The Class

March 17, 2011

Heard from a good friend today about some students I used to teach.  Some are doing well, some are falling off, the usual trajectories for 13-14 year olds.   Working with adults is fun and challenging out here, but teenagers are a subset of humanity that can drive you mad with joy or rage.  I briefly forgot that.  As a teacher:

You identify with students.  A girl in New York used to read Harry Potter when she was bored during my classes.  Close friends and family know that this was a painful dilemma for me.   What really is more important, I thought, factoring binomials or allowing a child to experience Ron Weasley’s wit?  My ego was bruised that x2 – 9x + 14 being equivalent to (x – 7)(x – 2) wasn’t enough, but you know, I understand.  The last sections of Goblet of Fire are incredible.  Do I suppress her imagination or allow her to openly disrespect me?

You get angry with students.  A lesson went wrong or you’re behind on grading or you just feel off.  Irritable. One of the all-time great kids once brought drum sticks into my algebra class.  Unstimulated by our class discussion about example 42 on page 321, he started playing a mean solo in the back row. We’re talking about multi-step linear equations and he’s freaking out with these sticks.

Knock it off, please, I said. Ok, he said.  He’s a kind young man, generous in heart and spirit, but no kid worth anything can resist making a teacher fall into the abyss of insanity.  Five minutes later we’re on example 44 and I hear those drum sticks again, this time with whispering vocals.

Knock it off or I’m going to break those off my kneecap and throw them out the window.   As I said this, a blood vessel popped in forehead, or at least it felt that way.

Ok Mr. G, ok.

You respect the students.  There’s this one girl in Chicago who we called ‘Ice.’  A total killer in the classroom.  Worked hard, was always prepared, rarely showed emotion. Type of student that was so good you didn’t quite feel worthy- like your lessons were not commensurate with her character and intelligence.  I still speak with her through email, and her tone is the same: business, stoic, appreciative.  She’s straight A’s of course- but also professional and tough.  I would compare her to KG, but I’ve already done that 8 times on this blog.

Like any family, you see each other’s best and worst traits.  One kid gets a 48 on the exam and it’s like, buck up, work harder, come on.  Another gets accepted into Northwestern or wins the Science Fair and you’re infused with pride.  Someone’s mother gets sick and he’s off all day and you’re like, I’m sorry.  A kid who was always good does something bad. Gets caught with weed or cheats on a test or something.  You feel it because now they’re grown-up and not ready for it.

I don’t know.  It’s not an easy racket, but I highly recommend it.

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2 Responses to “The Class”

  1. Grandma, Daddy Jack & Dad said

    Happy (soon)anniversary to both of you.You are living an exciting life, well deserved we feel. Just
    heard from John , he will be joing us for dinner this eve with Jo-Ann & Caleb. All are happy though that your world “tour of duty” isn’t everlasting….Love from a;;

  2. Sara Rich said

    “Type of student that was so good you didn’t quite feel worthy- like your lessons were not commensurate with her character and intelligence.” YES. I miss that.

    Entre les murs is good stuff, too. Might have to re-watch that.

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