Friday, November 19, 2004

My teaching is at its laziest during my 6th period “Inclusion” class. Inclusion means half the kids are Special Ed, and that there’s a Special Ed. teacher in the room with me to “team teach.” I signed up for this team teaching gig because it sounded like it would be less work than solo teaching, which it is, I guess, but it’s still a pain the ass.

It’s not the kids. Most of the Special Ed. kids are pretty much indistinguishable from everybody else, stuck on the short bus because their handwriting’s a little messy. Some of them are kind of a pain in the ass because they’re smart enough to have learned that no-one expects much out of them, so they don’t see a problem with not even pretending to ever do any work. A few of the kids are genuinely weird, cross-eyed and clingy, and prone to emotional outbursts, but none of them would qualify for Tard Blog or anything. I imagine that if you just flipped everything and put all the Special Ed. kids in Regular classes and vice versa that you'd end up with about the same number of Special Ed kids who should be taking Regular classes and Regular kids who need to be in Special Ed.

My teaching partner is another story though. He’s an older guy from India, and nice enough, but his teaching technique is ridiculously ineffective. He comes in, writes ten or twenty questions on the board, and expects the kids to get to copying. After a few minutes he begins to tell the kids the answers. He never engages discussion. He never explains anything. Nothing. Often, if one of the Special Ed. kids is acting up, he’ll admonish them to shape up or else the “regular kids will think you are stupid.” I end up doing all the extra explaining, encouraging, and whatnot that you needs to be done with learning disabled kids.

Despite my teaching partner’s poor technique and cold-hearted insensitivity, I let him teach about teach about half the time, because that means I don’t have to. Even when I do teach in there we just stick to the book (the one with the “Pizza Chant,” natch) and it’s really boring and way too easy for most of the kids.

Every now and then I’ll get fed up with the book and throw something else in the mix, mostly for my own entertainment. That’s what happened the other day when I got sick of the book’s insipid blatherings about “miscommunication,” and decided to have the kids write poems about a miscommunication for homework.

True to form, most of the kids misunderstood the assignment and wrote poems about Love or the Yankees or something, none of which were particularly compelling. One poem did catch my eye though.

Raymond Arianno is a smart kid. He sits in class looking miserable, completes all his work with near 100% accuracy in about a third of the time it takes anyone else, and never says a word to anybody. He was in my Level 1 class last Spring, so someone was able to skip him to Level 3 this year, which is something, but he’s still a long ways from being pushed towards greatness. His poem was short and simple. It lacked rhyme, arty imagery, witty turns of phrase, and any discernable syllabic structure, but it made an impression none-the-less.

“I Like Food”

When I come home from school
and no food is there and no persons are home
I am very angry
I like food but I hate when I have hungry
Then I go to the store if I have some money

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this as I sat correcting papers at he Greek Diner down the street from Shitty. Was this kid starving? Should I call Social Services? Should I bring him what was left of my cheeseburger? Maybe his parents were just too busy to always buy groceries. I remember days like that. It didn’t seem likely though.

I didn’t know what to do, so I wrote this, “Wow. Great poem Raymond! Very powerful words. Maybe you should talk to someone about how you feel.”

There. If the kid wanted to tell me something he now had a (somewhat ambiguous) invitation, and otherwise I could just keep an eye on him to see if he started dropping weight, feinting in class, or staring at me as if I was a roasted chicken or something.

I returned the papers the next day, and Ray called me over to his desk a few minutes after I had done so.

“Meester,” he said softly. “I use imagination. It’s not true.”

He gave me a look that seemed to say, “What are you, stupid? You think if I was being neglected I’d tell you about it in a half-assed poem I wrote for my ESL class?”

I didn’t buy it.

“Yeah sure, imagination,” I stretched out the last word, mocking his accent as I did so, eee-mag-i-na-sheee-on. “Yeah, and my friend has this problem with erectile dysfunction. Uh huh. Right. So if I waved a Snickers bar in your face right now, you’re telling me you wouldn’t jump for it? Mentiroso.”

No, actually I believed the kid, I think. We’ll see.

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