Wednesday, December 08, 2004

best laid plans

I don't know what went wrong. My students were so ready for the poetry. They've been engaged, at times even rapt, regarding this track we're on, this quest to understand the American psyche through our literature. But today they were rude and disrespectful. I realized today (I'm going to speak my Melanie Anne Plesh, the person's, mind here) that I knock myself out to do all the things teachers do constantly. I am fair, forthcoming with an apology when I'm wrong, honest, patient, forgiving, reasonable, sane, kind, generous, friendly, understanding. I've laughed at myself at times, laughed with them at myself at times, and put up with a hell of a lot of insulting racist remarks about me being white. Today it occurred to me that all they do is take, that they do not give anything back. I have to always be the good guy and they get to be as mean as they feel like, and as disrespectful. Maybe I let it happen.
It was the kind of day that makes a person want to quit teaching.
One thing that bothers me is that they act like they think they know better than I do about what they might need out there in the world, and today they were loud about it. Maybe it was bravado. For example, one of the things I wanted them to do was to flip through the textbook from about halfway through (The Moderns) to the end, just so they could see the photographs and names, and maybe graze a little. Second period got into it. I answered a lot of questions, (including why starving men were shown in a picture in a cell at Buchenwald. I'm telling you, some of them did not know about the holocaust.) In first period I omitted that and went directly to Frost's poem, "Nothing Gold Can Stay," because I knew they were capable of, and would enjoy, getting straight to the rallying. But the class made a joke of people thinking, and they would not listen to me when I spoke. I am a human too. And to make it worse, a teacher was in there observing my class. Third period blew the flipping through the text off, suggesting to me that it was a stupid activity, suggesting to me that I don't know what I'm doing. So I went right to the poem with them. The few who did speak applied meaningless cliches, just to hear themselves talk, just because they think if they say words they're participating. It was BS.
I'm thinking about scrapping my idea of bringing American poetry to them. I'm not going to get myself crazy over watching something I love, poetry, being dissed and abused. I'd rather keep it to myself than contend with that again. I feel like they don't deserve it.
Tomorrow I'm going to tell them exactly how I feel, including the part about me feeling that they don't deserve it. I know they're going to be sorry, but I don't feel like being forgiving either. I want them to act like civilized human beings. Today they were brats. I do not like brats. And I did not like them.
But I still love them.

Disposed of: my sanity



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been on the receiving end of one of your "exactly what I think about your behavior speeches" and my heart goes out to your students. But then again, I really had it coming and needed when you gave it to me the first day of Creative Writing my senior year... so I am taking your word for it and believing they need it too. You don't give that speech without good reason or to people you don't passionately care about.

I'm sorry to hear they blew off your assignment. But you are right, they don't deserve learning about something on a higher thinking level when they cannot act mature enough to handle it. Why don't you surprise them and give them some "English" (worksheets, spelling words, vocab lists, etc.) tomorrow in retaliation for their behavior today.

You don't deserve to be treated like garbage. You love those students too much and I honestly wonder if they are beginning to believe/ understand/ feel that you do love them, but are not sure if you will continue to love them once they leave your classroom. Are they scared of leaving you? Might this be a reason behind their "brat like" behavior - being their fear of having teachers next term who do not love them and think as much of them as you do?
- Cassandra

6:38 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

"Today it occurred to me that all they do is take, that they do not give anything back. I have to always be the good guy and they get to be as mean as they feel like, and as disrespectful. Maybe I let it happen.

Hmmm... sounds like parenting, although with the same responsibility (for 8 hours a day anyway) but a fraction of the control over their environment.

But, then you probably already knew that.

6:10 PM  

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