11 December 2008
Through the Cracks
One would think, after all this time, working with this "demographic" group of kids, there wouldn't be much that could shock me.
But, there are times when I'm floored.
In my sixth period (health science) class today, I decided to show the movie Freedom Writers. It isn't necessarily "on topic" at the moment, since we're working our way through a unit on substance abuse... but it's Health, I can get away with pretty much anything.
Especially with this group of kids. I've actually been told, "most of these guys aren't going to graduate anyway, the most important thing you can do is keep their behaviors under control for those 56 minutes."
But, there are times when I actually feel like I have their attention. Of course, when those moments happen, I'm overwhelmed by the amount of information I would like to give them, and I don't know what to do with myself. Today, during this movie, I actually had their attention. And, at one point, the teacher character (played by Hillary Swank) is talking about the Holocaust...she's comparing the student's (self-imposed) segregation and gang activity to the way people were treated during that period.
As I was sitting there thinking about the comparison, one of my students pipes up (remember, these are Juniors in high school, 16-18 years old in this class), "what is the Holocaust?"
I respond, "Wait, what? Are you serious?"
Three or four other students chime in:
"No, I don't know what that is either."
"Is that a type of food?"
"No, stupid, it was when they didn't let people listen to music."
"I'm not stupid, you're an asshole!"
"You're all stupid, it was because things were really expensive!"
Keep in mind that there is only one white kid in this class... and she tells everyone she's half Puerto Rican (even though her last name is so Italian it's not even funny). And not one of them, at an average age of 17 years old, knew what the Holocaust was... not one of them had even heard the term. I was shocked.
So, I pause the movie. First question, "who is your history teacher?"
Not surprisingly, they all have the same guy... that dude is getting a visit tomorrow morning... we need to have a chat. We talked about the whole thing, I explained (in a very SpEd way) what happened, how people were killed because of what they looked like, or their spiritual beliefs, and gave them a brief lesson on genocide. They were quite impressed.
I think I've come up with a whole new way to teach this class. Considering I can tie almost anything in to "health," I plan to give up on the book. They are bored by it, I find it too vague and outdated, it is time to put it aside and do some real teaching. I have an idea for a plan. If it works, I'll share it with you... I'll let you know if I manage to teach these kids anything... I'm suddenly feeling a little more positive about this class. When we start the second semester, I'm going in with a whole new approach.
Call it kamikaze health. I'll either win, or crash and burn.
Either way... I'm going off the books baby...
Wish me luck.