Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"A Tale of Two Classes" OR "2nd Time's a Charm!"

The alarm rang at the usual time this morning, bright digital numbers taunting me like a bully that's stolen my copy of "The Catcher in the Rye" and is now waving it front of my face, chanting, "Yooou've gotta wake uuuhh-uuuup" over and over again. I lay there for a minute, trying to decide if the glowing "6:50 AM" is the actual time, because it's about twice as dark outside right now as it should be. I struggle to pull myself out of my oven-warm, feathery bed, only to pull away the blinds to reveal drizzly rain and the dark clouds of the apocolypse. So, I crawl back into bed via the right side, and then I get right back off on the wrong side, just for the hell of it.

The voyage to school was a dismal experience. Driving along-side trucks on the interstate is one of the Top Five Most Unsettling Driving Scenarios for the very reason that they splash some mutant species of water on your windshield that can't be wiped away no matter how fast the wipers perform. Add this to driving in a construction zone (also one of the Top Five), and you've got a rather exciting excursion.

After my aquatice journey to the center of Illinois, I finally get to school about five minutes late. There is no scientific reason for this tardiness; it was just a fun little joke by the Tuesday Gods to further spite me. I can just see these two white-bearded assholes throwing darts at the Giant Phonebook in the Sky and hitting "Brigham," then giggling like schoolgirls at the animosity they have caused such a noble, handsome young person as myself. Remiss, I enter my classroom and fail to thoroughly complete my morning routine (this includes checking my email, Monday Night Football and NBA scores, etc... you know, important stuff). I'm late in the first place, but students keep coming in with questions, so my routine gets postponed. I even had one girl drop in and ask me what a spleen does. How the hell am I supposed to know? I'm your ENGLISH TEACHER!!!

First block was a disaster. It's the first of two sections of American Literature I teach, and this particular group of kids is not the best at communicating their insights, if such insights exist. We read an excerpt of Moby Dick, and i carefully constructed a series of questions meant to arrouse their budding intellects. But, they sadly refused my efforts and sat through the majority of the lesson with their jaws gaped open nearly to the floor, yawning and grunting like sleepy pigs. I kept expecting some cliche Farmer Brown to come in and dump a bucket of slop on the floor so they could all rip towards the pile and fight over a banana peel. But, it didn't happen. These students (and don't get me wrong, I love them all), just SAT there, leaving me and my questions to be devoured by the educational vultures. I couldn't DRAG answers out of them, and to be completely honest, at that point in the day I lacked the motivation to do so anyway. So I scrapped the rest of the conversation and moved on to the next activity, which seemed to have gone much better.

I spent the majority of the day thinking that my stellar questions were not so stellar after all. I thought that perhaps I had done an awful job and that I would soon lose my career as a teacher, only to kicked out on the street and be forced to hold up a cardboard panhandling sign that says, "My dog needs breats implants. Please help her." I felt this way, that is, until third block rolled around. Despondant, I taught the class identically to the way I did first block, but one thing was different: these students were fired up. The questions got them really cooking, and we had a 20 minute debate on whether we thought Captain Ahab was the victim or the agressor. They did wonderfully! I couldn't have been more proud, and I guess it just goes to show that just because one group of kids doesn't respond favorably to a particular set of lesson plans doesn't mean that they are bad lessons. It just means that the other group needs to go in some different direction.

So, my third block class made me feel much happier about life, and I knew that I wouldn't have to resort to washing windows at red lights to support myself (even though that income WOULD be tax-free). But, it at some point you do see me on the street, look at me in favor, as a respectable, noble person whose life is viewed as dignified and successful. Then, drop 3 or 4 cents into my empty Gatorade bottle.

***

Quote of the Day:

Me: "Captain Ahab really believed that it was his fate, his destiny, to kill Moby Dick."
Jesse: "Isn't that kind of silly?"
Me: "I don't think so. We all have causes that we fight for every day, you know? We all have our own 'whale,' so to speak."
Nate, referring to his girlfriend Devon, who sits right next to him: "Devon's MY whale. Wait, I mean... I'm not saying you're fat! It's just... oh crap."

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