I'm not dead, dear Groupthink, though I know you mourned my absence. There, there, wring out your handkerchiefs, it is I, having surfaced briefly from the depths of my classroom to visit my beloved GT.
Seriously, I really missed you guys. BRIMSG changed her handle and I HAD NO IDEA. That's how bad it has been.
So it's week 2 of the Great High School Teaching Epic Adventure, and my feet really hate me, and my blood sugar probably does too, because I've gotten addicted to Lucky Charms and it seems to be all I want to eat, and I take bags of them to munch on during 8th period so I have the strength for 9th, and I'm beginning to wonder if I need a different coping strategy.
But I have so much to say, because there has been so much to see. However, a few things really stick out from this week, so here we go.
1) Teenagers are hilarious. They are predictable, unpredictable, goofy, showoffs, attention-desperate, cheerfully manic little crazies who make me laugh constantly and who so far seem to enjoy my class, now that they've realized they can say just about anything as long as it's in line with a discussion and I'll roll with it and not shush them. My ears ring from all the voices talking at once, and I will soon be answering solely to "MISS!" but I'm smiling through almost every class period, and that's really fun. I was absent one day unexpectedly this week due to pink eye and my students informed me the next day that they were very annoyed at me for being gone (probably because they had to deal with a teacher who actually acts like an adult. I need to learn how to do that.), which was flattering, if potentially untrue.
2) School systems are horrible.
No, really. I am in a low-income, heavily Mexican area, and we have security all over this campus. Cell phones are confiscated right and left, no food or drink is allowed in class. Okay, that's fairly basic. Shirts have to be tucked in, and teachers yell about it all day long. I'm iffy on that one. But the one that upsets me, really upsets me, is the trigger-happy tendency of this district to call security and the police on kids.
First week of school, a paperweight went missing from my desk. I didn't notice until just after 1st period, and realized a 1st period kid must have it. I remembered seeing one of the kids pick it up. Ergo, he probably took it, and I really wanted it back. So I mentioned to my 2nd and 3rd period the following: "Guys, I'm missing a paperweight off my desk, I think a student took it. So if you see someone with it, please let me know, or maybe politely ask the person if they will bring it back to me, because I would just like to have it back."
Third period knew immediately who had it, and gave me a name. I let the office know, figured, okay, he'll probably get a phone call home, maybe a detention, I'm not sure. By 4th period the paperweight had been returned, no big deal, I'll keep an eye on him, but okay, moving on.
Except I had officers and administrators asking me all day if I wanted to press charges against this kid, because I have that right, and was I sure I wanted to let it go?
Look, I get it. Discipline, rules, teaching, principles, etc etc etc. But I also get that it was a paperweight, which was returned to me, and that if I wanted to I could make sure this boy started the year off right with a record by pressing charges over a fairly trivial incident.
It wasn't the fact that I could press charges that bugged me — I know it is at times necessary in high school if kids commit assault — but the ease with which it was suggested and recommended.
I know these kids can be troublemakers. They're kids. And yes, they are all Mexicans and almost all from poor families. But there seems to be so much assumption laid on these kids that they are GOING to screw up and violate laws, it's only a matter of time, so get used to seeing police everywhere because, you know, that's how it goes.
I has a conflicted, I guess. Because I know that in some of the north side schools I worked in in San Antonio, where every room had a smart board, every kid shopped at Lacoste and Guess, every parent was rich, oh, and every kid was white, theft of an item would not result in charges being pressed. Unless it was someone's fucking car. That would be the last resort — not the first.
3) Pep rallies are deeply worrisome.
I attended my first one ever today. I ditched all the pep rallies in high school for the journalism room, a choice I never regretted. Today, I was more than a little freaked out. Because, SERIOUSLY. Here's how it went.
- Situate kids on bleachers on both sides of gym. Situate band at one end between bleachers. Play rousing music. (Drum lines are admittedly the shit.) Play the national anthem, get everyone good and patriotic feeling, and then parade in the football players while playing music that seriously sounded like the typical "let's send our troops off right!" sort of fanfare. While the cheerleaders cheer, of course.
- Now let's sit the football players at the opposite end of the gym. They are facing the band. They are in rows. We realize that they are the audience, not us. Now bring out the cheerleaders and dancers, who will never face the actual student audience. They will directly face the football players and dance and perform for them. This is a show for our boys, who sit back and smirk and ogle the girls and generally act like guys who know exactly what they evoke in a football-happy traditional community.
- Seriously, I feel like I'm watching some sort of pre-battle ceremony where our girls come out to show the boys what'll be waiting for them back home, and to fulfill their role as feminine, smiling, adoring fans.
I know I'm getting too general and maybe a touch anthropological with all the battle analogues, but it has never struck me before as that blatant until today. I was seriously weirded out. Of course, I am also the weird white teacher with short red hair who talks about cultural appropriation in class, so I dunno, it may just be me being weird.
BUT IT MATTERS NOT, for there shall be many an adventure to come, to be sure. So there's my insider's/outsider's perspective of the deeply structured anthropological microcosm that is American high school, at least two weeks of it, and here's hoping I get better shoes, more bookshelves, and that the principal doesn't find out that I let the kids have their phones in class as long as they aren't using them while I'm teaching.
I hope you all had a wonderful week!