A Hundred or So Ways to Get an Ulcer...Year Two
The Honeymoon Is Over
The first week of school was a breeze. I could not believe how cooperative and attentive the little darlings had become. I got confident. I got bold. I got cocky.
I strutted down the hallway as students holla-ed at me.
"Yo Mr. _________!"
"Damn, Mr. _____________, I wish I had you this year for English."
"I miss your class!"
I figured it out, I was married to my job and I was floating adrift on marital bliss.
"So, how is the honeymoon?"
Evidentally, the first week of school is the "honeymoon" phase when the students become ideal kids. They are happy to see their old friends, happy to get a free hot lunch, and to some extent they are even happy to see their old teachers. They had two months to forget how much they grew to hate us last year.
The kids returned from Cancun, tan and happy and now they are being carried back from the threshold to the harsh reality of their everyday lives.
Tuesday was the first fight. Students were arrested.
Yesterday the "we run the school" attitude wafted through the halls like a putrid stench.
The kids realized they can do whatever and commenced talking shit to the teachers. They started ditching en masse. The vandalism resumed. Learning has been hindered.
It looks like I am at the very beginning of another stressful year.
..And I will make sure no ulcer had been left behind.
I'm back, motherfuckers!
So I decided not to flee the ship. Today I returned to another year at __________ High School, a Chicago institution. I had a few other employment options, but much like a battered housewife, I have returned to my man. I mean, he could change. I could change him.
I hate to speak to soon. I hate to have to eat my words (and match each word with an antacid), but this year seems like it will be better.
Over the summer, there has been a regime change at __________________ High School. The principal is new, along with the assistant adminstrative staff. Even at the staff development meeting last week, things seemed to have changed drastically. True hope permeates the halls. This isn't "let's talk of hope and pray that good things will happen.
That was last year's method. Proactivity seems to be the modus operandi of the operation. I pray that it lasts.
The students were in order today. I remember my first day of teaching. Students were climbing up the walls, threatening teachers, vandalizing the halls. I walked into a Liberian warzone. Today I felt as if I walked into a classroom.
I taught an actual lesson the the first day. Poetry. The poetry of Tupac Shakur. Students were to identify his style. This will be bridged into a larger lesson on poetic style. Students were interested, eager, and the ones who weren't at least seemed to worry about graduating this year. Out of all five of my classes, roughly 100 students (about a third have yet to enroll) only one student refused to work. This is compared to the 30% completion rate of assignments this time last year.
I am teaching writing this year. Along with aiming for the state goals, getting kids into college, and improving test scores, I hope that I can get at least a few kids will learn to use writing as I do, as a catharsis, as a therapist, and as I means to look at problems and solve them as effectively as possible.
I am positive I can do this.
I will return on September 7, 2004. Thank you for checking this site over the summer. I will be back with more stories of hope and heartburn shortly.
Finals week...Updates to follow.
What A Long, Deranged Trip It's Been....
Just shy of three weeks left of the most ulcerating experience of my life.
What do I have to show for it?
The inability to deal with loud noises after 3pm.
An extra eight....OK ten pounds around my mid-section.
Rolaids residue on everything I own.
A bar tab to rival Norm Peterson's.... Well, Not that bad...Maybe Cliff Clavin's some weeks.
A few hundred missing from my checking account used on school supplies and books.
Hours of missing sleep.
One student who will be going to college in the fall who barely knew English when he moved to the states last year.
A young man who did NOT get his head caved in by an angry mob during the passing period.
About ten students who have promised to read more Shakespeare this summer, on their own.
.....Least importantly, two credit cards, paid off.
I have been told by many of my students that from now until the last day on June 22nd, I will see very few students. Once the seniors have taken their finals, all students feel they have earned the right to stay at home.
According to some vet teachers, that is why the school year is so long in the Chicago Schools. If the last day is June 22nd, kids stop showing during the first week of the year. If city schools ended the year the same time as their suburban counterparts, which is typically the first week of June, kids would be MIA at least two weeks before Memorial Day. Of course this explanation for the longer year is complete hearsay, but there is a reason why I post anonymously. I see it, you read it.
The lower attendance made for a productive day. I don't believe there was one fight today the building.
I was only threatened once today. A young lady with whom I have had countless problems with all year (and whose mother works at the school) decided to tell me that she should slap my "bitch-ass" for "giving" her a D on her progress report. She said that she does "all her work" and should be getting at least a B.
Here is my grading scale:
To many of my students, the scale should be more like this:
Shows up to class once or twice a month, but always does work when in attendance, "I deserve a B."
Does half of the work and does the work half-assedly, "I deserve at least a C."
Shows up to class everyday, does no work, talks throughout class, "I deserve a D."
Completely delusional, "Gimme a A, muthafucka!" (sic)
It's probably bad karma to thank God for children being suspended from school. I am probably going to hell for it. Hell of course would be the first three months of my teaching career played on a loop for eternity.
Last week, there was a barrage of fights all in one day. The first fight began before the first bell of the day rang. I believe there were five fights total. Several students were arrested, an alarming sum of 15 were suspended. Those fifteen plus another fifteen random suspensions meant that this week, approximately 10% of the student body was on suspension.
I was appalled by this fact. Appalled until I realized how much material I was getting through. Appalled until I realized the positive attitude that permeated the halls. I was appalled until I realized I was getting to use some of those creative activities from my portfolio in the classroom.
I have always been a positive thinker. That is why I was able to take my apprehension and turn it to elation. Instead of being appalled by the fact that 10% of the students are chronic troublemakers, I was elated to realize that 90% of the school is composed of some really great kids who want to learn.
This week I have been able to have real class discussions. I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know my students better, and they have had the chance to get to know more about me.
We discussed current events and compared them to the novels we are reading. I have students who are no longer afraid to look smart in front of their peers. They don't have to fear looking soft in front of the gangbangers they have to share the streets with after school.
Some of my shier students have really come out of their shells this week.
It really breaks my heart to think about how things will be next week when the suspensions are over. I am not looking forward to interrupting class discussions to tell students to stop throwing garbage out of the window. I am not excited about the fights I will have to break up. It will kill me to see my butterflies run back into their cocoons.
I am not looking forward to the butterflies in my stomach to reappear every morning.
Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I needed my evenings and my weekend to compose myself from last week. I can already tell that the final six weeks of the year are going to be the most interesting of all.