Friday, July 07, 2006

I haven't been around much.

That's because I've been spending most of my waking hours at the school at which I'm teaching two Grade 9 Science courses this July. I usually arrive at around 7:40 in the morning, and haven't left earlier than 5:30 (today it was 6:20).

Regular classes in high schools these days are 75 minutes long, which are certainly long enough (I think universities and their 50-minute periods are right on the money). However, since these courses are compressed, each class is three hours long (with a "generous" 45-minute lunch break, which I usually spend marking like a fiend), and I'm teaching two of 'em. Six hours a day standing, talking for a good portion of it, and haranguing a bunch of 15-year old jerks isn't what I'd necessarily call a "walk in the park."

Actually, I take that back. There are a couple of "interesting characters" in these classes, and a couple of slackers/stoners, and a couple of kids who just sit there cluelessly. (Seeing as how this is a summer course designed to help kids pick up a credit that they'd failed the first time through, you're gonna get more than a few of those.) However, there's one kid who just out-weirds them all; click here to read the story.

"K" (let's use pseudonyms here) is only taking this class because s/he'd missed her/his final exam at her/his regular school, which (I guess) means you automatically fail the course. S/he claims s/he was given an exam timetable with incorrect information on it, but I think that's a dubious alibi — with my own kids, I make sure the day of the final exam is written everywhere in the classroom, on nineteen different handouts I give them, and (if possible) tattooed backwards on their foreheads.

The problem with K (one of them) is that s/he's in a "gifted" program at her/his regular school... and that is just the kiss of fucking death for a kid's development. You remember Malcolm in the Middle, with all the weirdos and freaks and doofuses in Malcolm's hyper-advanced class? They'd call K the oddball, I swear to god. A thought occurred to me after school today: "The worst thing about kids in a gifted program is that they know they're in a gifted program." But I digress.

I suppose part of the issue is that K is normally in an environment where s/he doesn't stand out quite so much. However, put K in a regular class, with regular kids (add the summer-school "rough around the edges" factor, too), and suddenly K doesn't know the first thing about interacting with people who aren't as freaky as s/he is.

This is trouble.

I always did pretty well in school, and I admit that I was probably on the weird end of the kid-spectrum growing up. The difference is, I knew I had certain peculiarities even from a young age (I remember coming to this realization in Grade 1 one day out on the playground), and that gives a kid something with which to work. K, on the other hand, carries on in her/his own bizarre way, inadvertently pissing off everyone around her/him (hell, it might be intentional, I don't know), and making feeble attempts using highfalutin' words to perhaps put up a verbal fight.

Seriously, K sits in class hour after hour and makes up her/his own word-puzzles. When the other kids ask her/him what the hell s/he's doing, K cranks up the weirdness and spouts off something about history or scientific discoveries or the fact that s/he speaks "a real language which you've never heard of" (I wish I was making this up). This, of course, sparks an incredulous reaction from her/his classmates, which just cranks them up even more.

I had a little chat with K after class today, when all the other kids had gone. (Actually, two kids were still in the room at the time, but when they started to hear what I had to say, they very quickly ascertained they shouldn't be in the room for it. Hell, I don't care; there's too much secrecy these days anyway. Kids need to know the whole story, rather that just getting bits and pieces doled-out by the Grown Ups.)

Basically, I told K that her/his outward contempt for the inferior abilities of her/his classmates, whether real or not, in conversation with said classmates, might one day get her/his "ass kicked." I added, "Sometimes you've got to keep your head up and look out for your own well-being, and so far you're not doing that." I don't know if it sunk into K's skull or not — we'll see on Monday — but I'm really not holding out a lot of hope.

I'm just curious to know if any of her/his previous teachers ever took her/him aside and told her/him something like that. Lord knows K needed it.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, after four 10- or 11-hour days of being at the school (then doing some work at home, to boot; and when not doing work, I'm worrying about why I'm not doing any work, and feeling guilty about not doing any work), I feel like I've been hit by a dump truck. Initially I was all set to fill my body with copious amounts of liquor tonight, but on the way home an idea dawned on me: dinner at a pub whilst playing NTN trivia (you know, the questions up on the TV screens, and the little keyboards at your table), coming home, getting a book, and being in bed by 11.

The booze will have to wait for tomorrow, and plans are already in the works. If you're up for a night of sitting and drinking at a picnic table near Christie Pits (right near Christie Station on the Bloor line), drop me a line. (BYOB, obviously... but, word to the wise, Labatt Honey is cheap again these days.)


Femtosecond said...

I took a summer class once, grade 11 Math, but it wasn't because I failed it, but rather because in BC at the time they only offered Calculus as an "optional" class. It was impossible to fit in both jazz band and math 12 and calculus somehow, so I decided to take math 11 as a summer course with one of my friends so that in grade 11 I could take math 12 and then in grade 12 I could take Calculus. It was actually a pretty great idea, since we didn't have to get summer jobs, and we did totally awesome in the course. We actually didn't have any slackers or drop outs in my class. It was 100% asian try hards.

kelly o! said...

Hmmm.... my name starts with K. And I was in a gifted program. Maybe I should watch out?

JTL said...

Thanks, 'nee, for picking out that wayward gender-identifier in your comment; I thought I'd gotten rid of them all. However, in order to protect K's anonymity, I had to turf your comment. So, in the spirit of free speech, I will reproduce 'nee's comment below, with the identifying remark removed.


I was in a "gifted" program in middle/highschool, and I never did get over that sort of contempt for the lower beings that you learn there. (...I did try not to bait them, though. Some of them bite.)

Luckily for me I got a job working at a University populated entirely by the people who were in gifted programs. Which is good or bad, depending upon how you look at it from the standpoint of my (a)social development. I have never really learned to relate to and interact with the riff-raff. Yet somehow I'm still a socialist. Colour me surprised.

(Some of that was sarcasm, by the way. Good for you for taking K aside. There was this very poor but nice girl in my highschool who, well, she just really smelled bad. Everybody avoided her. Maybe if one of us - or a teacher, maybe - had the nerve to just tell her about it, then she wouldn't have been lonely and ostracized for two years. I met her later at University and she was quite cool (and didn't smell bad anymore) and she offered to smoke me up, too!)

'nee said...

I think it's totally awesome that you didn't give in to the oh-so-common but oh-so-wrong use of the pronoun "their" to introduce the gender ambiguity. The other option, the one I favour, is to switch pronouns each paragraph. But I realize that slashes do really float some people's disengendering boat. Despite my grammar-nazi ways, I can be slash-tolerant.

Femtosecond said...

Why not use their?

The he/she problem is a fault with the English language and should be fixed by adding a new gender neutral word to the dictionary. Add their.... done! It's not wrong. English is wrong. Fix the language.

'nee said...

Well, in the old days you would default to the masculine if the sex was unclear - after all, men ruled the world. However, the pronoun "one" does exist for the purpose of specifying an individual without specifying sex. But it sounds achingly formal today. "Their" already has a use; it exists to be used as a plural.

I say we coin a completely new gender-neutral singular pronoun! Shim/Shis, perhaps?

Muffin said...

Still includes him/his.

Anonymous said...

Bravo for telling the kid to cease with the shitty attitude. You don't know how many times I've bitten my tongue this year. Some of these kids are setting themselves up for a world of pain and it breaks my heart every time.