Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Speak Softly and Leave the Stick Behind

"So you're telling me that you have a job?"

"Ya, I gots a job."

"Here, at school? On campus?"  

"Yeea Yeeea, I gots a job."

"And what might that job be?"

"Goin' crayyyy and actin' a foool!  aaaaaaahhhhh!!!"

Well, I walked into that one.  Wednesday afternoons are never pretty.  Block periods only enhance the general depression and frustration that many students carry with them throughout the day.  Like depressed picketers who just had their rally shut down, students sulk through the hallways.  It's both comical and depressing. 

They avoid through tardiness, through so-called "laziness," with destructive habits like graffiti (oh which graffiti-filled backpacks are most popular), and they avoid class by doing the most annoying thing on the planet: walking with the pace of a snail.  

Try.  They try.  They try, but just as the picketers have to choose between leaving their post or incarceration, so must the students choose to either enter class, or suffer the consequences.

If you're in a bad mood, these are two really, really sucky choices.  

Don't Debate...
I tried to talk the girl into understanding that a job actually requires that you get COMPENSATED in some way, but it was to no avail.  She's not on my caseload.  She's not in my class. She treats me, and many other teachers, like dirt.  I move on.  Besides, it's Boggs weekend.

Your face is a boggs...
Coincidentally, the week was jam-packed with things.  From concerts to final papers to IEP meetings to more final papers, a presentation of epic proportions and more students actin' a fool, there was a little bit of every flavor present in this first week of May.   The 29th and 30th came and went, as they do, but without any sort of forewarning as to what kind of ridiculous day Wednesday would be.  

As a reward for great attendance in CST testing, teachers and administrators united under the banner of "positive reinforcement" by shortening block schedules by 15 minutes for both days of block periods (Shortening class time is a blasphemous idea) in order to show a freaking MOVIE.  A pretty darn GOOD movie.  The Avengers.

Think back.  For some of you, way back.  Movie day.  Movie day was the business.  You get to watch movies (good) in class (plusgood) and NOT do any work (doubleplusgood).

For many of our students, movie day is quite "ungood."  Why?  Because watching a movie is boring.  "Boring you say?  But it's movie day!  Movie day is the best!  You get to watch movies!  How can students find such a simple, easy thing to be so annoying and frustrating, something worthy of misbehaving in class?" 
  • If watching a movie distracts from assignment or replaces class time, movie = good.
  • If watching a movie is the main focus of the period, movie = bad.

And so it was.  Because the movie was actually the "focus" of two, separate 70 minute free periods, students felt that they were "forced" to watch the movie.  And there it is.  We would've been better off telling the students that they had more testing, and at the last minute, tell them that the tests were canceled and replaced with the Avengers.  Then, and only then, would the movie be enjoyed by students.

Despite the overwhelming wave of depression you feel when you realize that these students can never, never be pleased, I felt great!

"The Boggs 8 hour is this Saturday," I told myself, "and you are so NOT going to cramp this time!"  Boggs is a mountain bike race.  It's a mountain bike race where you race your bike for 8 hours.  You pay money to do it.  You will not win, and you know this, but you do it anyway.  You might crash and hurt yourself.  Further proof to my students that "white boys be crazy."

Act II
I had a chance to sit down with a student I don't really know during the movie time.  I was taking care of some paperwork in the conference room when he was ushered into the room and instructed to remain seated.  He got in a fight.  For awhile, I couldn't wrap my mind around fights in school.  Matt and Cory got in a fight in high school.  They took care of business off-campus.  

At this school, fights are almost exclusively held on-campus.  It took a few fights before I realized the simple truth: these kids don't actually want to fight.  Fighting on-campus, for the most part, insures a speedy breakup.  Fighting at the park across the street leaves the outcome in the air.  Will students actually stop the fight?  Will there be mercy?  These are things are cannot be controlled.  There is, however, a 100% chance that the fight will be broken up at school, either by a student, a teacher, a staff member, or a cop.  

The formula is simple, push, shove, punch, punch, over.  And what are you supposed to tell a kid, really, when he gets shoved twice?  Of course we tell him his options, to walk away, to turn the shoulder, but it wasn't so long ago that we were in high school.  

I often forget how tough high school is and how difficult it is to find your way, to make friends, and make your own identity.  Each one of these kids has so much going on, and in the whirlwind of the day, it's easy to forget that these kids have FEELINGS!  Whoa!

Bottom line: I can never condone fighting on campus.  But, I get why he fought back.  And I can never, ever tell him that he was wrong.

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