Friday, March 07, 2008

Prison is an odd place

I never read my students jackets. I don't need to read a student's past; I never have. Even when I taught on the street, I tried to wait until Christmas to read the comments from the previous teachers.

So I rarely know what has brought my students to prison. I don't need to know. Suffice to say that my prison houses what is called "the worst of the worst". And I have read hundreds of files, so I know what men in my prison have done to get here. I just don't want to know what crimes my students have committed because if I did, I'm not sure I could stand to have them breathing my air.

My yard is particularly violent. Another yard is filled with "skin offenders"---sex crimes of the worst imaginable magnitude. I couldn't teach there. But my own bunch of violent guys are okay. I guess I'm used to it; to them. Today, the weather has turned and it was particularly nice and since it was a Friday, my students were particularly noisy. Loud.

I tried my usual "Gentlemen! Too noisy!" and they were so noisy that they couldn't hear me, so I raised my voice and tried again. Two of my particularly touchy students took offense at me "yelling" at them and tried to tell me to back down. I have been teaching longer than they have been alive, so I jumped right on them. I don't need help in running my class. I do just fine. And if I have to raise my voice, perhaps it is because it needed to be raised.

So one of them got all jacked and was going to leave my class. Fine with me. I don't care.

What some of my students don't realize is that I am not interested in saving them. I'm not going to be going to any PTA meetings or having any parent conferences. I present the work. I prepare lessons. I have an overhead and any number of ways to teach a concept. I can teach people right into the ground.

But if there is a student who is a reluctant learner--hey, that's on him. I don't cajole. Don't try to manipulate me because I. Don't Care. There are plenty of guys who WANT to learn. I expend my energies on those students.

I don't care if W ever figures out how to do fractions. I teach it but if W is staring out the window, I'm not going to redirect his attention. And when I've worked on apostrophes and quotation marks for two weeks and it is test time, I don't plan on walking W thru it so he can feel successful.

You know how a guy in prison can feel successful?
He LEARNS. He works on it. He actually LOOKS at the things we are doing on the board.
He watches the videos that illustrates Mr. Apostrophe and the Quotation Twins.
He pays attention to the worksheets when I have them up on the overhead. Then when I give them a test that I have lifted right off prior work (and I mean the questions are the exact same ones we've done a dozen times), he makes an attempt to do them. He doesn;t spend time whining about how easy it is or what baby work it is or what an insult it is to even be expected to do the work. He just does it.

Out of my 28 students, there are only three guys who resent the work I do and the way I do it. They want the answers handed to them and to get someone to write them down. Those three? They can remain ignorant. They can write illiterate letters. They can complain all they want. Write me up. Refuse to attend. I. Don't Care. They are the knuckleheads who have managed to manipulate the system right into prison; they have managed to get mommy and girlfriend to intercede at every junction....and by abdicating adulthood, they have ended up in prison.

I have one student who is working on a first grade level. He reads his little "Jed in the Jet Bed" books and does his first grade math and first grade spelling. I think he might test up to mid second grade, because he is really successful in the work he is doing. Does he think it's baby work? Evidently not, because this is the first time he has been successful in school.

THAT'S the student I'll work with....and the others in class who have a concept that perhaps they don;t know everything.

Those other goofs? They are never getting out, so I guess puffing up their chests and wailing about being insulted works for them. They aren't fooling anyone, least of all me.

1 comment:

Paulie said...

Well, I see I missed this one too. I swear I came and came and all I saw was "Prison is an odd place." I ahd already commented on that one and read the comments others wrote too. lol Glad you are back blogging!