He calls me Dad

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/30/296441067/what-a-small-towns-teen-pregnancy-turnaround-can-teach-the-u-s

Interesting read. I have to agree, ignorance and lack of education play a HUGE part in why we have such a high pregnancy rate compared to the rest of the world.

I’m blown away each year as the parents of my students are increasingly younger.  I remember talking to a colleague about it and she told me, that’s their culture.  I’m still wrapping my mind around this, but the longer I’m here, the more I understand.

Two of my seniors had a son in September; before Junior was born, the 17-year old father and I were talking about parenting.  He lives with his “father” (he’s not his biological dad, but a former stepdad who raised him), but this father is rarely home.  My student once revealed to me that he and his older brothers practically live alone, their father spends his time at his girlfriend’s house.  Anyway, in this conversation, my student was freaking out (but trying not to show it) about becoming a father, especially since his girlfriend was in foster care at the time and would have their son hundreds of miles away without him.  I told him I wasn’t the best person to be giving how-to-be-a-good-dad advice and then he looked at me and said, “I’ve always thought of you as a father figure.”  I smiled and said, “Dude, I’m not a dude.”  We laughed for a moment, but then he gave me a look that said, “But seriously, I do.”

When Junior was born, my student congratulated me on becoming a grandmother. I told him that I was waaay too young to be a grandparent, but he didn’t understand. He thought it was cool that when his son was 16, he’d be my age… He told me having a kid so young was good because “Then I’ll still be young enough to play with him and stuff.”  I realized then that if I’d had a child when I was in high school, I’d have a son or daughter his age right now, too.

When I was 16, I worked at a restaurant and had a 36-year old co-worker who became a grandmother. I remember thinking it was weird, but it wasn’t weird for her. It was her culture, just as it’s some of my students’ culture, too.

What a weird and wild and culturally diverse world we live in. Makes me think how much education (and the lack thereof!) influences aspects of culture… But just as in everything else, knowledge = power = powerful change for the better.

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Mom lost her pills again

Preschooler (from a tutoring center): I want to open the binder, I want to open…

Me: Let me do it, I don’t want you to pinch my fingers.

Preschooler (whining): I want to open the binder, I want to open the binder, I want to open the binder, I want to open…

Me: You don’t want to pinch my fingers, do you?

Preschooler (screeching) : YES! (and later…)

Preschooler (excitedly, at first; then more subdued): Tomorrow’s my birthday! But Mom will be grumpy for my birthday.

Me (holding back a sigh): Oh? Why’s that?

Preschooler: She lost her pills again.

Making Shakespeare Proud

Two weeks ago, my English class began learning about Shakespeare.  They were fascinated with the fact that he invented new words — thousands of them!  One gentleman in the back asked me, “How is that possible?!”  I answered a question with a question, “Did you know about ‘twerking’ a few years ago?” Lightbulbs went off around his head (figuratively, of course) and the rest of the class nodded.  

This reminded me of a day about ten years ago when I was the In School Suspension supervisor.  While helping “Alex” with his senior paper, we discovered that “pimp mobile” was in the dictionary.  My disappointment was nothing compared to “Alex’s” delight and he furiously wrote for several minutes.  Then he asked me, “Miss, does ‘mofo’ have one or two ‘f’s??” I looked at him with an expression that screamed “Are you kidding me?!” while calmly explaining that it only had one.

I have to say, his senior paper ended up being a narrative about how Snoop Dog was a super hero.  The usage of pimp mobile and mofo ended up working rather well! Ha!

 

Teaching Kids to get “Grittier?”

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead

This article is an interesting idea; I like it… but as it says near the end of the article,

“If there’s a problem with how kids are learning, the onus should be on schools to get better at how they teach — not on kids to get better at enduring more of the same.”

Encouraging students to persevere is excellent, I’m all for it; but HOW we do this is key. We shouldn’t invent “rigor” and then watch them flail around trying to make sense of it; are those who finally “get it” actually grittier than those who eventually give up? Or are we creating an elaborate weed-out system and patting ourselves on the back in the process?

If rigor isn’t tiered to meet the students at their current needs and designed to push them to progress at a pace commensurate with their peers and maturation levels, then it is inappropriate. We (as a nation) will lose valuable minds and creativity as more and more buckle under the pressure and drop out.

Can we really teach resilience or grit? It can be nurtured, it can be encouraged, it can be nudged and revealed… but I don’t think it can be taught. As my friend Simon has said to me, trying to teach resilience is like trying to teach compassion, empathy, or patience.

Sarcasm is my friend

My bad! I didn’t know I was supposed to facilitate violence, encourage profanity and reward disrespect. Here I thought I was supposed to insure a safe and positive learning environment for all students! Oops!

And just so you know, I’ve been called a [blanking blank blank] before, and besides it not being true, your repetitiveness lessened the sting. I recommend consulting a thesaurus for stronger adjectives!

TheyTalkWithNoSpaces

Last quarter, after reading the book, we watched the Jeremy Brett version of classic “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

In the middle of one of the last scenes, a student came over and whispered to me, “They talk so fast, Miss! It’s hard to understand them. It’s like in the comic books when The Flash is talking and all the words are together with no spaces. Theytalkwithnospaces.”

You just gotta go out, Miss!

Student 1: What are you doing for the weekend, Miss?

Me: I’m spending it with friends.

Student 1: Why aren’t you spending it with your man?

Student 2 (indignant that Student 1 doesn’t remember): She doesn’t have no boyfriend.

Student 1: But, why don’t you have a boyfriend?

Me: I just don’t.

Student 1: It’s not hard, you just gotta go out, Miss.

Me: It’s not that easy…

Student 1: Sure it is, you just go out and find a guy. You walk over and say “Hey” and he says “Hey” and you have a boyfriend!

Me: I promise you, it’s not that easy…

Student 1: Whatever, Miss, you just don’t want one then!

Neck Tatts

This morning I listened as a man poked fun at people who get neck tattoos… especially people who get “Only God Can Judge Me” emblazoned on their necks and upper chests.  They’re pretty common; don’t believe me?  Type it into Google Images to prove me wrong.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

[An aside: I love tattoos and if I could still keep my job, I’d be covered in them.  I have one and I am not ashamed of it; however, when asked, I always caution my students against neck, face, and lower arm/wrist tattoos.  Not because I think they’re wrong, but because the reality is twofold: 1.) at seventeen, do you really know what you want permanently on your body? and 2.) people do judge, whether they have a right to or not and I’d hate to see you lose a job opportunity because you decided to get “Respect” inked above your collarbone or along your forearm.  

They usually listen to me politely and then do what they want… Once I ran into a former student who shared with me that he regretted the wrist tatt of his son’s name since now he has to wear a thick watch or long-sleeved shirts to work.  He told me he wished he’d listened to me when I warned him against the tattoo when he was in high school. (I’m not making that up!)]

Anyway, this whole thing reminded me of a conversation I had with a student before Christmas:

Student (excitedly): Miss! I know what my next tattoo will be!

Me: What is it?

Student (pointing to his neck): I’m going to get “Mrs. Crumpett, I love you!”

Me: You better spell it right!

Student: Yeah! What do you think?

Me: Well, I’d take a picture of it–

Student: (Big grin)

Me: But then I’d openly mock you–

Class: (Raucous laughter)

Me: For getting THAT on your NECK!

Student: But MISSSSSS!! What are you going to do after I graduate?

Me: Breathe a sigh of relief?

Student: You won’t survive without me, you’ll cry everyday.

Me: Oh yeah, you so got that right.

Good Ol’ Vlad

Good Ol' Vlad

The writing prompt asked the students to choose who they thought would be a great president.

This kid received an automatic “A” of course: Vlad is AWESOME! But I feel, as the responsible adult, that I need to caution against supporting Dracula’s candidacy. To paraphrase my favorite pirate, “I’ve a powerful fear of impaling, Jim.”