Monday, September 20, 2004

back to business

School is back in session, and it's sex in the stairwell as usual. Ah, tradition. Today, though, there was apparently an audience, and it turned ugly, and the crowd got surly and laid its anger and hatred and sense of demoralization upon the girl, and they followed her around in the halls, spitting (so to speak) at her. I'm uneasy writing about this. It seems like something that ought to be kept secret, it's so sordid and shameful. I have been back and forth about whether to write about it. But this journal would be a sham if I kept the truth out of it. And I know for a fact that this is not a situation exclusively ours. That's enough said.
On another front, first thing this morning, when I was signing in, the secretary told me she needed for me to babysit another class during my planning period. She asks me almost every day now. I refused in my despicably wimpy way. But I was public about it this time. I didn't choose to be. She forced it. I don't want to alienate the school secretary. That would be a pretty damned seriously stupid mistake, politically speaking. However, I'm clear about this: I'm not here to make friends.

I'm making up a handwritten interim report for each of my students tonight. The average grade of my 80 or so students is probably 50. The problem is absenteeism, but also that I think they're afraid of the things I ask of them. Today we read an excerpt from Emerson's essay on self-reliance, and when I asked my students what it meant to be self-reliant and non-conformist (after explaining the terms) they were afraid because they thought I had an answer up my sleeve, and they didn't want to take a chance and be wrong. I told them that I don't have or use a teacher's manual, but they didn't understand me. I'm realizing as I write here that their vociferousness about not wanting to think about things is their way of saying they don't know and they feel stupid.
Things are definitely getting thick.

Tim is in the air even as I write here, on his way to be an English teacher in Paris. France. The child is father to the man.

Today the word we used to set off our writing was "conforming." My timer died third period during the ten minutes. Also, I had to reiterate our resolve (I know that series of words seems unseemly) when a kid stood up during the writing to ask me a question. Poor P. He was the source of a big lesson today.

Disposed of: an antiquated cellular telephone and two dead plants.

Melanie Anne Plesh



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