This week was one of those weeks of teaching that reminds you to keep your priorities straight. Too keep pumping out writing. It reminded me why I need to revise my novel, and why I need more publications. There were a few incidents this week. I’m relieved that I was able to take Wednesday through Friday off because I don’t think I would have been able to handle another one this week without losing my cool and my job.
Incident Number One
I had arrived early and was setting up. One of my students came in and sat down.
“Miss, I’m so lost. Have we turned anything in? Have we done anything in this class?”
I looked up. I absolutely suck at containing my emotions; it is why I will never be a poker champion or spy.
The students are working on a research paper and have turned in two annotated bibliographies, and a proposal. They also have had two class discussions on-line.
“I’m just so lost.”
“Well, see me after class.”
Once class got going, I had to explain, for the one millionth time, how to upload documents and assignments via Blackboard.
“Miss, I’m just so confused.” This same student said. I think he was trying to get the other students to say the same thing, but they were all quiet. “I’ve been confused since we started.”
We’re ten weeks into the semester.
“Well, oftentimes when students are confused they come to office hours, or email me.”
“Miss, I’m too busy to hunt you down.”
“Well then you’ve clearly indicated where your priorities lie. So…”
“Miss, you need to stop. We need to stop having this conversation because you’re being sassy.”
That’s right folks, he said I was being sassy.
I simply plowed through the lesson and was relieved that FH had Oreos at his house when I got there.
As I type out this minor incident, I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal, I guess, I was just irritated that a student could be so disrespectful. That was of course until the next day.
Incident Number Two
So, currently, in one of my classes, we are reading 1984. The class is a remedial type course where students are retaught or taught how to develop their ideas into papers. They are also required to read a novel to work on their reading skills.
Well, after passing out their reading quiz my students informed me they hadn’t read far enough into the novel to answer the questions on the quiz. Mind you, the reading schedule for the book is on the syllabus that I handed to them day one of classes.
Since, I strive to be a hard-ass I made the students take the quiz anyway. They should have read. I will also be counting the grades–or should I say zeros–for the quiz. I was so disappointed in them. Anyway, while we were grading them (I let the students switch papers and grade them) one of my students proceeded to tell me that I was being unfair in accepting a certain and answer for question 1 and then not accepting her wrong answer for question 5. She was irate and shouting.
“That’s just ridiculous. I mean come on.” She shouted.
When I gave the students a break, she and her friend who had told me to shut up earlier in the class period, did not return.
Incident Number Three
When teaching 1984, I think it’s important to give the students some political and historical background on what is happening in Orwell’s world and what he’s responding to. On a side note: my best friend is a history teacher and she always says that English teachers are frustrated history teachers. I feel like this is so true, but I digress.
So after telling the students when Orwell published his novel, I asked them about world events. They said World War II. I was thrilled.
“Can anyone tell me when WWII occurred?”
“Okay, can anyone tell me what happened during World War II?”
“Soldiers died,” a student whispered.
“Of course, it was a war.”
“Okay, can anyone tell me about Hitler?”
“He was bad?”
“Does the word Holocaust ring a bell?”
I stood there trying not look stunned.
“Guys, this is considered common knowledge.”
“Well, no one ever taught me that,” a student said with force.
I stared at them and after giving them a brief history lesson that would have probably been appalling to any good history teacher, I let the information sink in.
After visiting DC and spending a good three hours at the Holocaust Museum, I was shocked that my students were so clueless. That they were unable to discuss one of the more horrific moments of human history. I couldn’t understand how they had gotten this far through life, into COLLEGE and not known about World War II. Then, they had the balls to tell me they’d never been taught about the Holocaust. Could it be true? Also, was I expected, required to teach it to them?
They were living proof of the world Orwell created in his novel. I neglected to tell them this.
Apparently after class, some of my students emailed my boss and told her that that I had been insensitive and harsh in expecting them to know about World War II. Was I? They claimed it was insensitive of me to make comments like that since some of them hadn’t been in school in a very long time. Should I not have made the “common knowledge”comment?
So why teach?
This week, I have been asking myself this question repeatedly. I even applied for an unpaid internship at a magazine because lately I’ve been so tired of teaching. Both of my parents are teachers. They both love teaching the students who dislike school and learning. They like the troubled students who talk back, and they are great with them. I, on the other hand, don’t like these students. In fact, the past three semesters I haven’t gotten much pleasure from teaching and I’m starting to question if I’m even cut out for it.
Maybe I’m just not teacher material. Maybe, I do, in fact, suck at teaching?
This week I’ve done some soul searching and well I still don’t have the answer. This week I was told I was sassy, was told to shut-up, and was told I was insensitive and expected too much from my students. Well fuck.
When I expressed this concern with my parents, my mother said, well what else can you do, if you’re not teaching? I don’t know, but there has be something better for me out there.