6th period: Before the students entered the room, the teacher from the class next door came in to introduce herself. “How are you doing?” she asked. “I’ve been her 6 weeks so far. I had my cry earlier this morning.” She left.
The students entered. “We hear that you are nice. We are not nice. We talk and yell and don’t pay attention.”
They talked and yelled and didn’t pay attention. I tried to group them in 3’s and have them do the “red had/green hat” riddle (after first eliciting from them a promise that they wouldn’t talk and yell and that they would pay attention). They talked and yelled and didn’t pay attention. But, out of respect for me they screamed at one another to SHUT UP! “YOU shut up!” “No YOU shut up!” “You are telling ME to shut up but YOU keep talking!” This went on the entire period.
Finally they began to plead with me to yell at them: “You have to yell and scream at us or we won’t do what you say.” I replied, “But I don’t scream at people.” They said, “What do you do to your own kids when they don’t do what you say? Don’t you yell at THEM?” I said, “Why should I yell at my own kids?” One of the students looked up at me in disbelief and said, “Will you be MY Daddy?” There was no gorilla in the room.
Finally, the teacher from next door came in and she did yell at them: “I can hear you through the walls!” No good. Didn’t work. As class time came to an end, I asked them what grade they thought they deserved. They admitted that a “2” was probably honest. Then, when the bell rang, a couple of them came to me and asked that I give a note to their teacher telling her that THEY had not been bad and didn’t want to get in trouble with the rest of the class. They were right. They had not been bad. I didn’t take their names to give to the teacher.
7th period: All I can say is that they were worse than 6th period.
Each period I stood in front of these kids and marveled. All the foolishness and pent-up energy of 12 and 13 year olds. All the desire to learn about things that really matter but that they weren’t going to get in this place. I knew that THEY knew this was an artificial environment (it is one of the most artificial environments any society could create). I knew that THEY felt incarcerated. I knew that THEY knew they were being made to learn things that would have little meaning for their futures. I knew that THEY knew there were things deep inside them that mattered immensely that were not going to be allowed to be expressed. They didn’t know these things cognitively, but they knew them intuitively. It was as if their behavior was their only way to protest having had their young spirits imprisoned for years, being required to do everything OTHER than what had meaning to them.
Add to the mix that today’s parents no longer teach their children to respect anything: themselves, others, authority.
I thought, “If I were these kids and were made to sit in those seats and do what you are made to do, day after day, year after year, I would act just like you are acting.” I wanted to tell them that, but didn’t dare.
I also thought, “These aren’t ‘bad kids’. They are pretty GOOD kids. I am grieved that I have to participate in this charade. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes right before my eyes. When will enough people be willing to stand up and say, “HEY folks, the Emperor is naked!”
I said to one class, “I’d like to take you all outside where we could learn some things that are really worthwhile.” One boy responded, “But, it’s raining…”
Actually, it was raining INSIDE. I felt like joining the teacher next door for a good cry.
Monday, I go to the high school to substitute there.