Today was an interesting day.
Mondays suck in general, but today was particularly challenging. None of the kids were really interested in school today – there was much grumbling and very little cooperation – but none were so enthusiastic about their apathy as the 400 level kids in period five.
CT and I had started on Friday by splitting the group up. She took five boys out of the room and left me with the remaining eight students (four of each boys and girls). We’d started reading Taste of Salt with the class, but it became obvious very early on that at least some of the students were NOT going to participate, so CT found some short stories and articles that were related to the time period in Haiti that Taste of Salt describes and was planning on coming at the subject at a different angle. I stayed with the rest of the class and read aloud to them, stopping every so often to ask for clarification and discussion.
Friday went extremely well. The kids managed to get through the chapter with me with a minimum of complaining, and a few of them even had really interesting, insightful things to say. I went home this weekend with a real sense of accomplishment – I thought we were really going to go somewhere with this book.
Then today happened.
I started the group off by asking for a recap of what happened last week. We’d had a whole weekend without thinking about the book, and I wanted to see how much they’d retained. Before long, though, the kids decided that this wasn’t worth their effort. The conversation morphed from my asking “why do you think that things were getting more and more dangerous for Djo and the street boys who lived with Aristide” to their asking”why do we have read this stupid book, anyway?” We spent the better part of twenty minutes talking about why it’s important to read things that describe how other people live, why we need to understand how other people think and feel, why it’s important for us to share the reading of a book as an experience. It’s not about the BOOK, per se, it’s about understanding things outside of yourself.
CT had an even worse time in her class. Five boys, and not a one of them was willing to even attempt to meet her halfway. She brought them back into the classroom fifteen minutes before the class ended in a state of having given up, so we spent the rest of the class talking about why things seem to be falling apart. The kids were frustrated by what they see as a lack of choice in the class, we were frustrated by their lack of cooperation and respect.
We came to a pseudo-consensus before the class ended: the kids are going to come to class tomorrow with a list of ten “rules” they think the class needs to follow in order to function more smoothly, and we’re going to bring in a box of books for the students to choose from. I’m not sure how we’re going to manage having all the kids reading different things, but we’ll (hopefully) at least have them engaged enough to make it through a fifty minute class period.