Friday, December 29, 2006

Throughout my teaching career my students have shown me various kinds of hostilities. They have called me bitch, retard, stupid. They have critized my teaching. They have told me they were bored, I was boring, the lesson was boring, and I couldn't teach. I have had students tell me that they were not going to do any work no matter what I did or said. I have had students do major drug deals in class, harrass girls, fight verbally and physically with other students. I had a student steal my purse. I have had students throw books out the window into a rainy parking lot. I have had students who turned the conversation to drugs and sex no matter the topic whenever a disscussion was started. I have had students answer their phones and start talking openly in class. Some students were 1/2 late to school day after day. Some never arrived at all. One student bragged about a robbery he had recently done to the entire class. I have had students tell me that the only reason they were in school was because their grandmother or parole officer made them come. I have had students who came to class and beligerantly stared into space while the hour passed.

But, my kids the first year were not that bad. They were pretty young - although sadly, older than they should have been. They were technically in the 8th grade and between 14-16 years old. We weren't supposed to take 17 yr olds, but a few near this age slipped in. As a reference point, I was 17 my Freshman year of college, which is pretty routine. The law in NY is that a youngster is able to attend school until their 21st birthday, 22 if they are special ed. The common graduation age seems to be getting pushed back and it is perfectly normal for a 19-20 yr old to graduate from high school.

Christmas came and we had our first graduation ceremony. My favorite student Carlos graduated with a few others. Again, these students weren't too bad. They were just exhausting and most of them weren't preforming THAT low, not compared to students I would have later.

When the semster turned, they took away one my literacy classes and gave me social studies. Now I had to prepare for 3 classes, I was going to college which was an 1 1/2 commute each way, and I was pregnant. I want to make a point about this because I really struggled to make my teaching career happen. I think I've struggled and stuck in there longer than most of the people who wanted me to stop or doubted my ability.

I had some social studies books, but they were really old. I liked teaching SS though because it was fact driven and easier to teach than literature. I had to study a lot though. I finally decided to rely on the two easiest subjects for me: geography and civil rights. I could teach anything because my students had little history training. I taught them a long series on Emmit Till. I went to the NYPL and rented photographs of the race riots and had the students write responses. Then, I decided to show Do The Right Thing by Spike Lee and have a lesson around it. I got permission to watch the film through my assistant principle and the parents. Most of the students had seen the film anyway. The day I showed the film, the infamous supervisor came into my room (as usual) and flipped out. She turned the film off and started screaming at me "who told you that you couid play this?" This woman's attacks on me where so out of hand that the students were starting to rebel against her. I told her that the AP gave me permission. Luckily, the AP was across the hall and she backed me up. The "supervisor" actually had no real power at all. She was a teacher put at the site to run things. The AP visited about 3 times a week. The pricipal came to the building once in the entire year.

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