Sunday, August 13, 2006

Memories of Future Past

(Wasn't that title a Moody Blues album? I certainly hope so...)

Anyway, in order to determine what I was going to post about, first I tried to download pictures. As you can see, that failed. I have this bizarre fear that all of the pictures I've uploaded and the computer has ASSURED me I've uploaded are going to start spotting the web like that episode of FAIRLY ODD PARENTS in which Timmy Turner wanders around people's PC's in order to wreak havoc on their e-mail. For those of you who haven't seen that show, my envy for you burns as hot as a thousand nova suns. (For those of you who have, that last comment should have you in stitches...)

Anyway... small children are down, large children are still at grandmas, and Mate is snoring gently on the couch (uh-oh...tiny sister just woke up...I am once again blogging one handed....)so I thought I'd add to the 'happy teaching' stories...

This next one shows why I love my particular, extremely diverse populations. Now I personally went to an 'all pink' high school-- most of us had pink skin or some variation of that tone...as I've told my students frequently (and truthfully), we had one black student, but it was good for him, because it was 1985, and we thought all black people were Eddie Murphy, so he was the most popular guy there. So when I tell my family and friends from the pink-people's hood that I teach where I do, I get these really wide-eyed looks and a "That's a rough area..." Which cracks me up--because the only reason they think it's a rough area is that the skins are not all pink--and in my school, that means they are cocoa brown, cafe latte, tea yellow, slavic tan, and every variation in between. But what they don't understand is that these kids are GOOD kids. I've subbed at all pink schools--I once had a kid stick a 'Help we're being repressed' sign in the window of the portable building because I made him take his walkman off. Clever, yes. Respectful? Not on your life. So in order to appreciate this next incident, you have to appreciate what would happen if an overweight, 5 month pregnant, middle aged teacher did a full body belly flop (as pregnant women are wont to do) in the quad after lunch in front of an all pink adolescent audience. Can you hear the roars of laughter from where you sit? I could, even as my knees hit the ground and my large belly followed. The thing is, the roars of laughter were all in my head. My 5th period class, which was all lined up in front of my door, waiting for me to walk from the staff lounge to let them in didn't laugh at all. Instead, as I walked up the ramp to the portable, all I heard from them were reassuring questions--"Are you okay Ms.Mac...did you hurt yourself? Any blood?" (There was a little on my knee--I blew it off.) And I'll always remember that--I know my classmates would have laughed. My kids, bless their hearts didn't--and I will always love them--every class of them--for it.

I'm teaching sophomores this year--I've been teaching all Seniors and Juniors and the jump in maturity level from 10th to 12th grade is just phenomenal, so I'm a little apprehensive. I need to dust off all of my old classroom management skills and some memories of less than stellar classes. My last 9th grade class was still in the 20-1 stage of funding--which meant I only had 25 of them. (This is, to me, an absurd and sad testament to California's moronic and dimwitted approach to education as a whole. If you ask a teacher in a more civilized state what their classroom ratio is, they'll roll their eyes and say in a beleagured voice, 28 students to one teacher--can you believe that nightmare? And then all I have to do is say the magic words--"I'm from California--36 to one" and I get their total respect. Of course ocassionally a politician will run for reelection and we'll get a surge of funding marked 20-1--meaning, that all over the state highschool principles scramble to cut every freshman English class in half--because that's the only place the funding goes--and six months later the politician gets elected, reviews the budget, wonders why our math scores haven't improved, and calls the whole thing off.) So anyway, this class was smaller than usual, but, by the end of the year, I discovered that more than half of them had been referred to continuation school--which meant that the fact that I wanted to throttle more than half of them at any given moment on any given day was definitely not my fault. (For any teacher doing the math here...if the entire school sends forty exiting Freshman to continuation school a year, and 1/2 of your class of 25 is going to continuation school, that means that you have 1/4 of the schools worse behavior problems stuffed into one small class. Basically people, this renders 20-1 both moot and a hinderance rather than a help.) So anyway, I wanted them dead, finito, over and done with, roadkill, whatever. But that was only at the end of class. At the beginning of class I would walk up the ramp (Oh yeah--I had them after lunch. Any teacher will tell you that the after lunch thing is the kiss of death for often the most promising classes and the impeteus behind banning soda from every vending maching on a public school campus from here to Saskatchewan) and greet them by name--and be honestly glad to see them. Ashanti was a sweetheart who begged me to teach her crochet, Jorge was really bright and did anything I asked, Jesse had a big heart, Yokell had some maturing to do, AJ was a pussycat in front of his grandmother--you get the picture. And so, one day, as I stood in front of the class, getting ready to deliver the lesson and wondering if God would pretty please drop an anvil on my head and spare me the next 55 minutes, I simply spoke to them from my heart. "Guys--I don't get it. I walk in here everyday, and you are really nice to me--and I am genuinely happy to see you. You are funny. You are kind. You have smiles on your faces and you are excited for class to start. Someone raise their hands and tell me then, why it is that when the bell rings, I am three times as happy to see you go?"

Nobody raised their hand--but about 1/2 (again, that math thing) looked at their hands in shame.

It would be nice to say that things instantly improved, but that's a Hollywood ending, and yes, about 1/2 of them did end up in continuation school. But when I was pregnant with Kewyn, Ashanti made me a baby afghan--the only person so far to crochet one for me instead of the other way around. I had Jorge again as a Junior--he was genuinely happy to see me. A.J. stopped by sometimes to assure me that he'd matured a whole lot from his freshman year. I, in turn, told him in confidence that one of his teachers had put him on the nomination list for our Student of the Month award--he never got elected, but for A.J., the honor was in the nomination. And for the rest of the year, when things got dicey, all I really had to say was, "I'm still happy that you're here--don't make me change that." And about 80% of the time, it worked.

More to come...

1 comment:

Roxie said...

Days of Future Past. I had a college boyfriend that had a thing about Tuesday Afternoons . . .

I love, love,love your teaching tales. Chicken Soup for the teacher's soul.