Saturday, February 12, 2005

a brown horse

I woke up at 4 this morning with a brain full of all the cruel things I'd like to say to the people in first period. And every so often all day I've found myself talking to myself, saying out loud, here, alone, those same mean things I wish I was mean enough to say there, to them. That's not really true. I don't wish I could say mean things. But it does give me a little comfort remembering that they are rookies when it comes to using words. F You is pretty much the best they can do.
The only thing to do is to figure out a plan.
One thing I am definitely planning is to stand at the door on Monday and not let anyone in until I have had a private conversation with each one wherein I'll get their agreement to be decent or leave. That has worked before for me. Also, I plan to add a 100 point grade to this class, and if a person gets written up she loses 20 or maybe 30 points right there. And I'm making the grade retroactive, beginning with Thursday. The rest of that grade will be subjective, decided upon by me. Also, I have a stack of discipline referral forms which I will have at the ready, and I'll warn them once, that anything like rudeness in the class will be something I'll write them up for. This should work with the disciplinarian, whom I will warn ahead of time, because I've already written three of them up, and, really, they're the serious three. Two others participate, but it's the three at the core who cause the problem. Also, perhaps I can talk to a security guard (but where have they been?) and see if I can get her or him to pass my room during first period a couple of times so if I need a student taken out she or he can do the job for me. Because here's something surprising, when you tell a kid to get out of class they refuse! Then what? If there's no one in the hall to take the kid out, the only alternative is to buzz the office, but the two times I've tried to buzz (not for a discipline problem) the office can't hear me. I think just about every teacher in the school has a cellphone for situations like this, and they call the front office by telephone. I don't have a cellphone.
Another thing that I'm going to do is adjust my attitude. I'm going to take things at face value. I have a tendency to think I know what's behind bad behavior (like EN, the girl Thursday, and my sure belief that she's a troubled girl) and because of that letting things go that shouldn't be let go, letting kids say and do more than is right. I'm going to make them be responsible for their actions. Compassion is good, but holding them to a standard of decent human behavior is good too.
Something I don't talk about enough here is the constant racist comments against me by some students and the ever-present racial overtones. This plays a part in the terribleness of first period. It affects me by chipping away at my self-esteem. I'm just thinking out loud here. And naturally I have to imagine, and can imagine a lot more now than before, what our society's racist attitudes against African Americans must do to their self-esteem, what it must have done for a long time, and how these kids are the current result of, what, maybe five or so generations of ancestors who have been singled out and harrassed because of their skin color.
What I have to do is go ahead and see the big picture, which includes what I wrote above, but also to remember that it's wrong to be racist. Even against me.
I believe everything is going to be alright. In any case, I'm showing up Monday. But I'm going to wear my snake necklace, my horse ring, and carry a picture of Penny in my pocket, for strength. By the way, this morning I read over my dreams of the last three months and the night this semester started (January 18) I dreamed that a brown horse and a palomino came running by me and I thanked the brown one for showing up and telling me that everything was going to be alright. The palomino sank in some deep mud but got out. Maybe that dream was a before-the-fact kindness. Penny was a brown horse.

Melanie

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