Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Kids Are Alright

High school teaching provides lesson in futility


The Kids Are Alright, [1] the teacher is screwed up.

It's sixth period, my first day teaching high school, and my regular Junior English class refuses to settle down. I give them a brief talk, amid the jostling and visiting (and the walking, and the love taps, and the food trading, and the vaulting over desks) about respect. I will respect them, I say, and they will respect me.

If you're standing in front of a classroom, talking, and there is visiting, walking, food trading and (god help us) vaulting over desks you've already lost the 'respect me' skirmish. You need to retire your forces behind a water barrier and build up your strength for a counterattack. [2]

I am, at not even 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, the tiny center of a group growing rowdier by the second.

I wonder why.

One girl throws her weight around, muttering up and down the aisles about her grades and "this teacher." The class is listening to me at the board, so I decide to ignore the behavior and go on with my lesson.

Cue ominous music.

Between the girl bully and the boy bully, I feel so bad that the next day I am reluctant to give back graded work to any students. So bad that, in consultation with my chairman, I do not record zeros for make-up work that the girl bully has clearly had a fellow student complete for her. I just can't take the grief.

An adult. Is bullied. By children. That's all you really have to read to know the rest: Melanie Hubbard is bummed and burnt out and emotionally drained.

She has no idea that about 98% of it is her own fault.

Yes, her fault. I've seen a nice-as-apple-pie 5'2 lady gain the respect of thugs, creeps and gang-bangers - the kind of kids that 'Welcome Back, Kotter' could only hint at.

They sat, they hushed, they respected.

You can school almost any kid, if you do it right.

Arnold was a stoner.

[1] How you lik'n the musical reference?
[2] I just finished reading 'A Bridge Too Far'. Awesome book but it will affect my power of metaphor composition for a while.
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