Monday, March 30, 2009

Think You Can Teach?

All you bloggers, pundits and talking heads out there prescribing solutions for teacher evaluation or pay, this story is for you. You may not have set foot in a classroom since you left school and you may or may not have ever attended public school, so let me remind you first that all public schools are required by law to educate any child who wishes to attend school and who qualifies by age and residence to do so. Here's some real life at a previous school:

It's after lunch, and just like every day, my fifth period students begin to arrive after the bell rings to end lunch. They're all wearing their backpacks in front, and clutching them tightly, as they look around the room to see if "Klepto" is in attendance. He saunters into the room, and the students grip their packs more tightly. I move swiftly to the file cabinets in the rear of the classroom and punch the locks, keeping an eye on Klepto to make sure he does not drift anywhere near my desk. A little extreme? Not even close. This kid has pinched cell phones from teachers, most of the special pencils I ordered for prizes (from the back cabinet), and numerous items from classmates. He's like a well-trained pick pocket; no one ever sees him pinch the stuff, but somehow it ends up in his possession.

I look behind me to make sure I remembered to post the special class rules that go up each day just for this one class. These are not your normal class rules, and include an outright ban on cafeteria tools (straws for blowing spitballs, sporks for catapulting gum across the room), and various other rules more likely to be found in a lower elementary school classroom.

Consequences for disobedience are severe: first offense earns a referral to the dean and suspension from that day's class, second earns a referral and a parent conference, and for the third, "your mom has to come to class and sit with you."
One student asks, "What if my mom can't come?"

To which a classmate replies, in a jaded voice, "Don't get thrown out three times, pendejo." Duh.

Why? This is no "normal" class. On any given day we could have a stink bomb release to start class, a fight, an eruption from one of the kids with anger issues, and any other imaginable type of disruption. I've never had a group like this one, hence the special rules, just for them.

One day, as the students come in, they begin running around the room, cafeteria tools readily visible - no one sits. I call out to them. No response. I stand there, flabbergasted, absorbed by the sheer chaos. Turning around, I notice I have forgotten to post the special rules for that class. I grab the poster and pull out two tacks. As I raise my arms to post the rules on the board, I hear a voice above the din, "She's putting up the rules!" Plonk. The entire class sits in unison, dead quiet, hands on the desk in front of them. I manage not to laugh.

So all of you commentators, here's the reality. This is your class, because you're a new teacher and most of the veterans (unlike yours truly who actually likes these kids) don't want to have anything to do with this lot. Could you handle them? Could you teach them anything? Unsure? You should be.

1 comment:

  1. I love this posting! I used to be a public high school English teacher and can totally relate!