Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Weasel hits...

Okay. A brief whine about work, then a story of triumph, maybe. It depends...right now all is well in sibling land, and we've cut after-school stuff short because, well, the air is hovering somewhere between crunchy and chewy and our lungs are so full of crap that driving sounds like a sin against nature--I love it when your morning news tells you not to breathe, don't you?

So...some more weasel hits:

A person who runs a program that is geared specifically for underperforming students looked at me at lunch today and said, "Oh, hey--did you know that two of your sophomore classes are more than 50% below basic or far below basic in skills? It looks like you've been tracked..." I looked at her in horror. "I only have two sophomore classes." I said stupidly. Then I burst into tears. After teaching part time last year, with two AP classes and one regular Senior class, I thought the simple fact of the matter was, I had forgotten how to teach. I mean--I've never taught the sophomore curriculum...for all I know, they speak another language or something. I couldn't figure out why instructions such as "copy down what's on the board" were responsible for ten minutes worth of angst and 'I don't understand what we're doing in this class..." So I was sort of laughing, because it means I'm not stupid, crazy, or incompetent, and sort of laughing because WHO IN GOD'S NAME IS RESPONSIBLE FOR LOADING A CLASS THAT BADLY AND NOT TELLING ME. Just asking. Score another one for the weasels.

An Advanced PLacement student asked me today if she could do a report on the same book that she was doing for her 10th grade class. "What are you doing in 10th grade English?" I asked stupidly--it was my day for feeling stupid! "I'm making up credits--I didn't pass it the first time." She replied. I didn't ask her what she was doing in my class-- I already knew. The head prickweenie himself has this idea that any student who wants to participate in the Advanced Placement courses should be able to, regardless of past grades in English. He seems to feel that they harm no one but themselves if they take a class above their heads. Considering the trouble I've been having getting this class to shut the #$% up, I think we've busted that myth--every day I finish that class (admittedly, my 6th period, after one of my sophomore classes after lunch) I cram sweets into my mouth with shaking hands and tell my diet to go to hell, if I don't chew some chocolate I'm going to effing kill someone. Score yet another one for the weasels, however, I just know that eventually one of them is going to bite that prickweenie clean off.

Oh... now for the heartwarming story of triumph.

It's actually about 9/11, but since I live so far away from Ground Zero and lost nothing but my peace of mind about the future of my children (like the rest of us) I thought it was a little self centered to put it out on the day itself, but it goes something like this.

As I walked up the ramp to my classroom on the morning of 9/11/01, I saw my usually cocky senior AP students huddling, hollow eyed, under the eve of the portable. Like all of us, they were terribly shaken, and terribly afraid, and in particular, they were terribly certain that studying Beowulf (always Beowulf) on this day of all days was a complete and total waste of their time. This is what I told them:

Grendel starts attacking people in the meadhall--why do they take exception to that? I mean, these are petty kings, they kill each other all the time on the battlefield. Why is having this big guy stomping in and chewing on a couple-a soldiers a month such a bad thing? Well, let's go back a minute--what pissed Grendel off in the first place? Yeah--exactly. He was kicked off the island in the first place, wasn't he? He had the mark of Caine on him--he was born to be a monster, so Hrothgar's people weren't going to be his friends in the first place, and then, to rub salt in the hair wound, they go and sing songs praising a God that exiled him to his dank smelly cave. The comfort of the meadhall was not his to be had, right? So, what's so big about a meadhall? A big place where we gather to celebrate? Well, think about it--there's like less people on the planet back then than there probably are in the state of California (don't quote me on this) so if you put out your fire and quench your candle and stand outside, the starlight is bright enough to hurt your eyes it's so dark out there. There you are, standing under the great big dark, and your only comfort is your fire and your people--and when you gather these things together in the meadhall, you think you're safe. We treasure our meadhalls. Our meadhalls are holy places to us--they are places where we gather against the great big dark and the stars that cut like diamonds and huddle against the Universe and thank our God for the tiny fire and the breath of our companions. When someone crashes that meadhall--that's a desecration. That's an act of terrorism. You woke up this morning, and found out that someone we as a country has exiled from the meadhall just crashed the meadhall in fury, and you are stunned. We are all stunned. We are terrifed, because this was a big honkin meadhall and we thought, of any meadhall this one would keep us safe. No meadhall can keep us safe--we know that now. Hrothgar and the people of Heorot learned that twelve hundred eyars ago. Now we know the precoiusness of the meadhall and the wrath of the exiled. We've been welcomed, thunderously, into the reality of the human race.

I hope that doesn't offend anybody--the kids seem to think it helped.


Roxie said...

Ma'am, you just blow me away! You have such a gift with words and such keen comprehension. You cut to the heart of the matter and unveil its truth! Blessings on the bright ones in your AP class, and venerial sores to the prickweenies.

How about a good loud whistle. A painfully loud whistle. Make it clear that you will use the whistle when you can not make yorself heard, so if they get their little eardrums lacerated, they have only themselves to blame.

I can't BELIEVE they are letting just anyone into AP classes! What's the point of AP if you STILL have to slow down for the backward ones? WHY, is that girl taking AP if she has to make up 10th grade English?How can she not accumulate bad grades? Is she one of the talkers?

My heart just goes out to you. Courage, you warrior princess! Channel your inner Xena!

lady 4 doors down said...

At least I saved you from getting one more unnecessary student from your sixth period -- Satan herself tried to talk me into recommending one of my students from last year for AP. That student failed my class but Satan said "but she's such a good kid." I held my ground and didn't allow her to bully me into it. Now that student is in my crazy 6th per Sr. class. Well, at least she's there half of the time.

That other lady from across campus said...

Satan needs to go away. I have a bell I ring when my classes need to shut the hell up. It's one of those meditation bells. You ding it and then the sound resonates. It takes about 30 seconds to stop resonating and then they had better be silent or bodies are flying out the door. They hate the sound it makes, so they obey the bell lest I hit it harder. That makes me happy. :)
I think your comparison between what happened on 9/11 and in Beowulf was beautiful and eloquent and very appropriate. On that day, I was a brand new teacher, just barely on the job for three weeks. I didn't handle it nearly as well, and probably still couldn't handle it as eloquently if it happened today.