Thursday, April 2, 1992

The days march on. I've just returned from my final Wednesday night seminar. Six more times I will sit down to compose myself by composing my thoughts and then student teaching, the semester I've been dreading for four years and acutely dreading for nearly a year, will be complete. I have endured many fearful events (those that I knew were going to occur) and I have managed to get through them all, there was no reason to suspect that I wouldn't thrive in this one, but I was afraid. Anyway, I know, as I age, that most people are not very good at the things they do, and there was no reason for me to fear the possibility of failure, for I am as good as anyone at anything I try to do.

Hours 1 & 2 received a rude surprise upon arrival today: they had take the first part of their MMAT test. They had no warning. We didn't find out until yesterday afternoon that make-ups would not be possible after the event. So today, rather than the usual day of frolics and foolishness they were asked to come in and begin thinking immediately. I decided today that when I teach I will have a U.S.A. map, a world map, and a periodic table on my wall. These poor kids are so ignorant of what they were asked to do today (it was 2 hours of science, and they all claimed that the evil demon Mr. Curtis never taught any of these things; somehow I feel certain when they take the English part they will make the same assessment and assign the same blame, though, after today, I know they should be able to do much of it) (interesting use of punctuation; one would think I've been reading Faulkner or Joyce recently) (have you ever seen parenthetical phrases back to back like that before?)(or back to back to back...?). (What does that period actually end? Whoa! ! ! )

Back to the subject; they were totally unequipped to take that test, they do not know the vocabulary necessary to accomplish the stuff required of them. As a teacher, I will make sure that my vocabulary work, which I have not done this year but will when I really teach, will be more that just synonyms for words they already know but will actually be interdisciplinary. They do not know igneous, metamorphosis or sediment, to discuss the rocks that they need to know to answer these questions.. There were many other words that they needed that they did not have. I felt helpless for them, and they responded by finishing a very difficult 64 question test, for which they were allotted 60 minutes, in about 20 minutes. What a waste! Both their egos and their feelings about school must take a real beating when they face something like that. I want them to do so much more, and I think they do too. But they have so little skill, they see a question that asks about volume as related to temperature, and they immediately assume they can't answer, even when it is a simple proportion. They have to read the question and see whether the information provided is important, necessary or relevant. But of course I also see notes written between them that say "Do you no that me and Earl are dating?" and I recognize their losses are long term and they will have to do a major portion of the work to recover what is lost.

Hour 3, struggling on through Animal Farm, finished Chapter 7 (I think we will celebrate when all 10 are complete). I see clearly that they too have no larger perspective to relate this to; I was talking about Napoleon's use of paranoia and terror to make sure everyone was to blame except him, and also how the external enemy, source of all failure, is akin to what is going on in the black community right now with its hysterical vision of a white conspiracy, and they looked at me blankly. Mark has truly mastered the art of sleeping in any position at any time, he makes my cat look like a slouch in the getting-comfortable-and-going-to-sleep-whenever-conversation-lags-for-a-second department. So I try to make them see the applicability, but, like black and white films, they know in advance that no such book could ever interest them.

Hour 5, the poet's corner, managed to get through the remaining poems I wanted to do, and they did them without too much grief. Rodman again wanted to chat, but I got everyone to move away from him, gave him some room to respond, and he did ok. Not great, but they clearly have never been asked what something means. (Which is understandable as I was never asked until I was in college.) They do not have the skill to actually look into it and see what it is trying to do. We discussed "The Legend of the Paper Plates" and the environmental repercussions of what we are doing, and I saw some of what the school is attempting to teach come out. Thus all is not a total failure.

Hour 6 did the same poems, again complaining that this is a freshman book, which is more important than the quality of what we are going to do. They were inattentive, annoying and foolish. Horace spent the hour silent, he was working on an assignment for another teacher! He asked me if he could deliver it and I said "Why not?" He had spent the whole class working on it; it was only appropriate that he deliver it on class time as well. However, irony is something they don't get, whether in poetry or reality. I was disappointed, but I truly am trying to get out of this with my life and little more at this point. Won't that be nice?

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