Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jesus H. Christ

Today was chock full of drama. Non-stop. I will have to detail it later because I am too damned tired right now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Unintentionally Hilarious Spelling

There was a question on the latest science test about animals that can be trained by humans for some specific tasks (I forget which, I'm not the science teacher). The correct answers were dogs and monkeys. Only, in reading class, there was an article about miniature horses being trained, too. One of the kids who is, shall we say, not one of our best spellers filled in her answer blank as, "dogs and small hores."

Years ago, when I taught private school in Hare Krishna land, one of the students was writing an autobiography. She was, apparently, born in "West Vagina." That was the queen mother of all misspellings. I should've kept it to have it framed.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The Things We Do To Kids

There is a girl in one of my classes who I will call Shannon. I care about all my students, but there is always a handful of them who I just click with. Shannon is one of those. She's infinitely precious to me. I have pieced together a little bit about her family situation. Her parents are divorced and her family is poverty-stricken. One time the class was reading an adaptation of a Poe short story. I gave them a little background on Poe and mentioned his alcohol abuse. Shannon raised her hand to comment, but instead of commenting on the story, she started talking about how her mother had a boyfriend who would do drugs and drink and then they would all have to take care of him. I had to gently (if abruptly) steer the discussion elsewhere.

Shannon has serious trouble with being wrong. When she misses something in her work, she becomes angry and incredulous. If she is wrong when answering something out loud, she seems disproportionately affected by it. She is intensely competitive. Also, she is exceptionally bright. Hard-working. Aware. Sensitive. Creative. Eager to please.

Yesterday the other teacher who works with her said that Shannon had been very rude during class. She had pitched a fit over getting a bad grade on some math work.

I took Shannon aside and I guess she could sense it was a serious thing, because she became uneasy. I sat her down on the stairs with me and said, "You can miss every question and fail every class, and I will still think you are smart and I will still love you."

She immediately burst into tears. She just lost it on me, sobbing and red-faced and leaning against me. She told me that her father said if she wasn't the best, she'd never get into a good college. She's ten years old and already a hard worker. Her father probably had the best of intentions, saying that to her. He's setting her up for some misery, though.

"I love you because you are Shannon and you are so lovable. Not because you get all As or because you beat everyone else with your scores."

I feel like I am indulging myself here, to an extent. I needed to hear those words when I was ten. And it feels good to say them to her, it feels good to mean it. And, most of all, I think she really needed to hear it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another Lesson In Cussing

I gave a lesson on "dammit" today. Also, "damn" and "goddammit." See, many of my kiddos have no understanding of the connotations of certain words. After Héctor's inadvertent pottymouth episode yesterday, one of my girls dropped something in class and let loose with a "godDAMMIT!" and not one child so much as batted an eye. So I pulled the door shut and said, "Okay, guys, time for a talk. The words "damn," "dammit," and "goddammit" are not school words. You know I don't really have much of a problem with that sort of thing, but I am afraid that one of these days someone from the district office or a teacher who really does care will be around when you say it and you won't understand why they flip out. "Damn" is as bad as saying "maldito," okay?" There was a collective gasp as I said the word. Héctor got to look all wise and say, "I knew that!" I didn't reveal to the class that he had only learned this important fact yesterday.

Last year I gave a similar lesson on "fat-ass."

I told them that I dare them to go home and tell their parents their teacher was cussing in class, because if they did that I'd have to tell them all the delightful things their children had been spouting, unintentionally or not. "WE WON'T!" they chorused. So, yes, a lesson on "dammit."

On an unrelated note, Valentine's Day gives more loot than Xmas! My desk was piled with a veritable mountain of chocolate-related goodness. I am astounded at the sheer amount of truffles I have been awarded. I couldn't carry it all home so there is a small mountain (a hill, I guess) remaining on my desk for tomorrow. I don't feel like writing about this now, but there was also a "pay a dollar to send someone a carnation" sale that pissed me off badly. Ten-year-olds do not need to be sending each other Valentine's Day flowers. It led to hurt feelings and the childish beginnings of calling a girl who inspires your jealousy a slut. They didn't use the word slut, but if they were thirteen or so, they would've. It sucked and I am not going to let it happen in my classroom next year, school policy be damned. God-damned. Dammit.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Play In One Act

Scene: After school math tutorials. About eight bilingual students are in the classroom.

Student: [chatter chatter chatter chatter] BASTARD!
Teacher: Héctor! You can't say that at school, that's a naughty word. [ed. note: Can you tell I was not the teacher present?]
Student: (pauses, looks confused) DAMMIT!

Ha. After I heard the story, I explained to him what those words meant in Spanish. He was mortified, not just because he had said those things, but because I told him exactly what they meant in Spanish and I used the full words. I don't think he'll be saying any of that again within earshot of the teachers.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


We had a field trip. It was dumb. I got a sunburn (wtf?!). My students think my inhaler is absolutely fascinating. I use a spacer with it and they have taken to referring to it as la teta. Teta literally means "tit," but it's what people colloquially call a baby bottle. The Big Writing Test is very fucking soon. I have a small handful of students who are going to fail no matter what anyone does to help them, and that is always sad. Maya seems to be improving. She isn't red-eyed every day now. I am still watching Nsima for anything I can report. Anything.

One of my students, Sandra sat with me at lunch during the field trip. We talked a little while and she said, "I don't feel like my father cares about me at all."

Anyone reading my other blog knows I Have Issues. So hearing her say that made me tense immediately. I asked her why she felt that way and she repeated some things he said that sounded careless to my ear. And on the tip of my tongue was, "Oh, of course your father cares about you. I'm sure he loves you very much. You just misunderstood." But, Jumping Christ on a pogo stick, what does that really tell the kid? "You are wrong, wrong, wrong." And what if her father really doesn't care? Mine didn't.

"I care about you very much, Sandra, and I am enjoying your company right now for our lunch. Do you feel like you can tell your father exactly what you told me? You don't have to, but it might be good to let him know how you are feeling instead of keeping it all inside."

I don't know if it was the right thing to say, but it was definitely better than telling her she was wrong.

One of my boys was afraid to go up in a high elevator, but he decided he would do it. I would have had no problem with him remaining below if he wanted. I went with him and held his hand. He said it was really scary and horrible, but he felt okay that he had done it. The other kids were really good to him about it and there was no mockery of his obvious fear. Meanwhile, a boy in another class stayed down below with his mother. He was scared of the elevator too, and cried. She decided to protect him from the terror of the elevator. I see her at school every day and I like her very much. I wish I could tell her how she is completely smothering her son with her need to take care of him. The child is morbidly obese and is having a great deal of trouble doing anything for himself. If she doesn't stop it, he's going to hate her.