Thursday, April 2, 2009

10th Graders are Hilarious

Today began the great (dumb) experiment of throwing our school into turmoil and having all the "good" teachers teach the 10th graders for the month of April in preparation for testing (see previous post). After one day, I have this to say: 9th graders are ridiculous. I didn't realize how bonkers 9th graders were until I got to work with these older children. I'm working with the group that has been assessed as being "below basic" in terms of skills, and they were still light-years more capable than 9th graders. What happens in between that first and second year of high school that turns a totally dysfunctional mess into a reasonable person?

While you ruminate on that question, here is a conversation that took place between me and one of my 10th grade tutorial students.

Me: Make sure you hand in your exit slip on the way out the door.
Student: What happens if we don't.
Me: I'll freak out. And you don't want to see a nerdy white math teacher freak out.
Student: Yeah, he's probably all (in robot voice, as she starts shaking hands above head and twitching) Does. Not. Compute.



Wyrm2 said...

That is why I am trying to avoid teaching 9th graders if at all possible.

Kat said...

Just curious...why mention the fact that you're white?

Full disclosure: I frequently see white teachers (nearly always young and/or novice) making self-effacing comments about being white in what I suspect is an attempt to win over the kids, and it bothers me. I wonder what if the situation were reversed: we'd never allow our students to promote the negative stereotypes of their race, so why do we provide such a different model for what's OK, even in a joking manner?

But I agree with you on the development aspect: a year makes a tremendous difference.

Bren said...

Black people do make jokes about being black and Asians people make jokes about being Asian. As long as everybody shows respect, I don't see what's wrong with a self effacing joke, this is a relatively healthy way to process a stereotype, positive or negative.

Kat said...

Comments taken, Bren, but (1) I never hear teachers of other races disparaging themselves (empirically, I notice the opposite), and (2) I don't think it's "processing a stereotype" if you're feeding into something the kids may or may not believe but certainly don't need an adult endorsing and perpetuating.

I'm with you on the respect...which can be shown toward oneself, too.

Anonymous said...

What happens is that they drop out. Sad but true, just look at the enrollment numbers of 9th graders in Sept and then in June.

Sam said...

Kat, I think you need to lighten up a bit..I make stupid jokes about my race all the time and I think it really helps put people at ease. Especially in our schools, where the majority of the kids do not have too much experience with people of other races, I think it shows them a more human side of ourselves. BTW- I am Latino, not white....therefore my lack of command of English grammar and spelling.

Anonymous said...

Where I teach, I have had little children ask me, "Ms. X, is you white?" And I answer,"Yes, sweetheart, I am" because they just don't know (not due to my complexion, but due to them just being so young). I rarely refer to my race and certainly never presume that the students have a preconceived notion about people who are white, as if we're some monolithic type. I absolutely do not disparage myself based on my ethnicity. BTW, at my school, and I've been there around 10 years, I have never heard a child say anything like "I don't have to listen to you because you're white" or anything about white teachers. I am one of the 2 or 3 white teachers in my school which is almost all African-American. We are just teachers and all students are supposed to listen to all teachers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. X - the next time a student asks "Is you white?"

Please consider letting them know that the correct way of asking that is, "Are you white?"

Anonymous said...

I put "Is you white?" in quotes because that is exactly what the little child asked me. And I probably modeled back the standard form; I usually do.

Anonymous said...

Ms X - I understood why you put that in quotes and am happy to hear that you think you modeled correct usage.

Kat - I've heard Chancellor Rhee talk about herself as "that crazy Korean lady." Do you think she should stop that?

Sam - you were kidding, right? -- about being Latino as an explanation for your poor English usage (which I didn't notice)

Anonymous said...

Being Latino is an ethnicity and has no bearing on one's language skills. Latinos can run a range from speaking only Spanish to only English and any combination in between. Being a native Spanish speaker, someone whose first language is not English, now that's another story. Errors present in English can originate from a Spanish L1 (or from any other L1), such as confusing the possessive adjectives his & her, since they're both translated as "su" in Spanish. Sam, I noticed no errors (not even the typos we all make) on what you wrote. And BTW, you probably write English grammatically with better spelling than you think. As a teacher, you had to pass Praxis I, right?

Sam said...

I was definitely joking.

I understand fully about Latino not being a race, but at ethnicity, as my wife who is also Latino, but from a different country background is very often treated as white, until she opens her mouth and then it's clear she is not a native speaker. Me, I don't look anything but your typical day laborer (another joke) but yes, my English is more than acceptable according to the Praxis I.

The jokes I was referring to I also use with my colleagues and they are I think pretty harmless (being late to everything, needing my "siesta", needing a tortilla at every meal, etc. etc.)

Anonymous said...

we have two weeks til DC CAS so the craziness is going to get more intense. I just hope that principals, many of whom I believe are in fear of being replaced, set a tone of calm. A stress free atmosphere will do a great deal to create a good testing environment. So many of our schools haven't made AYP in a few years.

Anonymous said...

Right - the principals are in fear of being replaced, because Rhee made it very clear that's what would happen if they didn't make AYP - as if instilling fear will raise scores. It's more likely that instilling fear will raise cheating rates -- and I'm talking about principals fixing tests - not kids cheating.

I sure hope there are measures in place to prevent that -- though I doubt that Rhee cares about cheating, since she lied on her own resume. She just wants the scores to go up.

I don't think the principals have too much too fear. I doubt there's an army of principals lined up to take their places - knowing full well they could meet the same fate next year.