Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where is the joy?

School secretary calls my room at 12:35:
"Where is Couscous?"
I don't know. I'm teaching another class right now. He's just in my homeroom.
"His mother's on the phone. She says she MUST speak to him right now. It's an emergency."
OK, well have her call the room and I'll see what I can do.

5 min later

Hello? Ms. Couscous's mom?
"Yes, do you know where Couscous is?"
No, not really. What's the problem?
"I just got a text from him asking me to pick him up. He shouldn't have his cell on during class. This is very unusual for him. When I told him no, I started receiving strange, mean messages. Now he won't answer calls or texts. Are you sure he's at school? What if somebody's got him? What if they stole his phone? Where is he?"
Oh my goodness. OK. Let me see what I can find and I'll call you back.

I walk down the hall, leaving a classroom full of 28 12-year olds to their own devices, in search of the precious Couscous, who could very well have been stuffed in a locker that I was walking by. I turn into his science class, and there he was.

Couscous. Outside. Now.

Do you have your cell phone?
Did you just text your mom?
Why is your phone out during school? Is something wrong?
"I'm tired. It's hot in there. I want to go home.



How I did not strangle this child to death in the hallway is a question I will ask my maker one day. Until then, Couscous's phone is in cellular purgatory (AKA The principal's office) and he will be reunited with it once his mother makes an appointment in the front office. Before turning it in I called his mom on his phone:
Couscous is fine. He was in fact the one sending those nasty messages you described. I told him I was very disappointed, that he only has 2 weeks before finals, and that he cannot use his phone during class. According to his science teacher he had a science project due today which he didn't turn in which was probably why...
"Oh, good. Glad he's OK. Gotta go..."

I've lost the joy in teaching. I've succumbed to a career of bitterness and spite. I stew and fester in my disgust for students, parents and administrators. Two years in and I'm already burnt out. I'm not a quitter. I pushed myself through grad school at night while teaching. This isn't something I want to give up, but good Lord am I tired of the pettiness.

There is a complicating factor in all of this: I'm pregnant. The exhaustion which accompanies my "delicate condition" only compounds my frustration. Summer cannot come fast enough.

I would like to rant for a minute on parenting. I rant without any prior experience but with great hope that I will not make the same stupid-ass mistakes I see on a daily basis. Last year a teacher was venting to me and said "These parents tell their kids that they're special. They're not special. They're the same as the other million kids in the system." It sounded harsh and bitter at the time, but I now replay those comments in my head in a whole new light. These kids aren't special to the world. They're special to their parents. My own parents never said "oh, you're so special", but they did tell me when they were proud of me, when they were disappointed in me, when they were surprised by me. Parents seem terrified of telling their children any of this. "You're special. It's OK if you got a C, as long as you were trying. You never disappoint me sweetheart, just try harder next time, OK?"


No, too many intelligent, capable kids are hearing this and it's destroying them. How will they ever know that they can and SHOULD achieve more if you don't encourage it? Why shouldn't you be disappointed in them when they pee in a bottle in homeroom and leave it in the closet? What if they don't turn in homework because they were 'too tired' and 'forgot' it for 3 weeks straight? I wouldn't be "OK" or "not disappointed" in my child. I'd be frustrated, disappointed and upset. I would not be proud of their actions. I think my child will need to hear that. Well, they WILL hear that, so hopefully it won't be too emotionally damaging. Opinions welcome


Jose said...

that's right. well done. i'm in total agreement, and while i'm not pregnant, i've been thinking a lot about parenting and the deep effects its having on our kids' capabilities. your points are indeed poignant.

NYC Educator said...

I agree completely. My kid does not and will not get away with that sort of stuff, and I wouldn't presume to defend such behavior to a teacher, or anyone in fact.

You'll be a good mom, and your teaching experience may come in very handy.

KentyMac said...

First off, Preach it sista!

Second, I am so glad I teach college! The day your bratty students make it to my class with that attitude is the day I quit. But fortunately I've been able to weed out the losers and whiners by "suggesting" they try another professor, major, or college if can't handle it. Glad I have that option!