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.


Ernest said...

I am so glad that you are a teacher, specifically, their teacher.


Giddy. said...

can you imagine... getting them about 10 steps before we got them before... its like they might have a chance. Shockingly, their attitudes are worse... only because they don't have any idea how bad they COULD have it.

My speech; "You think life's bad now? Shit's about to get worse. You have no idea. Be thankful you are hanging out with me. You still have a ghost of a chance... if you're willing to take it."

Anonymous said...

Be brave, Giddy. Go on and be so very brave. Be brave enough to be the *one* teacher that gets through all the barriers they put up; 'they' being both the kids and the System.

Its 'Warrior-Poet' time.

Tyra said...

I am outraged and disgusted at the thought that their current and/or past history teachers never taught them about the Holocaust.

How does this happen? Ugh, thank goodness they have you for a teacher. Finally they have someone who has a brain and actually gives a damn!!!

I sincerely hope that when my kids are in school (sp.ed. or not) that they are lucky enough to have teachers like you.

Clare said...

You are a Hero, Ms. Giddy!

Audra said...

I really hope that A hole didn't teach them about it because they are SP ed... I'll kick him in the nuts. I mean jesus... read them Night Gid!!!

Jesslyn said...

Wow- that made me want to bang my head on something hard.

You rock- I hope you slapped the history teacher upside his head.

Unknown said...

You so rock!!!!

Anonymous said...

ditto everything that has been said...but check this out--somehow you have been inspired to teach even tho everything, the system, the world, our society, is working against both teacher and student...how awesome is the human spirit that in spite of it all, there is still someone who wants to teach and someone who wants to learn.

Of course! you are amazing and your students are very lucky, but despite the huge frustration, maybe you are lucky to have a career that inspires you sometimes, and an opportunity to inspire another human, once in a while.