Tuesday, November 30, 2004

getting more real

I cannot put my finger on why or what it was that occurred today, but my students were serious about our discussion of the human spirit, and it went deep and got beautiful. We spent about 45 minutes just talking about vocabulary words and terms that I took from William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, including such as agony, glory, ephemeral, endure, human spirit, the heart in conflict with itself, pinnacle, anguish, verity, inexhaustible. They were forthcoming. At the end of class I read the speech to them. I stopped to explain the one part, about how people become inured to fear and that, after a while, it doesn't even register with them anymore. I told them about how sensitive I am to the violent and cruel things that occur every day in our halls, and pointed out that maybe I'm sort of a barometer. I also pointed out that I'm getting, unfortunately, accustomed to it too. And maybe I'm wrong to say this, but I told them that they've become numb, and that that's a shame. It's exactly what Faulkner writes about. And I don't think I'm wrong to point out that reality is relative. Reality is relative. That's what I think, but I know I'm not necessarily in the majority thinking such a thing.
We'll see. I only hope for something to register.
My plan for these coming three weeks is this: this week we're reading essays written by living authors (Faulkner could be living had he not ended his life early) and looking at themes, trying to become aware of subjects we can write about, about how essays address the human condition. Next week we're reading poems and looking at the same thing, about how poems address the human condition. The third week, well, I want that to be a celebration of the human spirit, perhaps a time to define what the human condition is. Somehow. I want my children to see how writers are heroic in that way, that writing is a way to show us who we are. But how do we do that? I depend on something occurring to me, something happening that inspires me, so I'll know how to proceed. But just as I'm writing this I'm thinking that maybe I should present the question to the children. Ask them to help me come up with the proper culminating week's study. I could let that be the question on the Monday before the end.
Writing made me figure that out.


Monday, November 29, 2004

glad to be back

Monday evening.
The romantic attitude I exhibited in the last blog came close to being dashed today, but I hung onto it anyway. A couple of thugs hanging around my classroom got threatening with me when I told them to scram. In retrospect I remember that there are some people at this school who are as dangerous as they come anywhere in the world, people who kill and are killed, people we read about in the paper all the time. 9th ward boys. But, feeling all full of love for my students, I got cocky and a little bit stupid. But I'm also getting over the top sick of the ignorance of these kinds of fools. The halls are getting cleaned up and the kids are getting a chance to take themselves seriously, and then these boys, absolutely up to no good, hang around my door. It's hard for me anymore to make myself back off.
Also, first thing this morning, before first period even got a good start, there was a fight on the third floor. A girl I only know from the halls, but we've taken to each other, came to my class limping and almost crying (you almost never see crying at my school), because she'd been standing outside the door of an absent teacher when the fight started and the crowds surged and knocked her against something in the wall and she hurt her leg. I was livid. I still am. The office tried to telephone her mother, but her mother was at the moment at the doctor with the girl's baby, and couldn't be reached, so the office said oh well. So she came to my room looking for a phone. So I went across the hall to that wonderful teacher I've talked about (the one in charge of the hall) and she let the girl use her telephone and the thing got handled. The girl was so angry about the stupidity of the people fighting. I tell you, those kids hate it as much as I do.
I told my students today about how I realized we were almost done with each other, and most of them didn't exhibit the same feelings I was feeling. But I know them. I know they're not cold to it.
I bubbled grades in today and got creative. The girl who was such a problem a few weeks ago, the one who got suspended on my account, has a solid f for the third quarter in a row, but I changed her grade to d and told her so, and told her I'd help her make a b next quarter so she could pass and she said okay. It was a serious and important moment.
Also today I implemented a project in my class that my cohort and friend, Lynne, developed. Her wish is to have her students respond to my students, and so my students had to answer a bunch of questions and DRAW THEIR HANDS ON A PIECE OF PAPER. Believe me, I was nervous about bringing that part of it up. I saved it for after I thought they might care that someone somewhere in the country, some kids in a country school, were about to learn something about the city. (Now that I think of it, I wish I had had my students write more of a narrative to send to them.) But my students did it, they answered the questions, they drew their hands, and they meant what they did. I love these people for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is that they are not cynical. Yes they have a lot of reason to be, but they're not. There's such a purity of spirit. I will attempt to explain this as time goes on. But not tonight. Because tonight I need a couple of hours to think everything through and make these coming three weeks be all that these precious humans in my care deserve.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

four weeks more

The blog site is having gas or something lately. Growing pains perhaps.
It's Sunday night. I have much on my mind but the predominant thing is that I have four weeks with my students left. That's all. Four weeks. It feels like so much has just begun to happen. Now all I can think about is, excuse me but, fuck the do nows and the posted objectives and the evidence of student work on the wall and the filled out form forty-fours and the lesson plans designed according to standards and gle's. That's harsh. But I'm not deleting it. This holiday has been good for me. Really good. It gave me a chance to catch up with myself and feel what's happening in my life, and I am filled with thoughts and emotions about my students and who they are and their beauty and that I love them, and that I want these last several weeks to mean something. This all has suddenly become real for my heart and not just a subject to conjecture about. The girl who said I'm the first white woman she's ever known, I don't want to quit knowing her. We're not done with each other. I don't want them to go.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

report on essays

I haven't been writing because I've been sick for the past week and a half. Today is Tuesday and I believe I'm over it, but for the usual lingering cough. In retrospect, I realize that it's no surprise that I'd have gotten sick when I did. I uprooted myself in my mind 8 months ago, when I started thinking about working in Orleans Parish, and, except for the hurricane days (which weren't the least bit restful) have been marching forward like a driven 25 year old, mainly on bravado, barely letting myself touch the Earth. The everyday, conscious me, doesn't understand about moderation or delayed gratification, so something wiser in me has to sometimes step in and stop my body from making another step, usually through illness. I appreciate that about myself.
The last time I wrote was last Tuesday, and we were at the point of attempting to pull together notes and thoughts, and to take the leap toward putting the details into the big picture, into their own big pictures. I just read the papers I picked up Friday. They almost did it. Had I included another step in the process -- a free writing between the first rough draft and the final draft -- they would have had a chance to naturally, without pressure, pull their thoughts together without trying to be "good." It occurred to me last week, but I was afraid I was asking them to write too much, so I skipped the step. So, the final products weren't what I'd hoped for, but what I see is that another, equally important thing happened. They did that thing that I wrote about in an earlier blog; they read some texts, made notes from the texts, and pulled everything together into a coherent product. They wrote researched reports, I realize now, not essays. At first I was disappointed, but as I read on and thought about it, I realized that what they did here may have been the more useful thing they could have done in terms of their education.

Some did write essays, however. Here are a few thesis-like lines:

"Real writers, to me, are like 'ghetto spokespeople.' We need them so that people who are not high class, can get a better interpretation of what's going on." RM
"The way we live and the way we act today is not that different from the way they did it back then."BG
"There have been many good people that have loved our world, tried to make a difference in our world, and even changed our society not only for themselves but for everyone. Whitman was a man who loved America...he believed in America...he believed that sharing was the way to do things. As he says, 'For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.'...Not only did they have Americans that have loved our world we have had Americans that have died for us. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of them..."LS
(a concluding paragraph) "All these people went through a lot to get where we're at now. We should appreciate what they have done for us. They all achieved what their goals were. They took advantage of their opportunities to succeed. We should take advantage of all the opportunities we have. Even though you make mistakes it does not hurt to try again. The harder you try, the better you would get at it."KC

I'm happy with the way things turned out. And I'm proud of them. I'll leave it at that for now.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I like gray

Things are going well. Today the children put up much less of a fight when I told them about the leap they'd have to take on their own from texts and notes to thesis and direction than I'd expected. One of my students told me she likes having the chance to think. Something like that. When she told me this, it was hard for me to contain myself and carry on, but of course I did. Have to stay cool. Like Rockin' Dopsie says.
There's a girl who last week asked me how fast my hair grew and someone said that's a stupid thing to ask and she said, "I've never known a white woman before." This is the same girl who yesterday went a little crazy and accused me of being racist when I gave her back something she'd "written" which was actually just something she'd "copied" out of an encyclopedia. Another student jumped all over her and defended me. The girl, the one who accused me of being racist, today said, "I'm getting a schedule change," and then a little while later said, "Are you teaching English IV next year?" Because she said she wants to be in my class. So damn, what's a girl to believe? Actually, I know what to believe.
I was an idiot yesterday and, once again, took a fourth period class to cover. It was ridiculous. And once again, I vow...


Sunday, November 14, 2004

stoking the fire

It's Sunday morning. I awoke at 5:30 thinking good thoughts and having new ideas about school, about my students, about a project we've been working on. I alluded to this project in the last blog, about my students taking the leap and connecting the literature through writing, and that they were giving themselves over to it, and that I was afraid I'd botch it. Yesterday I told some friends about the project and how it was proceeding and they thought what the kids were doing was really something and so I want to write about them, and the project, here.

It has been a struggle trying to get the students to give the literature a chance. It seems that they think that kids reading aloud is enough, whether anybody understands or not. This thing about the kids always wanting to read aloud is related somehow to them loving to copy things. They're usually completely quiet and calm when their fellows are reading aloud, even though everyone is at sea, just like they are when they're copying. I'll have to think about what that means. (It's 8 am. I hear church bells.)
It didn't seem to get any better as time went on. They were still rebellious when I asked them to look at pieces of literature for understanding. Once they'd lose focus or got lost, they'd stay gone. I think part of that is because they don't have enough self-confidence to believe that they are capable of understanding, and when they lose focus or get lost it's confirmed. But another part of it is that I had not been successful in causing them to see the relevance of what we were reading. That's my job to do that. I had not caused them to understand that there was a good reason for reading America's literature. I had not won them over. There is a big picture, but every time I'd try to cause them to see that, to get a little glimpse of that, an inkling, they'd shut down. For them it was just a stupid sermon about hell, a diary of a boat trip, some Indian talking about rivers and wolves, a crazy man who talks to a bird, another crazy man who goes into the woods to talk to himself, etc. What did it have to do with them?
But I went into these woods of theirs to live deliberately, to show my students what living deliberately means, what it meant to Thoreau, for example, to show them the thinking and writing of the people whose thoughts and writings somehow bespeak us. They were Americans. We are Americans. I want my students to understand that they do not live in a vaccuum, that things have changed and do change, that something came before that had something to do with how we think today. Because it does seem to me that these children live isolated like on an island, as I've said before, and they don't know any other way or any other possibilities. (I think society wants to keep them there, but that's another rant.) Most important is, I don't think they feel a connection with America. I want them to expand their minds and therefore, their options. For some reason I am driven by some great desire to make children think their own thoughts. (I'd hate to think that Prometheus brought us fire and suffered for us, just to have the people to whom he brought this incredible gift of thought-fire let it go unnoticed and unused, eventually to let it go out.)
So, this past Monday I stood in front of the children and proposed a hypothesis: that we modern Americans could see, from the literature that came before us, something about how we came to think and be who we are today. And I told them I want them to prove or disprove that. Then I divided the literature that we read up into four categories (I guess to make it more graspable): the old, the less old, the modern, and today. The old is the native Americans, pilgrims, puritans, Ben Franklin's attempt at moral perfection, and Douglass and the other writings by and about slaves; the less old is Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Poe; the modern (so far) is Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jack London (To Build a Fire). (Publishing company categorizers will probably send me "you're stupid" letters, but that's how I saw it.) We went over each piece and made notes about what each author depicted. We've only gotten through the less old so far. We're going to do the moderns tomorrow and the "today" we'll do for the rest of the school year, and maybe do all this again somehow at the end. (Still thinking on that. Maybe I should discuss a collaberation with an American history teacher.).
Immediately the students began comparing and connecting, even though at the first step all I asked them to do was make notes. Then I had them turn their notes, one category at a time, into strung together sentences and paragraphs (I called it a very rough first draft). It's in these paragraphs that many of them are already developing a thesis. (I should mention that to them tomorrow, point out how natural this process is.) Then, this week, beginning Tuesday, we make the serious leap from notes/paragraphs to looking at the whole thing, identifying what we each think the big picture is, and turning that into one big essay. I told them Friday that they're going to be so proud of themselves. And, wow, they are. They're being, like, intellectual. Also, they've been, on their own, looking things up in my encyclopedias, like dates and names and some even gathering more information about the puritans, etc. That was completely their idea. (It hadn't occurred to me to suggest it. Their education so far has given them a lot more than people realize, I'd say.) I awoke this morning realizing that this is a researched essay -- students studying texts and bringing facts together to support or refute a thesis -- and the very thing we teachers want our students to do.
The other thing that occurred to me at 5:30 this morning is that when it's over we should reflect on the process we went through that got us from the original nothing (poorly understood texts) to the final something that shows authentic and deep understanding, and enlightenment. I want them to understand how important what they've done really is.
My belief in these children's ability of mind has never weakened. But now I have something to show for it. I think I should do something with these essays, to show the world.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

about love

Today was something special. Part of that I think is because I had a massage yesterday, the thing I'm now doing to deal with the stress of this job, and it's helping center me, making me more open and therefore more available. I know that I'm standing up straighter and tears are coming for appropriate reasons. Like right now, watching the story of Pat Taylor on the news.
First thing this morning a student came to see me, right after she'd been to see another one of her teachers. It's important to say that this other teacher is the same teacher (art), who, among other kindnesses, is letting one of her students, a 21 year old guy (not one of my students but a friend of one of mine) who hasn't passed the leap yet, come to me for tutoring during fourth period instead of making him stay in her class.
Let me start again. Please clear the palate.
First thing this morning a student came to see me, right after she'd been to see her art teacher. It wouldn't be right to tell this girl's story, even anonymously. I will just say her parents are out of the picture and she's responsible for raising her two children and a younger sister, and she's about to be evicted from her apartment. Both the art teacher and I sent her to our school's full-time social worker, a compassionate man. During my planning period (fourth period) I went to see him to see how things turned out and he said they'd "found" $150 to give her to make the part of the rent she didn't have. I asked him if there were some sort of discretionary fund or something and he was quiet for a moment, looking at me in my eyes the whole time, and said no. He wouldn't talk about where the money's coming from but when I asked him if I could help somehow he told me to go see our principal, which was when I realized that there was no fund, just people, teachers, staff, giving money to help people like my student this morning. It is never talked about. There's never a passing of the hat or a memo or any mention of it at all. It's all done completely under the radar. I'm glad I was talking with a social worker at that time because he knew just how to wait for me to stop crying. It overwhelmed me to think about how kind these people at this school are. I love them. He told me that this girl had been through this same difficulty last year and that eventually her parents had gotten things together and she'd gotten her hope back, but that now things are back as they were before, and she's alone with it. As I think I've said before, my father was a volatile and violent alcoholic. I was a hopeless child too. And though our circumstances are different on the surface, hers much much much more severe, still the deep thing that is so heartbreaking is the loss of hope. The girl came to my room about four times today, reporting on how things were going with the social worker. The first time, when she came to tell me her story initially, she cried, though she hated to, and told me so. She tried so hard not to. That hurt my heart. But each time after that first time she looked a little brighter. She kept apologizing for not coming to school more regularly. I don't think I have to make a comment about that, except to say it killed me.
And then another thing happened. A student I've written about here before, the girl who lost her mother in June, the girl who sings and dances, who is so precious, she came to class with her lovely grandmother (her dear mother's mother) today, carrying a drop-out form, intending to leave and go to another school. Oh but I don't want her to go. And her grandmother doesn't want her to go either. After a tearful few minutes they had to go about their business and the grandmother kissed me, and I kissed her. And I told the girl not to forget about singing and dancing, about the beautiful heart she has, and her gifts. Then she started tearing up. Anyway, that was during first period. In fact, both things happened during first period, now that I think of it. What a day. So during my fourth period planning period I went to check with the social worker about the other girl, which was when I had that emotional encounter (by the way, I told the social worker about my father), and on my way through the office came across the grandmother (which means she'd been there all day) sitting on a green sofa, waiting for her granddaughter who was in with a counselor. The grandmother told me it is possible that the counselor would talk our girl into staying. I sat on the sofa next to this grandmother for about twenty minutes, during which time we conversed about all manner of things, but all of the things were spiritual and about serendipity. She sings in a gospel group.
I guess I'm going over the top here, but another huge thing happened. During my planning period, at the beginning, when I was on my way downstairs to see the social worker, which led to all the things I've mentioned above, I saw the tall mean girl sitting by herself in an alcove on the second floor, looking low. I asked her if she was okay. She seemed surprised that I'd speak to her. She said she didn't feel well. Just then a teacher who has been there 38 years was walking by. I asked him if there was a nurse's room or a place where this girl could lie down (I still don't know her name). He was so concerned about her, AFTER 38 YEARS HE WAS SO CONCERNED ABOUT HER, that he walked down the steps with me and her to ask after the nurse and to show us where the room was. After we got her settled she raised her head and looked at me and said thank you.
I feel so honored to be working at this school.
I haven't nearly explained how it was today. It's probably too soon. In addition to all that, my classes were wonderful. We're taking a creative leap, combining literature and writing, and they're giving themselves over to it, and I feel that terrible responsiblity of holding something precious in my hands, afraid I'm too rough and I'll crush it.

Love, Melanie

I've grown accustomed to the place...

A friend of mine who reads this blog told me it seems to her that things are getting normal at my school. I wonder if I'm just getting used to it. I wonder if I'm tuning out the noise in the hall. I wonder if I'm becoming inured to comments to me like, "I didn't touch your fucking door." (Another conflict around a door. This girl tried to poke the taped pane out and I happened to be standing there and opened the door and saw her and another kid nearby. That's when she told me that.)
I think it's a bad thing if I am in fact accepting things as just the way it is. Things are smoother when everybody goes with the flow, like we teachers have to do when we don't know a schedule or we stand outside for 45 minutes for a fire. We go with the flow and do the best we can with what we've got, with the little noisy, chaotic something that we've got. But I think that's a mistake. I cannot let myself get used to this. If I do, things won't change.
Yesterday I stepped up in my classes. I devised a new plan to get people into class on time and to cause respectfulness. Nothing special, just points given and taken, but that I stood up and said no more was a good thing. As I think I said in my last blog, kids don't know how to draw the line between playfulness and disrespectfulness. A student told me yesterday that the kids like to be yelled at, that that's the only thing they respond to. I told her I'm not going to do that. She looked at me a little warily, but didn't dismiss me. That's a good sign.


Monday, November 08, 2004

call me Odysseus

It's Monday evening. I finally decided to attempt the pulling together of all the literature we've read so far, beginning with the stories and speeches of the native Americans, the pilgrims, the puritans, Ben Franklin, and Douglass's slave narrative, through the transcendentalists, through the moderns like Langston Hughes and Jack London, up to today. The most current literature we've experienced is a song by Tupac about change (it's a poem). There's a Jadakiss song called "Why" which I think will fit well. It's rap but with no bad words, just a guy asking a lot of questions about our society today. I'm still determined to bring them Bob Dylan. I'd love to bring them Gordon Lightfoot, who is my favorite, but that would be asking a lot of them. Anyway, he's Canadian. I did give them the Bob Marley line, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds," even though Bob's Jamaican and dead (but then again, so is Tupac. Dead that is, not Jamaican.). It's just too good a line to pass up. It fits right in with Frederick Douglass's comment about how the way to make a good slave is to keep him from thinking. So anyway, my plan is to present the hypothesis that there may be a link between the people's literature that came before and the people's literature now, and that all the literature somehow reflects us. I told them today that I want them to prove or disprove that, or anything in between, in a big essay, possibly an essay with research. However, we have two weeks before Thanksgiving and I want to finish this by then, so we may not get around to the research part. I'm thinking that after we finish this little project, and after Thanksgiving, we'll get back to the literature, more modern stuff and more of the stuff of living writers, and I think they'll then have this idea in their heads about trying to make connections and they'll do it on their own. One of my students today was so beautiful and honest. I read part of a piece of a speech by a native American and asked them to characterize the people about whom he wrote. The student, A, said she wasn't listening because she thought I was going to write what she needed to know on the board. And she said she'd listen next time. And she did. It was lovely.
The first two periods went great. The kids really got into the idea. I'm reminding them about all the literature we've read writer by writer and we're noting words and ideas that come to mind about each, trying to somehow get a picture of the character of the people who wrote before us and the character of the people about whom they wrote. Anyway, the first two periods were rousing. But third period, I don't know, they were dead about it. Maybe it's because of me. I don't do well doing the same thing all day. Maybe I was dead about it. I hate having all my classes the same. Also, that's the class that keeps me on my toes the most. I'm very easy going and I understand play. But they're rough hewn when it comes to knowing how to draw the line between being playful and being disrespectful. Today they were disrespectful. Tomorrow I'll need to point out the difference. It's an interesting process. I, of course, understand that it's all a lesson, for all of us, and that life is dynamic, and that letting things play out, then looking at them and talking about them, is possible and leads to change, and change in a very beautiful way. In other words, that it's all good. But I don't think they understand that. Yet.
I'm glad I'll have a whole new batch of students in January. I see some mistakes I've made and have some ideas about how to rectify them, but you know how it is, it's hard to do that in mid-stream. I had to let some things play out and now it's too late to change them. That's the way it always is with me. My classes feel like organic entities to me. And being at this new school I'm confronted with a whole new set of decisions and conditions.
But trying as it is, it's good to feel brand new. And anyway, I like trials. Call me Odysseus.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

one more thing

I have to include this even though it has nothing to do with my school work. Today I sent a letter and the first two chapters of my book to an agent I found during some serious research. It seems important to say that here. Thank you.


child is father to the man

This was a great day. I believe I have been accepted. And, a student wrote an essay about becoming a writer and I just want to share this one line: "What I get from writing is that you elevate your mind to yourself."
I've been trying for years, maybe all my life, to come up with those words.


forward, march

I keep sitting at this blank screen, trying to understand where my momentum has gone. Perhaps it is because these last several weeks have been essentially lost. Three weeks ago was a full week of leap testing. Last week second quarter grades were due, so there was the frenzy of people trying to make things up at the last minute. Last week was also homecoming week and spirit week, during which time kids could dress in various costumes for the day, like as twins, or they could wear their clothes backward, or they could dress up. In reality it was just a chance for them to wear street clothes. On Thursday we had a pep rally and on Friday we had the "coronation" of the homecoming queen. And, yes, crowns were worn. Also on Friday we had a fire, then we were put into first period for three hours, skipped second period, had one lunch, and had a gang fight. This week we didn't have school election day, Tuesday.
So what's the point? I guess this is starting to look normal to me. I seem to have recovered from my doubt and weakness of a few weeks ago. I'm definitely more bold and less stung by, and I mean you'd have to see it to understand, the absolutely meanest looks from students with attitude you've ever seen. I even stepped between a boy and a girl, the boy "playfully" pushing her around, like a cat with a half-dead mouse, and I could see she didn't like it. Me stepping between them gave her the moment to escape him. The tall mean girl is back in school and has been hanging around with the tall mean boy who ordered me to open the fucking door.
There's not anymore, it seems, one eye-popping event after another. I'm getting used to the kids and they're getting used to me. And now things are about the business of writing and reading. As it should be. EXCEPT they're back to asking me when we're going to do English. I'm thinking about giving them worksheets for a couple of days and then asking them if this is really what they want, but I think they'd probably say yes. I am seeing this as a challenge, even though it's frustrating. Somehow I have to let them see for themselves that they are becoming more literate, that their writing is getting good, that they're getting closer and closer to being people who can manage college. I know some of them see it. One girl, J, has gone from writing absolute gobbeldy gook to writing almost profusely, and with no more grammatical/mechanical mistakes than everybody else. She's amazing. She used to keep her head down, never show her face, and complained about hating to write every time we did. I had the feeling then that she felt stupid. I don't have that feeling anymore. She's hopeful. And she never complains anymore about writing. She just sets to it.
I've been privately and quietly correcting some of the kids' language "mistakes" verbally. I only do this with those who won't feel insulted by it. I mean, they really do call the fathers of their children "my baby daddy." When I correct them I have to really exaggerate the "s" after baby. I don't think they hear it. I guess because they're not accustomed to hearing it. It really is like a different language.
On another note, we have added a new security guard and they're sweeping the halls of students after the bells ring, so things are getting much better. I've even taken to leaving my door OPEN sometimes. I mean, wide open. That boy I physically kept out of my class the other day meandered into my open class yesterday and I just let him in. He sat down. We were reading little articles from the newspaper and writing our thoughts, and I gave him one to read, and he read it. He stayed until the bell rang.


Monday, November 01, 2004

the current political climate in my classroom

Today I read a Leonard Pitts essay from Sunday's paper aloud to my classes. It was about the rift in America over the presidential race, the fact of 50% hating the one and 50% hating the other. The author's main question is whether or not we can become one America again. I picked 14 words and phrases (like "flip-the-bird unilateralism") from the essay and made sure they understood the meanings. After a few minutes of the children's mostly wild and unsubstantiated out-loud assertions -- I even set the timer to give them time to make noise and wildly assert -- I called for silence and asked them to put their frenzied thoughts down in writing. Here's a sampling of some of their unedited, unproofread, off the top of the head first drafts and parts. It was difficult to not type in every word every student wrote:

"Your asking if we 'Are Ready to Mend the Rift?' The true question is, 'is the rift ready to be mended?' c.b.

"I think the people that vote for bush want the war to keep going. This shit stupid because he's putting our life in danger. They should play games to see who win. They should play football one on one to see who win. . . If this was a movie, bush would be freddy and Kerry would be Superman." o.d.

"Our country is called the United States of America but according to Leonard Pitts our country is divided. I agree with that our country is divided because I think that whoever wins the race for President should be loved by its country. Regardless of what they stand for, because how can you stay in a country and hate its leader? Each candidate has his faults but each are trying to better this country the way they see fit. I'm kind of glad that I'm too young to vote because voting to me has to be considered. It takes a lot of thinking to decide who you think can best take care of this country. Each reality of both candidates have to be weighed. Can Bush be trusted again after supposedly cheating in Florida? Will Kerry be any better then Bush has been over the years? If I did have to vote and I did it without think I who vote for Kerry, because its seems as though Kerry would try to help the black community more than Bush has done. But then again I can't get this out of my head when the country was under attack on 9/11 and Bush sat in the classroom, Kerry judged Bush. Kerry said 'if I was President I would have gotten up told those kids in a very nice manner that the President had something to do.' Bush was trying to collect his thoughts. This country all looks at him when something happens he has to be the decision maker. Kerry wasn't in that situation, how can he say what he would have done? Both candidates have a record of saying or doing something stupid. That's why it would be so difficult for me to choose who would best benefit our country. I think that both Bush and Kerry both have good intentions and mean well. In my opinion whoever becomes President should try and reunite America as it should be. In my opinion a person can't love its country and hate its leader." m.f.

"Well the two lead candidates, Kerry and Bush are okay. Here is my views on Bush, Bush is a okay man, lots of people don't like him for many reasons, such as, his father, the war, and just the person he is. To me he is a okay man its just he has made some dumb ass choices. He is a unilateral man. He sent us off to war and did not give a damn about who did not like it. But when the world Trade Center was bomb and he sat in the classroom not knowing what to do. What do you expect he is human. I understand that he was scared. I would have been scared too. And I am quite sure the rest of America would have been if they were in his shoes. He needed a minute to think things through. But with the world watching and waiting on him to make a move. He did not have the minute he needed and that's why he sent us to war. It was the first thing that pop into his head. So in a way I blame Bush and in a way I blame us. Now Kerry. I really don't know shit about Kerry. Lots of people are saying that they are voting for Kerry. Lots of people don't know about Kerry either but they are voting for him to get Bush out of office because of the war. No one really cares what he has to say. As long as he is not sending us to war, we are all with him. But he says he is going to take us out of Iraq. We shall see. Right now I am glad I am 16 yrs old." m.t.

"It really not anyone fault why we went to war it were God who let us go to war. To show us something that we need to know and what the world is going to turn out to be." i.t.

"To make a long story short I don't know neither one I just know a little bit from what I know about bush he is trying to help us women that is on welfare he is letting us stay on welfare for a period of time so that we can get on our feet. I also know that he is trying to keep the retired people with a steady income so that they can have some thing to fall back on. He is trying to start a early retired plan for us young children so when we get up in age and retire our children can look back on some thing. he is keeping food-stamps so that we won't spend cash. Bush was also discuss with us about letting men out of jail so that they can start paying child support, and other necessary things. I think that it would be good for us if Bush was to stay with us." r.l.

" On November 2, 2004, America has to elect the President of the United States. I am pulling towards John Kerry. Though I have to admit I am not fond of any of them. I believe John Kerry will do a better job with defending our country. President Bush hasn't done a very good job with our medical care, with our homelessness, and with our society as a whole. I believe jobs will sky rocket when John Kerry becomes President. John Kerry bring better leadership to the white House. Since President Bush has been in office we've been in war, lost many lives in the 9/11 attack, and was forced for our gas and oil prices to increase. I'm also voting for Senator Kerry because he's had war experience, and knows how to survive and win in tough situations. Kerry best suits the job at this position in America, with the war in Iraq. Bush hasn't provided many job opportunities for blacks, especially black males. While Bush has been in office our schools and education has went down. Bush has proved through his action why you shouldn't fix violence with violence. With Bush knowing that he still proceeded. We need a better decision, and we would have a better one in John Kerry.
Bush and Kerry are very different. Kerry wants to end the war on terrorism, but Bush wants to continue it. Kerry see thousands and thousands of our soldiers dieing in Iraq and wants it to stop. But, Bush wants to continue it nevertheless. I believe Kerry will do a better job at addressing what the people want first. Politics exist everywhere in our culture today. This whole Presidential Election is based on Politics, and who could better fulfill everyones, or mostly everyone's need?" p.t.

"Everyone should just come together and vote for the best and just like the article says, vote and just let it be over. If everyone vote for Bush it is not going to go right and if everyone vote for Kerry it is not going to go right, but Bush it is just something about him that I do not like he's just to loud or something." a.l.

"I think that the Presidential election will be very close. I want Senator John Kerry to win the election. I believe that Senator Kerry will make the United States a better place. I don't believe that George Bush has done his job as president.
I really agree with Leonard Pitts when he said that if President Bush gets re-elected none of the Kerry fans will support him and if Senator Kerry gets elected none of the Bush fans will support him. If John KIerry doesn't become president I will support president Bush because I want the United States to improve and I believe that it starts with George Bush." c.s.

I'm suddenly not terrribly worried about our future.