Three Weeks In

So, I thought I’d post a little progress report of sorts on my first day of February break.  We’re three weeks into the new semester, and quite a lot has happened in that short time.

For starters, my juniors and seniors read Native Son.  Well… most of them read it.  Okay… HALF.  The other half of the class was regularly kicked out of the room to read in the principal’s office (I’ve got to talk to her about that; I’m going to do it as a regular thing and I want to make sure she’s on board).

The thing is, I KNOW when you’ve not done the reading, Kids.  There are details in this story – details that stand out in obvious ways – that I expect you to be able to tell me when I ask.  When I go to student A and ask him what happened in the section we read and he says “Bigger got caught,” and I say “Yes, but HOW did he get caught?” and boy replies that he doesn’t remember, I call bullshit.  One doesn’t quickly forget that Bigger was fire hosed off the top of a water tower on the roof of an apartment building in the middle of the night during a blizzard.  Get your book and go find Ms. Director.

The kids who did read really kicked it.  In fact, the first day I sent half the class out of the room, the students who remained had the kind of conversation I used to have in my college classes when I was a student.  Everyone was participating, they questioned each other, they made connections and extended their thinking beyond the book, and I had to do little else but sit back and watch them rock.  When it was all over, one student came to me to ask if I could do that again.  “Do what again?” I asked.  “Kick those kids out.”  No, Sweet; the idea is to bring them along with us…

In that class of 15, 8 students are failing.  One of them has been suspended for the rest of the year, though, so that brings me to 7.  Three of them are going down in spectacular fashion, though; two kids have 12.5 averages, one’s got a 7.5, and one delightful young man (who did this with me last term and swore that this semester would be different) has a straight 0.  Yep, that’s right; Boyfriend has turned in exactly no work.  Awesome.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, I’ve got some kids who are actually competing for the highest grades in the class.  Two of them are dating (it’s pretty funny to watch them in the class – they never sit together and they consistently push each other to more and more complex thinking.  He’s FAR more concerned about the numbers than she is, but it’s pretty clear that she’s not going to just “let him win.”) and two more girls are giving them a run for their money.  Together, the top six kids in the class are pushing ME to make the course rigorous and high-energy, and I’m loving every second of it.

My grammar class is really the same sort of story on another level.  About half the class are bombing while the other half are doing fairly well (with one girl blowing everyone else away.  There was really no need for her to be in the class, but there was nothing else offered that period that she could take, so I got her).  I’ve got a couple of wise-ass kids, one or two chatty ones, and two that just don’t give a shit.  My big concern in this class, though, is a boy I’ll call Mac.

Mac is a GOOD kid; he was in one of my courses last term and it was patently clear to me that he really has it in him to do well.  The problem is that he can THINK, but he can’t really WRITE (and I mean that; his writing resembles that of a second-grader).  He’s in the group of kids who are failing, and he’s trying SO hard to grasp the basics of grammar – he really is – but the wise-ass, chatty, and just-don’t-give-a-shit kids are a distraction that’s making it hard for him to focus.

I made the announcement yesterday – our last class before break – that the atmosphere of the class is going to change when we get back.  I invited them to revisit the syllabus and the expectations set forth within and I told them, on no uncertain terms, that I WOULD kick them out of class for being disruptive or disrespectful.  I’m pretty sure that most of them don’t buy that, but the kids who’ve had me before know I’m not bluffing.  If you’re not here to learn and to take advantage of what your school and your teachers have to offer you, then you have no business being here and I WILL throw you out.  Go dick around somewhere else; we’re trying to get something done here, and we have no time to entertain your dumbassery.  (I should note here that I didn’t actually use those words, but that was absolutely my message.)

Let’s see how many I have to toss before they figure out I’m not kidding.

All in all, though, I’m absolutely DELIGHTED by how the semester is going.  I’ve got a lot of really great kids (the truth is that they’re ALL great kids, it’s just that some of them don’t know it yet), I’m doing a lot of good work, and I’m having a blast.

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5 Comments

Filed under analysis, critical thinking, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, fun, I love my boss, I love my job, Learning, Literature, self-analysis, student chutzpah, success!, Teaching, the good ones, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

5 responses to “Three Weeks In

  1. How in the world do you get a zero? Amazing!

  2. Rowan

    Yes, I have a couple with a GPA of 0 too. Several more with 1 or 1.5.
    I wish I could kick some out but our admin in the BIG downtown office says we should just take them into the hall and find out WHY they aren’t working, etc. There are no gangstas or hooligans in our school, they are CHILDREN. (‘scuse me while I go visit the 16 year old in jail for ‘alledgedly’ murdering three people. Oh wait, guess I didn’t take him out into the hall and ask what was bothering him. I’ll be sure to ask the 7th grader who robbed someone in broad daylight! He’s visiting with the other one. )

  3. Jenny

    The literature teacher’s ongoing dilemma…what to do about those kids who just don’t read? Short of kicking them out to actually do the reading–which, with proper administrative support, seems like it could be a productive option–it becomes this depressing cycle. They are, obviously, completely bored in class while the other students and I discuss the reading. They have no idea what we’re talking about and therefore are incapable of caring about it. This boredom seems to seep into their entire being and instead of wanting to be a part of the life of the class, they withdraw completely and lose all motivation to do the reading. The class becomes simply, easily labeled, “boring.” It’s a tough battle!

  4. I think it’s such a blessing to have teachers who truly care about their students the way you do. Parents pretty much cross their fingers and hope the luck out and get teachers who haven’t been fully turned off by the lack of parent involvement, less than focused students, and the politics of education overall.

    Just stopping by to say THANK YOU!!

  5. Pingback: Three Weeks In | Γονείς σε Δράση

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