There’s a boy in my Tuesday/Thursday class. For the sake of his anonymity, let’s call him Adam, shall we?
I LOVE this boy. From the very first class, I knew he was going to be a royal pain in my ass, but the kind that I could actually WORK with. He’s a wise-ass and goes out of his way to have some sort of snarky or just-this-side-of-inappropriate comment. During the very first class, he announced that he hates English. “Why?” I asked him:
“Because it’s complicated, Man. This language is MESSED. UP.”
“Agreed; you’ll get no argument from me. What if I make it a little less complicated for you? Would you hate it a little less?”
Okay, then! As long as we understand each other.
Later, we were listing things that stand in the way of our being really great writers. I was at the board, writing down the things the class was shouting out to me:
“I have trouble staying on topic”
“I never know how much detail is too much.”
“I can’t pick good topics.”
And Adam shouts out “I’m lazy!”
I turned to the kid and said that this is a problem that afflicts all of us, me included, and particularly when we’re not invested in what we’re writing.
“Nah. I’m just all-around lazy. I just hate to write.”
So I put my pen down and walked up to the little darling and said “Okay, Sweetie; in front of ALL these witnesses, I need you to understand that I don’t GIVE grades, you EARN them. If you hand me nothing, I’m going to hand back…..?”
“Zeros. I get that.”
Good! As long as we understand each other.
The thing with this kid, though? I really do love him. For all his griping, he is one of my MOST reliable class participants. More to the point, I know he doesn’t hate English because he doesn’t understand it or can’t manipulate the language. This kid GETS it. Case in point:
I gave the students this essay to read this afternoon. When they were finished, I asked them if they thought it is a good piece of writing. They universally agreed that it is, indeed, good. When I asked them WHY it was good (as an English teacher, you understand, I am compelled to find out WHY something is good or bad – WHY someone likes a poem or dislikes it – go here for a thoughtful consideration of this compulsion) and Adam – dear, sweet Adam – came out with a really good and thoughtful response. It is a good piece of writing, he said, because the author uses a variety of words. She uses words like “dude” and “cool,” he said, but she also uses words like “harried” and “encroach.” That made the piece interesting to read, he concluded and, therefore, GOOD.
The kid will TOTALLY ace the class participation grade. Now, if I can just get him to hand in his homework….