Nine down…

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like bananas.”
– Groucho Marx

Want to have some fun? Hang that quote in a high school English classroom and have students try to diagram it. I do.

Keeps me amused, anyway.

The past few weeks have been hectic, as we wind down the first nine weeks of the school year – a fall semester interrupted by an unexpected two-week break for the anticipation, arrival and aftermath of hurricane Isaac. We have had a lot of ground to cover, and even with an addition of a half-an-hour to the school day to make up the time, catching up hasn’t been accomplished.

But we keep plugging away. The quarter ended Friday, grades are due Wednesday and most of mine are already in, so for a change I am ahead of where I need to be. Now it’s revamping my approach for the second half of the semester, chucking what didn’t work, tweaking some other things, seeing what new wrinkles might fit. My biggest issue at this point is grading work that never gets turned in.

My gradebook looks like primer in binary code.

In one class, 19 of my 32 students are at an ‘F’ simply because of so many missing assignments. And it’s not just homework  I never see; most major classwork I have them turn in at the end of the period for review and safe keeping (book bags here are black holes – I swear there are seniors walking around campus somewhere with half a solar system hanging on their backs). At the end of class, I quickly count up what I have turned in, and the number of papers or handouts in my hand rarely matches the number of butts in classroom seats for that class. On more than one occasion I have been delightfully surprised that number of papers equaled or exceeded the number of students, only to realize later that someone has also, along with the day’s assignment, dropped one of the following into the white plastic turn-in bin:

• Older work totally unrelated to the day at hand (on the plus side, sometimes it’s from the same week we are currently in!)

Doodled-on scratch paper

• Their name and the day’s date (both things I am usually already aware of, thank you)

• An extra, blank handout of some sort (sometimes, even from my class)

• Homework or classwork from another class (Hey, Ms. B – if you wonder why some of your algebra students are failing, it’s because they leave their work in MY turn-in bin!)

Yes, numerous parents have been called. No, the behavior hasn’t changed much.

On the subject of parent calls, in my fifth year of teaching here in New Orleans, I can say this semester is the best I have had in terms of parents accepting/returning my calls, and of actually initiating contact with me. My phone call success rate is around fifty-percent; a far cry from the twenty-percent high-water mark I achieved in my last stop before my current school.

That being said, I do foresee a decline in those numbers, as my parental involvement/engagement is dwindling: more blocked calls and fewer returned messages tell the tale. My early semester ‘honeymoon period’ is over; I refer to this stage of the year as my ‘divorce period’. Usually I don’t start hitting that until closer to Thanksgiving.

On the plus side, I think we have stabilized things post-Isaac. There are still some kids (and families) who are suffering from the aftermath of that, and I also think that post-Isaac stress may account for some of my seeming parental indifference. If you are still dealing with flood repairs, insurance companies and FEMA, I might not be high on your ‘Hey, love to chat with you sometime’ list.

We just keep plugging away.

Another note on the plus side of the ledger: I was able to rid my problematic fifth period freshman composition class of some of the ne’er–do–well high school newcomers I inherited two days before Isaac scattered us. Three of the kids who are on probation and did nothing but disrupt class when they were actually in class were dispersed to three separate classes/teachers. While they are now someone else’s headaches, at least those teachers won’t be treated to the joys of two of the young men spending the day in class loudly discussing (so all their classmates could easily partake in the conversation and be awed) which one had the ‘cooler’ probation officer.

If they could have put half the effort into crafting and writing a rationale for anything we were doing in class to the discernment over the pros and cons of their respective P.O.’s, they could have been class stars.

We’re getting there with the freshman group, though I still have the boy who beeps instead of talks when he doesn’t like you, and the very sexualized young woman who calls everyone ‘Bayyyybee’ and during her last stay in ISS (in-school suspension) wrote me a signed note stating, “Mr. Lucker – I will not do any of your work while I am in in school. Sincerely,….’ and had the ISS teacher staple it to the work I had left for her to complete.

Hey, she made my life a bit easier: that’s one piece of a disciplinary/behavioral paper trail I won’t have to concoct from scratch.

We have a school psychologist who visits the school regularly, and the other day he asked if he could discuss a couple of students with me by doing an in-depth teacher-perspective behavioral analysis. As he was thumbing through his file to get the paper work, he said “I’ll do these two today, but I’ll also need to talk to you later about (girl noted above)”. He then paused, looked at me over his file folder. “And I also need to ask you about xxxxxxxxx. And also xxxxxxxx. And….” Pausing again, he thumbed through a few more papers, looked up again, then adding dryly, “Mr. Lucker, you have quite the collection here”.

Why, yes. Yes I do.

It’s not all pure insanity. Sometimes these crazy kids just say the darndest things. The other morning, just before homeroom, a gaggle of juniors was hanging out at the row of lockers across from my room. A young male was speaking, and a young woman said something she assumed he did not hear, causing her to repeat it, resulting in bewilderment by their friends courtesy of this exchange:

BOY: “I can hear you – I’m not death”.

GIRL: “What?”

BOY: “I said, I. Can. Hear. You!  I’m. NOT. DEATH”!

GIRL: “You mean ‘deaf’.

BOY: (very honestly puzzled) “Huh”?

It’s a different high school era, but the mantra still holds:

Just keep on truckin’…


2 thoughts on “Nine down…

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