Friday, October 14, 2005

So, Jack, how was your first week back? (Or: Horse Blinders. Like Equus.)

Apathy Jack writes:


So I was threatening my class that if they didn’t work on a revision essay, I would strangle them with the cord from my radio. Detaching the cord, I stalked around the room to see who was or was not doing what.

Of course I got distracted: The Indians had never heard of the thuggee cult, so I had to spend a while teaching them about their country’s history. Moving on, cord in hand, it occurred to me that one of the slackers had a pony tail so long that I could strangle her to death with her own hair. Tried that for a while before coming to the boy who looked up at me, looked down at the work he had been set, spent only the briefest of moments weighing up his options and said “Better start with the strangling, Chief.”

One of the boys asked if I was going to beat him with the cord. I confessed that the idea had a directness to it that was more appealing than strangulation, and flailed it at him a time or two. Which of course he caught on his cell phone camera.

Of course, this is the kid who, when we were all in over the holidays building the set for the drama production, saw the gleam in my eye when I was using the nail gun. He knows whom not to annoy...


Two of my lot, studiously working on essays, talking as they write...

Student 1 “Last year, I wanted to go to the Santa Parade, but I told my dad that I went because my boyfriend wanted to take me, so dad called him ‘Santa Claus’ for the next year.”
Student 2 “What? Your dad is Santa Claus?”
Student 1 “No, my dad calls my boyfriend Santa Claus to take the piss.”
Student 2 “What about your dad and pissing?”
Student 1 “My dad calls my boyfriend Santa Claus to make fun of him.”
Student 2 “I’ve written ‘piss’ in my essay.”
Me “Alright, you can only do one thing at a time, and for now, that’s an essay. Got it?”
Student 2 “I’m not getting distracted.”
Me “You know those blinders that horses wear to keep them from seeing anything either side of the racetrack? I’m going to get you a pair of those so you can focus exclusively on the essay.”
Student 2 “I’m not getting distracted!”
Student 1 “You know, a box would do.”
Me “Actually, I have a box...”

Then I cut one side off a box and spent the next wee while forcing my student to wear it while she wrote her essay, but that’s primarily visual humour, so it doesn’t blog well...


Dean “I wanted to talk to you about Siobhan.”
Me “Never heard of her.”
Dean “She’s not one of yours. She’s in Ms Singh’s class. But she’s out of her depth. She’s really struggling with the class, and is panicking about the upcoming exam. So I said I’d have a word with you.”
Me “Okay. Well, I have a free period when Singh has that class, so how about I pull her out of English for tomorrow and have a chat with her. I’ll see where she is, and what she needs, then we’ll take it from there as to whether I send her back to English, or whether I do some work with her in that time slot for a few days.”
Dean “That sounds good.”

This is the Dean under whom I worked when I first started at Hoodrat High. He was always at me to knock off the “unorthodox” stuff – a nice way of saying I shouldn’t stick my nose into other teachers’ business. But after all these years, he knows Who I Am and What I Do.

I don’t do it for the validation, but when it comes it doesn’t suck.


The good thing about teaching so close to the drama department is that we always have a soundtrack, be it the repeating tracks the Dance classes are learning steps to, or just the Drama teacher shouting. (I liked it when she turned up – I wasn’t the loudest teacher anymore...) In this instance, choral music.

Student “Is there a Church here?”
Me “It’s the Rapture. God’s come to take away all the bad people.”
Student “I thought he was going to take away the good people.’
Me “Ah. That explains why you’re all still here.”

We laugh together, me and my predominantly Christian Pacific Island students.

Well, I laugh.


Student 1 “Mister, are you a gothic?”
Me “No.”
Student 2 “Of course Mister’s not a gothic. He’s not wearing black nail polish.”
Me “See?”
Student 1 “Nah, I’ve seen the CDs he has in his back cupboard – all rock and stuff. He’s a gothic.”
Student 2 “No, he can’t be a gothic – he’s a teacher, and gothics hate kids. And a gothic couldn’t be a teacher at this school anyway, because gothics hate people of other races, and cultural diversity, right mister?”
Me “Exactly right.”

My flatmate tells me I shouldn’t be encouraging these sorts of ideas...

The class I was informally teaching last term has been officially given to me now. My girl – the one who alerted me to the problems in her class, who got me to come in and take over from the teacher who was buggering things up – said she misses the old teacher: the class may not have learned - or passed - anything, but I’m making them do work, which is far and away a worse option. When I point out that she has to work to pass, she argues that she would rather not work and just accept the failure. She would rather face the consequences of apathy than reap the rewards of effort, because effort takes, you know, effort.

Then she tells me that she’s revised her plans to drop out next year: She is going to come back on the first day of school, and see who her English teacher is. If it’s not me, she’s going back home. But of it is, we keep this one for one more year.

This job kills me some days. But you know, some days, it doesn’t.


Anonymous said...

I have been reading your posts for quite a while now, and I, uh, feel kinda stupid saying this but you're one of the reasons i'm quitting my job and trying to get into medicine. I'm eventually hoping to specialize in early-teen paediatrics. Wish I had more teachers like you in high school; then maybe I wouldn't be in the mess I'm in right now.

Apathy Jack said...

That is, to borrow the vernacular of the hip, heavy.

Drop me an email care of my profile - I'd be interested in discussing this further.

Alternatley, don't. Whatever you feel like.

Kate said...

I think we should pitch your writing to a publisher.
Or if that doesnt work - make a zine - zines are cool.
I am serious about the publisher.

Apathy Jack said...

If there's a blog, I don't see the need for a zine. Blogs are little different from zinbes, just easier to access. Also, it would take effort on my part.

I don't like the effort.