Thursday, February 10, 2005

the human race

About 30 minutes into first period, after I'd asked her several times to watch her language, a student, EN, a new one, got up, threw her writing on the floor, and said fuck you to me, twice, and then a third time in the hall in front of another teacher when I went out to try to get her to see reason. Haha. Then a boy came out into the hall to tell me I ought to leave her alone, let her come back in class, that she's just crazy and has a lot of problems at home. I asked him what he'd do if someone publicly insulted him by saying fuck you to him. He said something that included violence. Of course the class was watching my every damned move when I came back in. I picked up her folder and loose papers and threw them in the trash. Maybe it was small of me but it was so humiliating to have a girl say the things she said to me, in front of the whole class, and there was nothing I could do. I had to do something. Then I tried to continue with my class. I was shaken but also, mercifully, numb. I turned my back on it. Tried to.
At the end of class I asked the boy who tried to cover for her if she had any friends or any teachers at the school with whom she could talk and he said just NM, who is another girl in the same class who is always on the verge of being unspeakably rude. So I brought NM out in the hall and asked her what was up. She said EN has some serious problems and needs to talk to someone. However, all the time she seemed to be stifling laughter. But I decided to err on the side of kindness and told her to give EN a message for me, that I'm not angry and that I'd be glad to talk with her. No punishment. Here's the thing: I know without a doubt that it's true about EN's life and something is seriously wrong. I also know that these are some cruel kids. Yes, I know, cruel because they're only respectful of people who can say fuck you to the world and to anyone who crosses them. But this makes them players, too. They're shallow. Maybe one just has to become shallow to survive. But not me. I only hope that I'm doing the right thing by being myself, by not participating in the games or the language or the hostility or the stupidity or the shallowness. I hope I'm doing the right thing by holding on to what I think is right. I hope I'm doing the right thing by persisting quietly.
Here's the rest of it. In this class are the sports stars. They're rude. They make fun of the way I talk by repeating what I say in a foolish way, whisper insults about my appearance under their breath to each other, and generally disrespect me every chance they get. I hate the class. I hate being in this ridiculous position. I hate it that they are seniors and still so unbelievably stupid about the world.
I'm still numb but a little bit of the anger is rising. I'm human. How can those children not see that? And where the hell is their humanity? They're only 18 years old.

Melanie

4 Comments:

Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

Man's inhumanity to man... If it were just 18 yr olds in an inner city school, it would be bad. But it is far more widespread than that.

Mel, just know that you are loved by countless others. It doesn't erase the hurt, but maybe it will dull the pain a little.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to say it...say what others are thinking...Run, Melanie, Run for your life! for the lives of those who love you! for the lives of those you have touched, who get you, who want to be like you! You don't deserve this. You are too good for this. We who once may have whispered or questioned or doubted but heard you and were inspired by you and trusted in your guidance. We trusted enough to try your ideas, to write, to think, to see others in a different light. I speak for those who hurt and worry because you are hurt and worried.
I speak for those who hoped we would change the world but would never embark on the unbelievable task you have before you.
I feel empowered when I read your writing, but I also feel belittled because I am a teacher, too. However, when a student tell me "Fuck You," she gets a five day suspension. At your school, she wins the admiration of her peers.

How sad.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

They don't deserve you, Mel. And you don't deserve them.

I hope, that, at the end of the semester, you feel that the good outwheighed the bad.

Do you think you can make a bigger difference here than at a school of less-troubled children?

(I don't know the answer to that one.)

I wonder if you'll eventually develop a reputation that may give you more credibility with the students and make your job a bit easier.

Good luck.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

They don't deserve you, Mel. And you don't deserve them.

I hope, that, at the end of the semester, you feel that the good outwheighed the bad.

Do you think you can make a bigger difference here than at a school of less-troubled children?

(I don't know the answer to that one.)

I wonder if you'll eventually develop a reputation that may give you more credibility with the students and make your job a bit easier.

Good luck.

9:19 PM  

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