"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Does it Feel?

I wrote most of this just after school one day several weeks ago but never posted it. You should read into that to tell you something about the year I (we...most teachers at my school...in America) had. I post it now simply because with the passage of time I don't feel the negativity like I felt (see below re: title). Now it's basically just a couple of anecdotes about how your day goes as a high school teacher.

The title above is a line from a Nine Inch Nails song. I'm not going to tell you which song. If you know it, you know how it feels.

This week, I'm at school at 7:00 am, I don't leave until after 5:30pm, and I'm not even coaching this year. My IB students are presenting oral assessments this week. It's an after school requirement. So I get home and I'm wiped out. I have no energy. I don't want to play with the boy. I don't want to grade papers. I don't want to write. While I was off duty (on my paternity leave), I would have all kinds of ideas, blog posts, novel ideas, and I would write them down. Once I had an idea for a blog post, it would maybe take me a couple of hours to write and get finalized before I posted. I think that's a pretty good time commitment. My bet is most bloggers don't spend that amount of time. But I like my little essays to have coherance and heft. Anyway, the point is that I haven't the energy. Not to mention the ideas. I have about five posts started and stopped from the past two weeks. I can't seem to finish the ideas. I don't even really like what I'm writing right now and I wonder if this will just end up in the pile of drafts at the back of this blog.

All contraband.
Today during class, I asked a student who wasn't listening if she was listening, and she barked, "Obviously not." I suppose that's what I get for asking. She had headphones on and her iPod and phone out on the desk. I asked her to put them away. She didn't. (We're actually supposed to take those things away. I thought I was doing her a favor.) I asked her if we could go out to the hall to talk. Her response: "I'm not going to talk to you." She refused to move. So now that class had been thoroughly disrupted and my authority challenged, security had to come in and take her out.

It's the power struggle I hate.

He looked exactly like this until I ruined his day
I saw a student of mine in the hallway, carrying his lunch tray, far away from the cafeteria. I hadn't seen this student since my return, and his attendance when I was here before was sporatic, and getting worse each week. Just this morning, though, I recieved a note from the registrar that he had been withdrawn from school. So I asked him what was going on with him. I told him I was told he had dropped out. "No," he said, "I'm still here." And he grinned like this was very funny. He tried to walk off, like I wasn't even really talking to him, but I asked him again why I would get an email saying he withdrew from school if here he was, eating lunch with impunity. He just grinned, shrugged his shoulders, and tried to walk off again. He didn't yet understand what this chance encounter had in store for him.

Interestingly, we were standing in front of the dean's office and the secretary had heard my questioning, so she called out and asked his name. I told her and she checked and said, "Yep, you're no longer a student here." This happens sometimes with non-attenders. I asked him if he had just been coming to school and hanging out all day. He said, "I went to class this morning." Apparently that wasn't enough to stave off the withdraw. The secretary told him he needed to wait in the office until he could talk to a dean. I had just spoiled his lunch. My duty was over.

I saw him in the hall again a little while later. I asked him what the dean said. He mumbled something like, "I'm outta here." I wanted to ask him more about what happened, but he was headed out the door. He didn't stop to chat.


  1. I thought that the title was from "Like a Rolling Stone"

    Those kids have some real attitude. It would almost be funny that they act so smug when they're walking right into obvious trouble, if it wasn't so sad. Clearly there is some dumb teenagers out there, in training to be future dumb adults.

  2. What kind of school do you teach at where the students feel entitled to having their iPods and phones out during class? At my school if a teacher so much as saw a cell phone in your purse, and it didn't matter if you were using it or not or if it was off, it got taken away and you had to pay ten dollars to the front office to get it back.

    And people honestly look at me like I'm out of my mind when I say I don't like children and teenagers. Seriously? There's something wrong here.

  3. That is a pretty good time commitment you put into a blog post. Mine tend to vary. Some take two to three hours, and some I throw together in about 15 minutes. I'm not usually going for the essay style you've got going, though.

    I could not be a high school teacher. Not unless they authorize some Inquisition-style corporal punishment.

  4. I taught a bit of junior high and high school. And I agree with you, the worst part is the power struggle. Why do kids feel so entitled and think they have the right to get away with being disrespectful and downright rude? The lack of respect for teachers and parents is one of my biggest worries about the next generation.

    Good post...but a little depressing. :)

  5. Kids these days can be disrespectful, assanine, know-it-alls. The problem is they grow-up and maintain these traits and then vote. Oh world...how I love working with people.

    To be honest sir, I think you are too nice. You really shouldn't be challenged like this and if you were more onery, I think that these miscreants would respect you more. Nice in "America" is a license to squash you.

  6. Bryan: I have to tell myself that we were all dumb teenagers once, but sometimes it seems like they are getting dumberer.

    Chanel: a couple of years ago, students were not supposed to have phones or headphones out even in the halls. We teachers were supposed to take those phones away, even when we didn't know the students in question. The admin gave up on that rule, but we are still supposed to take them away in the classroom, the idea being that you wouldn't have the conflict if they were your own students.. I used to be a stickler for these rules, but in order to avoid the fights I would still literally have every day, I started just asking them to put the phones away. It's a fine line to walk to pick your battles.

    Doug: It's funny, but the more lenient the admin gets about rules, the more dictatorial I feel like I have to get.

    Julie: I was a little depressed when I originally wrote this. Now it just seems like par for the course. This is the generation of entitlement. Youngsters really believe they shouldn't have to work for anything. It is scary.

    Michael: You're comment is ironic because I am known for being somewhat of a hardass. I am an ornery, mean, and sarcastic teacher. Some kids get it, some don't. And that's okay with me.

  7. As much as I would hate being a teacher (for one I suck at it and have very little patience with dumbassery), if given a chance I think I would enjoy certain aspects of it. I'll bet very few of the smart-asses would come back for a second semester. Unfortunately, schools have become as permissive and lily-livered as our prisons. No discipline. No consequences. And teachers have very little power to back them up. Me, I'd lean in close and in my very best Dirty Harry voice say "Put that crap away now or your phone and your ipod and your whole fu**ing purse go out the window into the parking lot." I'd be so fired, I think.

  8. I guess out students have a point, then, when they say school is like a prison. That's sad. A little scary.

  9. I'm ashamed to say that stories like these are why I didn't go into teaching...I'd get burnt out. You're a strong, incredible person. Thank you.

  10. Thanks Nicki. I don't often feel strong or incredible. But generally I do like what I do.