I've been so swamped that I neglected to write about my Friday morning last week. I need to write about it because I really need to remember it. Always.
Friday morning, one of my colleagues (and a friend as well) called in sick. No sub was immediately available to cover her first period class, so, naturally, I stepped in, being the only one available with first period planning. No biggie, right? I mean, she had lesson plans, a lovely read-and-then-write-an-essay-in-response assignment. The reading part of the assignment was even interesting--an essay by Stephen King. With only 11 kids in the class, what could possibly go wrong?
Everything. First, and most important to know, this was a remedial ninth grade class. Kids were specifically placed in the class based on test scores and academic performance. Most had major difficulty with--you guessed it--reading. Now add in the fact that the lovely assignment was our SIP assignment (translation: department-wide, no modifications). Can you see where this is going?
So I hand out the reading. Almost 2 pages, single-spaced. One student immediately asks, "Can we read this aloud?"
"No, I'm sorry. You have to work individually."
The paper slaps the desk. "Well, forget it then. It'd take me an hour and a half to read that."
A chorus of agreement ripples across the room as another student, Twitchy, gets up to throw away the perfectly clean piece of paper he has just crumpled into a ball. This is his third trip to the trashcan in as many minutes.
"Twitchy, you need to sit down."
"What, man? I'm just throwing something away."
"You need to sit down and stay seated. Don't get out of your seat again."
Twitchy ducks his head, turns away, then looks straight at me and asks, "Can I go to the bathroom?"
A verbal struggle ensues, during which Twitchy insists that I am discriminating against him (we're both white). He then tells me that he needs a goal, that if he does his work I should let him go to the bathroom--"see, that's a goal and people need goals, man."
"That's true, that would be a goal. But you're not leaving this room."
Another student, Silent Bob, is crossing the room now. When I ask him why, he tells me he needs a dictionary. Students are not allowed to use dictionaries for SIP assignments, I tell him. He raises his voice: "I'm getting a dictionary and you can't stop me." He has a point.
Throughout these exchanges, absolutely no one is working. No one, that is, except my former honors student, who failed my class last semester and who is now woefully misplaced in this one. Every time I look at him, I want to weep.
With only fifteen minutes left in the period, I realize that I suck at this. My friend excels at it, inspiring kids such as these to try when they never have before. I am amazed by her compassion and her gift.
And I am so very grateful that she returned in full health this morning.