Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The kiddies.

Oh, the kiddies this year are interesting.

I wanted to wait until we were a couple of weeks into the school year before writing about them. That first little spell there is what I like to call the Honeymoon Period: they don't really know each other too well, and they don't know you at all, and all the grade 9's are scared shitless already. So, they'll sit quietly, do what you tell them, and won't even consider "misbehaving."

Friends, the Honeymoon is over.

I have two classes of Grade 9 Applied Science — "applied" meaning "not academic" meaning "kids who don't do well in science" — and one class of Grade 12 Earth & Space Science. That one is great; students are there because they want to be, and even if they're not, y'know, as nerdy as I am about all that stuff, at least they know how to play school.

The 9's, though... that's where I earn my money.

Last year's grade 9's were, on balance, sociopaths. I'm not sure if malicious is a strong enough word to describe the admittedly-small number of bad apples that spoiled the whole barrel, but you really had to see some of these kids to believe them. Aforementioned apples: twirpy, chirpy, pre-growth-spurt munchkins that acted like they owned the place from Day One. Teachers hated them, senoir students wanted to bash their heads in, and even their own better-mannered colleagues wanted them gone. Unfortunately, those idiots drowned-out the really good kids who are pretty liable to fly right under your radar if you're not looking for them.

Some of those kids passed all of their grade 9 subjects. Some did not. I have a few of them this year, and they are definitely not pleased to be in the same room as people a year younger than them. Case in point: a grade 10 girl, who seems fairly nice, is absolutely mortified that she's in the same room as her little grade-9 brother, who couldn't sit still for ten minutes if you offered to pay him $10,000 in unmarked bills for such a feat.

I have four students in those two classes (combined) that barely speak any English. Our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes have five classifications, from A (just got off the rickety plane direct from Kazblakistan) to E (good enough to at least attempt regular English classes). In one class I have two A's, from Hungary and Afghanistan; in the other, two very-different B's from Honduras and Cuba. My kid from Hungary probably has the lowest English skills of anyone I've ever taught, and that's saying something. Nonetheless, I've been scanning blocks of text from our textbook, OCRing them, and running them through Google Translate; we'll see how that works out.

The irony about my two Applied classes is that, for kids who are in those courses, they really need a good, focused classroom environment in order to do well — but, of course, this is never the kind of classroom environment you get, precisely because of the kids in it. Zing! Joke's on... well, probably me.

All in all, though, things are going alright. I had some students tell me on a quiz a couple of days ago that the following symbols are paired up with these elements:

Ca = cancer
F = fossil
N = nagnesium

...so it's a work-in-progress, as you can see.

Ah well. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There's never, EVER a dull moment in my job.

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