It Really Isn’t May Yet

September 15, 2010 at 9:26 pm 1 comment

Today’s video announcements were run (into the wall, according to the Broadcasting teacher) by a new crew. In addition to playing at least one promo video without any, y’know, video feed and allowing the camera’s “you need to charge your battery now, schmuck” warning to play all around the school, the announcements also wished the local college football team luck on their game tonight (it’s on Saturday) and played a clip declaring that it was almost time for end-of-year finals and announcing the date for graduation.

It was the funniest announcement video ever. I’m not ashamed to admit that when they declared that it was the end of May and time to prepare for final exams, I joined my class in mockingly exalting.

I’m not really anxious for the year to be over, though. I’m actually pretty excited about some of the stuff to come… although that is heavily tempered by my students’ piss-poor (sorry, but colorfully-marked quiz papers require colorful adjectives) performance on the first Antigone assessment. I can’t think of any excuse for earning a 1/15, 2/15, or even 5/15 on a quiz over a play that we’re reading aloud, pausing VERY frequently to discuss, clarify, and review. I mean, sure. A kid or two is going to flop on a quiz. But I’m talking about easily a third of my students, here.

I know why they failed the quiz. They’re sitting there, picking their noses instead of paying attention in class. When we’re doing class discussion, they’re tuning it out. These are the kids I’ve had to wake up in class, the kids who don’t stay on the right page. (It’s also the kids who don’t speak English very well, so that’s a legitimate problem.)

I’m not sure what to do about the other kids. Part of me wants to assign lunch detention, and when they show up it turns out to be remedial lunch club. Re-read, re-discuss, maybe watch clips from the old BBC movie version, re-quiz. My shoulder angel thinks that’s the right thing to do because it’s bending over backward to help these kids succeed. My shoulder devil thinks it’s the right thing to do because these kids deserve some penalties (as it’s clear – through other performance – that poor grades don’t bother them).

Then, the other part of me says that these kids aren’t freshmen or middle school kids, and I shouldn’t force success on them if they’re determined to make the choice to fail.

So yeah. There’s that. Not to mention the little side detail that I’d be making a LOT more work for myself. I’d need to write a remedial unit, skip lunch for who knows how long, chase down reluctant kids, forfeit ALL of my alone/down/prep time until I get them caught up. I’m being paid to leave no child behind, but am I being paid to raise an army to chase down kids who are intellectually AWOL?

In other news, after school  today I spoke to a 15-year-old student about the fact that she got suspended last week for smoking on campus. After I told her that she shouldn’t smoke, and had a short discussion with her in which she acknowledged wanting to quit, she suddenly launched into a recitation of her life’s soap opera that included drug-using parents, two years of marijuana usage as a tween, her ENTIRE medical history including birth control prescriptions, stories of her tweaking-on-meth sister and her paranoid-on-weed father having screaming arguments outside her bedroom door at 4 AM on school days…. The highlight had  to be the story about going to her sister’s house (“my sister’s my hero,” she said more than once) and having it fill with fifteen people with meth pipes, the house filling with the smell of cat-urine smoke, “big time drug dealers” offering her a pipe and having her sister intervene so that [my student] didn’t inadvertently offend them by refusing. I learned more about drug culture and about the sordid reality of some of my kids’ lives in that twenty minutes than I ever wanted to know.

The weirdest thing? She wasn’t telling me this because she was upset, or because she wanted to unload, or wanted help, or  wanted me to understand her life. She was  just talking, just running her mouth. Never once did she show any indication that she thought this was a strange conversation to be having with her English teacher, or that it might be information that would inspire me to contact counselors/social services. The only time she censored herself is when she accidentally said “shit” and corrected herself to “stuff.”

By the end of it all, I’m thinking, “Hon, if the worst you ever do is smoke cigarettes and smoke pot every once and a while, you’re doing pretty good.”

Aaaaaaand now, I do have to go talk to someone about what she told me, even though I suspect most of it took place a few years ago (if at all, because if teaching has taught me anything, it’s to not always believe what teenage girls tell you about their melodramatic lives). And I really don’t trust our counseling staff to have any subtlety about this. They’ll call her down tomorrow, so she knows exactly who tipped them off, and they’ll probably even tell her it was me. And then, as uncomfortable as this abrupt trust she had in me was, it will be dashed for the rest of the year. She’ll hate me. But if that’s the price to pay for the chance of getting her out of a VERY bad home situation….

I mean, how is a kid supposed to have any chance at a healthy life when everyone in her family/social world surrounds her with drugs?



There’s Nothing Like Teaching… Devour Any Good Books Lately?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. teachin'  |  September 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    It’s probably worth talking to the girl about it, ideally before she gets hauled into counseling, but after if that’s your only option. If you talk about how it’s about her safety, and how if something happened to her and you’d known and hadn’t done anything you wouldn’t be able to live with yourself (assuming you feel that way), she’ll probably understand.

    I make a big point of talking to my kids about reporting, and the things I need to report and how it’s because I truly wouldn’t be able to live with myself for not acting when I’d had the chance. I even put it in my letter home, because that stuff comes up semi-regularly. It means that I actually hear more stuff sometimes because kids know that I’ll take it seriously and they know when they need help.


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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