Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Black Like Last Time
The same crappy book that had the “Waves” chapter also has a chapter called “Making Decisions” which contains a short, crappy, historically ridiculous play about the Underground Railroad. This play stars Harriett Tubman, Frederick and Anna Douglass and their two sons, and eight unnamed “fugitive slaves.” The play is but a brief scene in which Harriett, fugitives in tow, arrives at the Douglass home, eats some soup, gets a hunch, and decides they ought to immediately head to Canada by boat instead of waiting for the afternoon train on which they had planned to stowaway in the baggage car. The play ends with Harriett and the eight slaves boarding a small boat and heading out onto the lake.

Despite the play’s lameness the kids seemed to enjoy reading it aloud in class, so I decided they should all write their own endings to the drama, crossing my fingers that despite the dullness of the original their versions might actually be somewhat, you know, dramatic.

The results were neither as prolific nor as entertaining as the horror stories I recently solicited, but the kids seemed to have a pretty good time performing them. I had a few artistic kids draw “sets” on the board - a boat, waves, mountains, trees, etc. – cut the lights, and off they went; giggling, goofing, screaming, and heckling, but performing and paying attention just the same.

Then my afternoon class rolled around and things didn’t go quite as well. I’ve had these kids all year long, and except for the brief tease of the few weeks when my schedule ruled, I’ve had them for two periods, the last two periods, a day. This means I’ve been the only English teacher these kids have had all year. That sucks… for them and me.

They’re a real tough group. I recently found out that they’re all Special Ed students, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense due to the fact that I’m not a Special Ed teacher, Special Ed. classes are supposed to contain no more than a dozen or so students (I’ve got thirty on my roster,) and no-one has ever mentioned anything about how or why I’m supposed to deal with the situation.

Out of the thirty kids in the class, one girl (an adorable little sweetheart with a degenerative, disfiguring, craniofacial disorder and the melodious name of a tragic Shakespearian heroine) actually managed to get the grades to pass.

I gave a few others the nod based on effort or latent ability, but I still ended up failing a vast majority of the class. I didn’t have much choice. About a quarter of the class never shows up. Ever. There are a number of kids in the class that I’ve never laid eyes on. Some are straight up truants, others come to school in the mornings but - due to work, family, or crack-smoking obligations - can’t stay until the tenth period. Another quarter of the kids show up when they feel like it, which isn’t exactly on the regular. I’ve written referrals, I’ve called parents, I’ve had heart-to-hearts; nothing works, and at this point I’m honestly relieved. I have my hands full already with kids that are there.

The other fifteen or so kids that do show up are some of the most distracted, lazy, obstinate, obnoxious bastards I’ve ever come across. Still, I can’t help but feeling that the fact that they’re all going to fail is somehow my fault.

Anyway, only four or five of them actually wrote their Harriet Tubamn/Frederick Douglass/Underground Railroad play, and of those only two managed to follow directions and turn in something resembling a script. One of those two students was Pedro from Harlem, creator of the Dipschool, who now insists on being called “P-Yayo” (I struggle to refrain,) and delivered a rather amusing product. He was a little confused by the concept of a narrator, but I think it works. Here it is, transcribed in its original form (my scanner’s broken), warts and all. It is untitled.

Harriet = I see the C-Squad
P-Yayo = don’t warrie I will take care of them
Narrator = I got an idea, lets run
Frederick Douglass = lets fight back
Anna Douglass = I said whatever second narrator said
C–Squad = put your arm’s up
Harriet = will be black.
Harriet = now that 4 year passes were back on the game.
P-Yayo = Yeah were black like last time, but better
Frederick Douglass = If C–Squad comes there going down
Narrator = I’m hungry
Harriet = shutup Narrator
Narrator = you shutup you old human
P-Yayo = don’t you talk to my mom that way
Narrator = if you said something ells I will slice you
Harriet = iOkay, This is enough!
P-Yayo = lets just be peace
Harriet = Were almost there
P-Yayo = Mom were save
Frederick = Yeah
Narrator = yes were finally free.

Pedro, by the way, is one of the lucky few who will pass my class.

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