Thursday, November 11, 2010

Same Old Conversations

It's almost mid-November and I guess that means it's time for the students who weren't 100% serious about change to start going back to their old ways. I'm beginning to have the same old conversations with different students.

I had an epiphany last week and it kind of took me by surprise: my students will always be in the same age group every year I teach. It doesn't matter if I continue to mature or get old, they will still be the same. That's kind of discouraging.  I can't just one day decide I'm sick of having the "school is important for your future" conversation or the "life sucks for everyone, you just have to push yourself" conversation. In this age group, everybody thinks their problems are simply the worst.
"No one has problems like me, Mista. You don't know me."
Sometimes, depending on the student, I really just want to respond with:
"I don't want to know you, brah. Can you please just do your homework? Thanks."
I really like this one too:
"Mista, what would you know about problems at home?" 
Nothing. You missed the first day of school where I talked about my own problems so you could you know, relate and shit.

Teenagers. Everything is a god damn competition. Whose life sucks more? Hey kids: this isn't something you should want to win. And even if you do have it the worst, what exactly do you win? No students in our school give sympathy points. They're too busy thinking they still have it the worst. The only option you have is perseverance. Come to school, take care of your shit, do what you have to do and get on your way. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Okay, maybe that was little too much ranting. I understand life is tough, especially if my students have no one at home to truly push them and no examples at home to live by. Sure, there might be a few gems that rise from the ashes of a broken home, but they are outliers. They're the best students I'll have and some of them are going to break the cycle of abuse and poverty. I just can't help but wonder though if the "real" work for me should lie with the students who won't do that. How can I work with them if their attendance is less than 50%? I can't just halt the curriculum until everyone shows up, that's absurd. In the grand scheme of things, Integrated Algebra is just not that important if you're living in a shelter by yourself and working part time to support yourself. Or is it? Okay, it's not.

So for now, I'll stick to having the same old conversations with these kids, if and when they ever show up. Of course, they're teenagers and the last thing they want to hear is someone else telling them what they should or should not do. In that case:
School is terrible for you. I forbid you to go there anymore.


Mr. T said...

Yo Mista!

I reckon kids don't need any one else telling them what to do - so don't!
I also have the 16-20 year old babies who whine more than my 8 year old niece... and telling them what to do would do as little as it did for me when i was their age (or as little as it did for you i'm guessing).
One thing that I have found, though i am not sure as to the level of impact, is that when I tell them stories, either about myself or people i know, they tend to listen. Perhaps it doesn't get the 360 turnaround that i want, but i have indeed seen improvement - and improvement, to any degree, is a good thing.
Thankfully I was even a bigger idiot when i was a kid so i have lots of stories to tell my kids about me personally.
You can have conversations without preaching - I bet you will enjoy it more, as will they.

Yo Mista said...

Stop telling me what to do!

Miss G said...

Last year when someone said "I been having problems at home" I said, cool. How many of us in hear have problems at home?
We all raised our hands, and I said, "looks like you're in the right place."
The harder they have it, the harder they need to work to get out of it.
We care, but in real life, no one else does or will. That's what we have to get across

Because we care. We care so god damn much. But by us showing that we care so so so much over and over we aren't preparing them for shit.
So let them know you care, you really fucking care. So much that you are going to treat them like they are everybody else. Like the rest of the world is gonna treat them. Like they have a lot to prove..

Alpha Za said...

Great post man; teens are all self indulgent, but to be fair, that is their stage in life to be. Before they settle down, have kids and act like responsible adults.

If they say that their lives suck, just explain to them how you don't give a flying fuck how awful their lives are until they start doing their school work. You can also add a clever speech about enablers and attention seeking behavior.

Yo Mista said...

@ Miss G:
Thanks for the comment... I really like that idea of having everyone raise their hands!

@ Alpha
Thanks dude. Unfortunately, the age to "settle down" and have kids at this particular school also ends in "teen"...

But yes, I will continue not giving a flying fuck. I'm so nice.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. It's true that having problems is absolutely the worst reason to miss out on school. But you being a stuck up son of a bitch acting like you don't give 2 shits about the group that you're trying to push will make us dislike you highly. Why? Why would we listen to someone who's so bitchy as to say "Listen, I won't give a shit until you actually do MY shit. Yes, I'm THAT important." Personally, I think you have the right to bash us considering that yes, most of the students don't have enough maturity to even pass off as the age they say they are, but you have very high expectations. And way too many, in my opinion. Then again I don't blame you. Maybe it's just me, but I see that most teachers have that in them. I still like you, though.
These are just my opinions.
-From: That person in the back of your class.

Yo Mista said...

@ Anonymous:
Thank you for your comment!
Here's what I have to say:

1. I HAVE to have high expectations dude. It's not only because I really do believe in you guys, but it's also a part of my job.

SOMEONE has to push you there. You may hate us now, but come on, you've seen enough TV, movies, etc to know that it's your teachers you end up thanking years down the road for challenging you and pushing you beyond your comfort zone.

2. I think you might have misinterpreted the extreme sarcasm found throughout my post. I DO care, and I hope you realize that. Sure, I can be a dick at times and very direct, but I would argue that approach puts things into perspective.

And I've never said my math class is the most important shit you will ever learn. Quite the contrary, you might never use this stuff ever in life, but a part of life is getting that HS diploma. My class is a small step there, so in that sense, it IS important.

Good talk. Thoughts?