Wednesday, May 18, 2005

catching up

I have a lot of catching up to do. I've been writing in my journal at school so I'm just going to type here what I wrote there.

9 May, 8:55 A.M. EN is sitting in the room and I have to talk to her. This is the girl who cursed me out and who got suspended for it. She's been absent (partly from several suspensions) way too much to get credit for the two classes she has with me. The assistant principal told me to give her a chance to make up her work and to excuse the absences. So now she's sitting in my class and I'm nervous to talk to her. She's mean. She's loud. She's irrational.
10:00 A.M. I wrote up a list of my expectations, including four 3-draft essays and a revision of her research paper, and including that she will be in both classes every day until the end and also that she will not raise her voice to me or lose her cool with me. She got argumentative and angry and said she wasn't coming back next year so it didn't matter. She accused me of passing other people but not her, and she accused me of not caring about her. Then she got called to the office. When she came back she respectfully apologized for raising her voice to me. She's a troubled girl.

13 May. This might be the last time I write with students here this year. And at the moment it's just me and DC. There's no energy in the school. The power has gone out of it. So few people are coming to school these days, which leaves the rest of us who are here listless. It caught me by surprise. But next year I'm going to do things differently. I'm going to be more conscious from the beginning of school of student absences and deal with that problem early. I'm gong to get more serious about class participation grades. I'm going to be hard in the beginning and ease up later. Too many people got B's the first quarter and now are not doing anything in class because, in the end, 3 divided by 4 rounds off to a D for the course. I don't believe those kids should pass and I surely don't want my name associated with someone who passes that way but receives no education in English III, for example, or whose writing does not improve. It's a badly flawed system. KB in my writing course got an A in the first quarter, and she earned it, but her writing has not changed or improved one iota. And yet she's going to pass the class. Then my name gets associated with a poor writer passing my class. I have no idea how to handle it. Maybe I could rearrange my plan and put the literature early in the year, and the tests (which I'm not a big fan of, but may have to become), and homework, and if somebody gets an A or a B, well, she will have worked hard for it. And someone who works hard and tries hard isn't the type to blow off school the last three quarters. But still, I hate to see people fail the first quarter because of tests. But then again, perhaps I could start the year out with literature and make tests that resemble the LEAP. And if they fail those then they need to know they're weak in that area. But what about writing?
Hell, I'm acting like I'm going to have a job next year!
I just realized there are no administrators in the school today. And the only other teacher on my hall is a substitute. It's rowdy and I'm tired of it. I'm tired all the way around, in fact. Seriously tired.

16 May. I made a comment on MF's essay, in response to a weak opening, that a writer needs to woo the reader.

17 May. God but I love working in this school. I love the children so much. What is it about them? Where it really counts they are a hundred percent real. They understand what loyalty is. So many of them wear their difficult lives with grace. In the face of poverty and near poverty they're still so generous. I feel like I can be a true teacher here. I feel like my job is to figure out what my students need and teach them that. Like for example, I thought my students needed Hamlet, so I gave it to them. They need prefixes and suffixes. They need one on one writing conferencing with me. I feel like I can be what the essence of a teacher is, which is to fill in the holes in my students' education wherever, however, whenever I can.

Today I went in to the archives room which is really just a big room full of file cabinets. I've always wanted to go in there because it holds the stuff from Douglass/Nicholls since the 30's, when the school was built. So today the door was open and I walked in. I nosed around for a few minutes and, idly, picked up a yellowed section of the Times-Picayune. It's unbelievable, but it was the obituary page from 19 May 2004, the page with the obituary and photograph of Dustin, a student of mine, who died a year ago Sunday. And in fact, I keep that very picture of Dustin in my desk drawer.

Another issue on my mind today is that I have been this year the victim of racial prejudice, which gives me an understanding of racism that a white person cannot understand from merely living in the theoretical world. I have a lot to say about this, which I will say in a lot of detail eventually, but not this second. I'll just say this, it really hurts having these children making such rude racist comments, like about how when white people get wet they stink, or that all white people look alike, or that white people don't know how to love, or that white women don't have an ass. This morning a boy I don't know walked down the hall and said something disparaging about white paople and I've just had it, really had it, so I said, loudly, get out of here you son of a bitch. I asked three of my students in the room if they ever hear racist comments hurled against them by white people and they all said no. HOWEVER, I think the kind of racial prejudice hurled against them is much sicker. It's systemic and subtle. It's a society insulting them and keeping them down, with a smile on its face.

18 May. Today. I had a look at the LEAP scores. I have to figure out how to interpret what I'm reading. I've decided to discuss each student and how their education went this year. But that's for tomorrow.



Blogger Nancy McKeand said...

Good to catch up with you, Melanie! Thanks for sharing this.

2:11 PM  

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