Heuristics

I love the rare chance to sleep in (and anything past 5am is sleeping in) but even more I love getting up (relatively) early on a weekend. I woke up and went out for a run, which was mostly a walk, but it was just right. The weather is a strange kind of perfect: drippy and puddley and damp, but with the trees lit up and luminescent against the wet grey sky.

This week was so, so long. The impossibilities of my schedule are starting to wear me down.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m learning so fast.

In grad school I am analyzing the pronunciation and grammar of my 15-year-old Japanese exchange student. It’s been very broadly beneficial, because I am helping him get along with his host family, work out the confusing bits of American culture, and understand his homeworw. Then I am analyzing recorded snippets of those conversations to target pronunciation issues. Then I am using those observations to learn about the sound system of English (so crazy!) and figure out ways to teach it. Then I am finding new ways to teach my Spanish students how to pronounce the Spanish sounds because I don’t want them sounding like gringos. So really, I’m having a blast.

I’m still doing a little bit of private tutoring in the evenings, but I’m also participating in the after-school tutoring at my school, 3 days a week. It only requires that I stay an extra half hour beyond the time I am required to stay to, and I’m usually there late anyway. I am in charge of tutoring all the 1st graders who need help, which has been quite a trip. I have one 1st grade class every day for Spanish, but the tutoring groups are much smaller and I am trying to work with the other teachers because I have no idea what 1st graders are working on.

As it turns out, they’re learning about money, so we read some books about the penny and the nickle, and who is on them. We saw pictures of Abraham Lincoln and a kid asked me if he was dead.

“Well, yes…” I hedged. “He lived a long time ago.” I was a little hesitant to get into the assassination scene.

“Did he get shot?”
“Who shot him? Why did he shoot him?”
“Was it the same guy who shot Martin Luther King?”
“Where did he go? To the hospital or to heaven?”
“Is that a statue of him?”
“OOooh, I know about statues. There’s a statue of Michael Jackson, cuz he’s dead, too.”

They are such funny little people.

The 8th graders are not so little and not so funny. I’ve had to write up a few people. A particularly irritating kid finally pushed his classmate over the line and got slammd up against the wall, and it was difficult to not sympathize because if I wasn’t a grown up (and a foot shorter than this kid) then I would feel like doing the same thing.

Another young lady and young gentleman got sent out for namecalling (you a nasty ho) and retaliating (shut the fuck up) with raised voices across the room, after previous namecalling had gotten them banished to opposite ends of the classroom.

Hard to know what to say to this 8th grade girl, because under their breath classmates call her slut and nasty and dirty and say she has crabs. This is not okay and this is not respectful. But it also was not okay and not respectful last year when as a seventh grader she was giving blow jobs in the lunchroom.

I’m trying to iron out the rough spots in my limited sphere of influence, in a classroom that seems to constrict to an impossibly small space when I am trying to organize so much tension and drama and dirty looks and rolled eyes. I would like to get some kind of equilibrium established, and I would like to get the necessary arrangements made to take a field trip to the DIA to see Diego Rivera’s famous mural celebrating Detroit’s auto industry.

One sullen 8th grade boy spoke up from his desk banished to the back of the room: “I don’t wanna go on no stinkin’ field trip.”

I said: “If that’s the case I don’t know if I want you to go, either.”

Him: “I don’t care, wherever y’all go I can go 10 times better. If y’all go see a mural I’m gonna go paint a mural. If y’all go to Mexico City I’ll go to Mexico.”

Me: “Mexico City is in Mexico.”

Him: (disappointed) “If y’all go to… Mexicantown… I’ll go to Mexico?”

Bring it, 8th graders.

In the 5th grade classes I am having mixed success. Sometimes we learn Spanish, sometimes we learn about how to be respectful to other people, sometimes we learn the complicated mechanics of teamwork. On Thursday someone calling someone else “gay” brought the Spanish lesson to a screeching halt, and instead we talked about how any term that makes an insult out of someone’s religion, race, background, family, or sexuality is particularly unacceptable.

I said that for gay people, hearing people using “gay” as an insult is disrespectful. It would be like someone taking your name and using it as insult… etc, etc, etc.

One girl got upset and stood up and said, “Ms. K, that’s so bull, because that’s making fun of who they is!”

Just when I was feeling like maybe we were onto something, some guy in tight running pants jogged past the classroom, and a boy said “Look! There’s one now!”

…and my politically correct and upstanding lesson dissolved into giggles on their part and palm-to-forehead on mine.

I have such a weird job. I have such a hard job. I have such a great job.

And now I have the day off from my job, and I have spent it writing a mile-long blog about my job.

To close, this song has been in my mind, in my mind. (Now it is actually a link… so you can listen, too.)

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One Response to Heuristics

  1. chelsea says:

    what song? where is it? you inspire me.

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