October 29, 2007
My students wrote dialogue to perform in class between different castes. My Untouchables sang and danced “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” In another group, a princess ran off with a low-caste boy and then they both committed suicide when their parents caught them. It was unspeakably awesome.
The best part, though, was that I told them I had a headache (and I did, ow, caffeine-no-sleep migraine bad) so they all applauded for each other American Sign Language style, hands in the air. “Wow,” I said, “that was awesome. How did you guys all learn that?”
They rolled their eyes at me. “Miss,” said one of the boys, “you told us about that, like, the second day of school. Don’t you remember?”
Uh. No. But I’m excited that they do!
October 25, 2007
Once upon a time, a freshman in my class refused to do any of his work. When I gave him a sheet, he’d turn it over. When I called on him, he’d roll his eyes and put his head down. A couple of weeks in to the semester he raised his hand and bragged “Yo, I’m supposed to be in tenth grade anyway; I don’t have to do your work ’cause I won’t be in this class after tomorrow!”
“Sweetie,” I said, “you get one guess who’s teaching 10th grade, too.”
For the first semester of school, every time I called on him he’d whine and moan about how much he hated history and every other history teacher he’d had. He was super smart but didn’t hand any work in; he loved to participate but hated to write. He complained and complained and complained, but he got better, and eventually he got a 78 on the Regents.
Tonight, despite the fact that he doesn’t attend the school I currently work at, he showed up for parent-teacher conferences. He gave me a big hug. He’d figured out where I was and when I’d be there, and he’d brought messages from lots of kids I used to teach. When I had a break between parents he told me about his grades this year and promised to work harder next marking period. We talked about college. He listened to me talking to to the freshmen about doing better and stopped them on their way out. “You’re giving her a hard time? She’s awesome. I was just like you last year, dude. She makes you work, and it sucks. But she’s the best teacher ever. I miss you, miss!”
I didn’t cry. It was a near thing, but I didn’t cry. I made him promise to send me his grades next marking period, too, so that I could see them going up, and I sent messages back to the kids I left behind. Then I hugged him again and sent him home.
Then I cried. Just a little.
Anyway, if anyone ever asks, that’s why I teach.
October 24, 2007
(I knit a sock!)
One of my favorite things is when I hear my words coming out of the students’ mouths. Yesterday, for example, when we started talking about reincarnation and Hinduism, I heard a “But they don’t really believe that, do they?” from the back of the room. Steam started coming out of my ears and I opened my mouth to lecture.
“Yo, we all were respectful about Christianity and Islam, even if it wasn’t our religion,” pipped up three different voices from the room. “You can ask questions, but you can’t make fun. Religions are all based on faith anyway! What proof do you have that Jesus was the son of God?”
I didn’t have to say anything. I love that.
October 23, 2007
By the way, if there happen to be any new high school teachers reading this, here is one of my best tricks for getting kids to succeed: talk to the boyfriend/girlfriend.
I find that very often a kid who is bombing my class will be dating someone who is aceing my class, and if I can get them both in the room at the same time after school, the one who is doing well will yell at the one who is bombing for me. I just casually say “[Stephanie], you know this boy has never handed in any homework, right?” and she will get totally indignant and lecture him and often promise me that she will check to make sure he hands everything in from now on. I have to remind her every few weeks, but it has consistently moved kids up from F’s to C’s in my class, and a couple of times even gotten them to pass the Regents. (“What do you mean, she never handed in a practice essay? I saw her writing it! Miss, I’m gonna go get that for you right now!”)
It works with friends, sometimes, too, but there’s less internal motivation for a kid to do well for his friends; there’s tons of motivation to not look stupid in front of your girlfriend.
October 22, 2007
Tomorrow we start talking about Hinduism and India, so I’ll be showing Bride and Prejudice. As an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice it’s mildly terrible and awfully confusing, but as a showcase for Bollywood-style dance numbers and the Indian countryside, it’s awesome. I am also considering showing Jesus Christ Super Star on Friday, to celebrate the half-day. Today a student asked me if Jesus knew he was going to be arrested (why is their secular Jewish teacher the authority on this kind of thing?) and I had trouble not bursting in to song. Luckily, all the other teachers know the movie and we had a sing along at lunch.
“One of you here dining, one of my 12 chosen, will leave to betray me…”
October 19, 2007
Dear Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater in 6th Period,
You have a 41 average. You have bombed every quiz. You did not hand in a project. You do not write anything down in class. When called on, you make a joke to quickly deflect from the fact that you know nothing about what we are discussing.
So next time you decide to copy someone else’s test, aim a little lower than a 94%. I have trouble believing the same kid who told me that “Jews believe in Christmas and wearing hats” aced every single multiple choice question.
October 18, 2007
Today, as part of our study of Christianity, we looked at the Sermon on the Mount (a pseudo-primary document). We spent a long time looking up “meek” and “merciful” and other words they didn’t know.
It’s taking all of my resolve as a Real Grown Up not to bring in the Life of Brian tomorrow. I don’t think the kids would understand why “What did he say? Blessed are the cheese-makers???” is funny.