I always wanted to have my concerns taken seriously as a kid. Specifically, when it came to lessons in school: “Why are we doing this? How’s this going to matter anywhere else the world except the stupid-ass grade I have to make here?” Usually the answers (if they would even offer them) were lame and unsatisfactory.
Then I became a teacher. My dream came true to haunt me. We are expected to relate lessons to student’s lives today and in their futures and to their other studies. It’s exasperating to listen to whiny young voices complain and argue. As if there’s any argument they can make that will get me to exempt them or change the lesson.
While why they are being expected to both participate in a lesson and an assessment of their understanding of said lesson, many of my kids are chronically Effort Stingy. They will do the very minimum required. They won’t read material closely if they read it at all. The put no attention to detail. And they use the bare minimum number of words written and apply little or no creativity.
Soon a new round whining and arguing about the grades that result from their stingy efforts.
If this were solely a memoir, I’d now examine my own Effort Stinginess which I have in, not only spades but hearts, diamonds and clubs too. (Thank goodness it’s not so much about me outside the classroom). Suffice it to say if we had more planning periods, more assistance with all the classroom tasks and…how shall I say… a culture that gave a shit about other people’s children, we’d have much more time to learn much faster how to be better lesson planners and importance justifiers, thus making us better teachers, them better students and schools that suck less.
This is a what sucks and what rocks entry. So good news and bad news
I have many negative mantras that screw up my day and make it hard to sleep at night. I wrote, directed and performed in my first solo play in 1992. That show’s last week of rehearsal and several since then (including my latest show I did as just middle school director) my negative mantra was, “I’m never gonna pull this off by opening night.”
My short experience with Title 1 theatre programs in junior and senior high is markedly different. Skipping/missing rehearsal is chronic. CHRONIC!!! Rarely do I have all actors present at any rehearsal.
My last student show was Don Zolidas’ 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. A fun, funny, clever, simple, producer’s/director’s wet dream of a one-act play.
There are a minimum of 8 players needed for the show to be performed. I had 8 students either flake out, get removed from school or move away throughout the rehearsal process. The last replacements were made 5 days before opening night. (They were two Zombies who—SPOILER ALERT—were dead on! Thank you!)
The final week of rehearsal I had a principal actress have to be evaluated for and undergo a day surgery procedure. She missed opening week’s Tuesday rehearsal and was at the hospital having the procedure between 3:30 and 6:00. Curtain was 6:30, so she missed our preshow run through.
Somehow, my awesome theatre nerd kids pulled it off and we had a kick ass show. As for our just-operated-on student, she nailed it but was apparently unaware she was bleeding during the performance.
What rocks about this is several theatre miracles were pulled off that Friday.
What sucks is the nature of commitment on the part of parents and students. Our culture seems to have lost the “rule” to honor commitments. This is sad because I want the kids to have an experience of everyone showing up for every rehearsal, being off-book two or three weeks early and seeing the kind of quality and precision we can produce if we practice and polish the show instead of pull off the first run through on opening night.
Old participation rules seem to remain in the area of sports. I would love for my parents and kids respect rehearsal and the show like families of athletes respect practice and the game.
Oh and I was very happy my negative mantra about being ready for opening night was wrong.
How to Raise a Brat
When it comes to school, you do not need to witness the incompetence of teachers because your child will never lie to you. Use this line, “My child has never lied to me,” early and often. If someone accuses your child of lying you must assassinate the character of the accuser.
The accuser doesn’t understand your complicated child, has it out for your child or is jealous of your child. And if the child did lie, it is because the accuser was not in proper control of the classroom or was asking something unfair, irrational or unnecessary of your child. All you have to do is interrogate the accuser and anything they say can be stretched, mischaracterized or misapplied to prove they should never have become teachers in the first place.
Every time your child sees you fight to win rather than fighting for the truth their selfishness, disrespect, ego-centrism, nastiness, contentiousness and oppositional defiance grows until voila YOU HAVE RAISED A BRAT!!!
With a little luck and a little more narcissism, you may have a bona fide sociopath in the family!
Why are our kids not learning enough? It’s because kids who already behave poorly are asked to come sit in a windowless classroom 6-7 hours a day, stay quiet and focused for 7-8 courses, sit by their friends with whom they’re not allowed to speak. They are being forced to study subjects many of which do not matter or do not appeal to the kids’ interests or have no practical application today or ever.
Kids are out of control before they get to the classroom usually because of parenting and economic inequalities.
Because we need to make school teach more effectively we need to make school stop sucking or at the very least suck less.
Because we can’t change economic injustice overnight we need to find ways to control the focus of children’s minds which means calming their behavior. So discipline and class management must to be more effective. And the less school sucks the easier job we’ll have of improving the culture and behavior of the classroom.
But NOTHING will change until we deal with classroom hijackers. Kids who behave so horrible that the class can barely move forward.
I set my blog to private and didn’t post for about a years time as I got a job in high school education. Well I’m wrapping up that job here in lovely Houston and I’m transitioning back to a full time arts and entertainment career like the first 21 years of my adult life.
I will continue to teach but not as a full time public school employee. I’ll teach theatre classes to young people who have a desire to be there!!!!
A guy said that today.
A friend once said, “I have had a few better days drunk than sober.” Clichés need to be contradicted now and then.”
Today I did the old, “Please don’t let me leave worse than I came!” I laid down my burdens. Felt much gay better! Yay!
I also asked if we could do the Serenity Prayer instead of the Our Father since not all of us are Christians.
And the earth did not devour me.
These kids today with their “MTV” and their “marijuana cigarettes!”
Now, before every class every day since the first incident, I say, “You may listen to music when you finish the first 10 problems. I don’t want to hear it so keep your earphones on and the volume down. No texting. If you take or make a call, I will call the office to come take your phone. This is your only warning.” (I say the last sentence because they must “receive a warning” on the first offense of just about everything).
Then I get to listen to “Why are you so mean?” “You can’t tell me what to do!” “Our teacher lets us!”
I’ve had four incidents where a kid makes or take a call in the middle of class and they all took place in the last month. The worst thing (okay the second worst thing) is often they make no effort to hide it.
1st Episode Blah Blah High School:
Me: What the…? I said not to take calls! I’m calling the office to come and take your phone.
Not So Respectful Guy: Let them try to take my phone! Snitch!
Me: I’m a substitute teacher. I get paid to snitch.
2nd Episode Yadda Yadda High School:
Me: I’m calling the office.
Victim Girl: But she called me!
Man: OMG, are you cereal? Are you totally cereal? I’m not going to take the bait and explain what you already know by saying, “Well, you know you just because she called you during class you don’t have to take the call…. Oh wait, I just did.”
3rd Episode Whaaa? Middle School:
Me: Busted! I’m calling the office.
Only kid who bothered to try and hide his phone call from me: I was calling my mom.
Me: Let me see your last call. It says, “Emily.”
OKWBTTAHHPCFM: That’s my mom’s name.
Me: Tell it to the judge.
4th Episode: Whaevah High:
Me: I’m calling the office.
Girl who left an explicitly sexual message for her boyfriend in a very loud voice: I didn’t do anything! Sick of teachers thinking they can tell me what to do!
Two other peers: She didn’t do anything!
The assistant principal came. (How do these people do that job?! Saints I tells ya! Saints every one of them!) I got called names as she left insisting she was a victim and didn’t do anything. She also said I was ugly. The noive a dat goil!
(I’m not ugly am I?)
Within the next two minutes both of her friends stormed out acting like I was a tyrant and they were victims. They chose In Class Suspension (ISS) over the couple worksheets the teacher left them. Damn my evil dictatorship!
I do want to say that I’m good at diffusing conflict and winning kids over with my insanely charming wit. I say, “Make sure you start rumors that I’m cool too.”
“You kids are the greatest. Now let’s pass around the marijuana cigarettes and put on the MTV.
I’m filling out applications to teach Theatre and Speech. They asked who was my hero and I wrote about my grandfather…
My grandfather was the warmest, kindest, most peaceful and compassionate person I’ve ever known. (Yes these people do exist!) He kept my grandmother in their home and cared for her through her slow and heartbreaking ten year decent into Alzheimer’s. Another ten years after her death he began a much more rapid three year process of losing his personality along with his memory.
He carried himself with an effortless dignity. He truly loved everyone and had more friends than anyone could count. “I have a wonderful family. Ain’t a rotten apple in the bunch.”
Two years ago, I drove from Austin to Donie, TX, the tiny town in which Grandpa was born and where he and Grandma retired to take him to Mom and Dad’s in Houston for Christmas.
All the next day he was disoriented and asked several times, “What day is today?”
“It’s Christmas, Grandpa.”
He seemed sad and depressed and Dad asked if he was okay. Like always, he smiled and said, “I’m fine. Fine.”
Dad said, “My father could be on fire and still say he’s fine.”
The day after Christmas, as we approached Donie on the drive home, he said, “Exit 180. I do remember that.”
“We’re going to your new place in Teague.”
He pointed at exit 180 as we passed.
The northbound rural route to Teague meandered southward and I said. “I think I might be lost.”
“Well I cain’t help ya there.”
I pulled into a parking space in front of the Teague rest home. Grandpa said, “Where’s this?”
“This is where you live.”
“Cain’t we just go home?”
“This is your home now, Grandpa.”
He squinted. “My… mind…”
“You sad Grandpa? I’m sad.”
He waved the question away.
I walked him to his bed. He slept about 14 hours a day now and said, “I love you Grandpa.”
“I love you too.”
“Grandpa, I have to tell you something. You’re my hero.”
He smiled as he closed his eyes, “Thank you. Thanks.”
It was our last conversation.