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Mid-Terms, Schools, and Illnesses

It’s time for mid-terms, which means it is also time for the obligatory scholastic disillusionment post. Tonight I practice my ASL handshape story, a five minute story told through the use of body language and next to no actual signs, and study for the Shakespeare mid-term for which I am wholly unexcited. I can’t wait to have one full guilt-free week off.

I don’t care much at all anymore, and know I’m half-heartedly jumping through the required hoops. This does not a good student make.

After almost one full week with a fever Ethan went to the doctor and we found that he has, of all things, scarlet fever. It sounds so Old World Victorian (“My baby has the plague!”) but turns out to be a strain of strep throat with a body rash. All week long I asked Does your throat hurt? Nope. Do your ears hurt? Nope. Okay then. The fever must be the pink eye or Fifth Disease, certainly not the Black freakin’ Plague.

In other news I have begun to get phone calls for student teaching interviews.

Going to the high school and observing the classrooms has begun to move my internal view of myself from student to teacher. Today I passed out an initital survey to the students and found that everyone is both classes has a computer, only three don’t have internet access at home, and at least six have both a website and a blog. I hope to do my semester research on the connections, if any, between technological literacy and scholastic success, primarily based on case studies, interviews, and student work. The school I observe in is unusually outfitted with the latest ed tech and the teacher I observe with uses it to its maximum degree. This is quite rare in secondary Lit classrooms, so I want to explore what kinds of effects it has on the classroom environment as well.

One of my greatest difficulties this semester has been establishing a teacherly persona. I am in the schools for two class periods. The first is overall well-behaved and engaged in the lessons at hand, while the second period is essentially run by a group of rowdy boys who insist on having the last word and making the class into a comedy venue. Truthfully they’re quite funny. This is a problem. Once I start laughing I can’t stop.

Further, they are obsessed with my presence in the classroom where the first period observed doesn’t care one way or another. Every day I get a barrage of questions ranging from What did you do this weekend? to Where do you live?, What is your first name?, What’s your screen name? Can we chat? and I’ll bet you go to frat parties, don’t you? I switch between giving smartass answers and none at all.

When I finally picked a lesson plan to teach (after abandoning the idea of Sandra Cisneros, we settled on Eliot’s Prufrock, thanks for asking), the teacher informed me that she isn’t even going to ask me to teach the second period. She said she felt like it would be throwing meat to the wolves, and frankly, I feel like fresh meat. Relief.

Perhaps the most telling experience indicating my need to better develop a teacherly persona happened last Friday. After listening to a long conversation between students on the finer points of punk rock, including the aural importance of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, how the size of piercing gauges correspond to numbers, what constitutes a cool tattoo, and other fine examples of high school inexperience, I found myself tempted to join in on a more-punk-than-you game that I thought I had long abandoned. In the interest of prudence, I shouldn’t divulge the stories I wanted to tell, but I guarantee that anything I could put on a list like this would be scandalous enough to blacklist me from any future teaching job and require an instant revocation of my laminated feminist card.

The overwhelming urge to bring in my CD collection and school these kids in the fineries of pre-1990’s pop culture has yet to pass.

Nirvana. Jesus. When did the 90’s become old school?

[For more on my observational experiences at this school, you can see my class blog: Miss Education.]

8 thoughts on Mid-Terms, Schools, and Illnesses

  1. Please share what you learn in your research on scholastic success and tech literacy. I work in educational technology and there’s a dearth of information on this topic. I’m glad to hear you’re looking at it.

  2. For what it’s worth, I find that in my students (very urban, almost entirely non-white high school kids), technological skills–i.e., having a website, LJ usage, computer literacy–do not always translate into academic success. I even have some of those by-now-cliche moments when I have to explain that “2” is an acceptable substitute for “to” on-line or sending text messages, but not in your essay about Julius Casear.

    I’m enjoying the updates. Let us know how “Prufrock” goes, eh? I shall grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled . . .

  3. ’90s became old-school when ’60s and ’70s King Crimson or Jethro Tull passed out of the spectrum of popular culture and into the sad vessel of wrinkled prog-rocker nostalgia. (Stabs modern music in the heart)

  4. I should also point out (sorry for the flooding) that your teaching Eliot’s Prufrock boggles my mind. I was an intelligent students taking honors classes with other fairly intelligent students, but if you had tried to teach even the AP Lit. students any Eliot, their heads would have exploded. I would have liked it (Eliot, not exploding heads), but that’s just me.

    You say this school has new ed-tech: does that mean it’s a somewhat affluent school? Are the kids there smart in general? Do you think those two things have anything to do with each other?

  5. Heliologue: This school system is an anomaly of sorts – quite multicultural by Indiana standards, in a very affluent part of town, students are primarily children of professors and execs, small enough that everyone knows each other, houses Jr and Sr highs in the same building (a pedagogical choice that deserves some consideration) and, like I mentioned, very high tech. It is also financially endangered, having closed down a newly renovated school, fired more than a handful of rookie teachers and forced older teachers into early retirement, and in the meantime, found the money to pay a fired curriculum director and outfit the remaining schools in the latest technology. It boasts the highest scores for a public school in the state and has a reputation comparable to private prep schools.

    Affluence is definitely a factor, but the school has managed to create a school culture that values intelligence. The “cleverness is not cool” aspect found in many schools across the country doesn’t exist in even the remotest sense. It’s an interesting case study, but hardly indicative of the rest of the country’s schools in any shape or form.

    My goal is to see how familiarity with integrated digital spaces affects one’s learning capabilities, if at all. I’m looking at both the least and most tech-literate students in these classes, but even that is a misnomer. The “least tech-literate” students in these two classes still have computers and use them regularly. We’ll see what happens.

  6. Hope Ethan gets better soon— my office at the corporate HQ of the East Austin Shaved Ice Funhouse chain of refreshment stands has been overrun with mothers whose children have Dickensian maladies.

    As for the teaching challenge, I have a friend who started teaching 9th grade English in suburban Houston in her mid-20s, and found that she was peppered with a host of jacked-up, off-topic questions. I’m not sure how she dealt with the problem. Was it a demonstration tasering? I can’t remember.

    Quick questions: have you divulged the existence of your Miss Education page to your students? Are any of them aware of the sociological import of bangs?

  7. Actually, Norbiz, they haven’t commented on the bangs yet, but they have spotted a tattoo I was desperately trying to hide. The interrogation was revived immediately.

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