, but also some small ones. One of them is to contemplate alternatives, at least learn that they are possible, to the violence- ridden world they inhabit. It is not necessary to kill or hurt people in order to convince them. Words work!

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