This piece was originally written by me a few months ago in an attempt to get published in some educational journal or literary magazine or something. As it progressed, I realized that sometimes my dreams are just too big. So I’ll post it here for you guys. And soon I will tell you where I’ve been for the past 2 weeks…
I used to think my childhood was rough. During my younger years, I used to think my mother was as evil as they came – even my friends never wanted to come to the house. She was so vocal about everything and her voice was strong enough to pierce through a mountain made of solid diamond. I hated living in her house when I was a kid. But now that I am older, wiser, and a touch on the bald side, I can honestly say that I am now a bit thankful for those rough years. Because of her strict regiment of shouting and debasing me at every available turn, I think it’s safe to say that I turned out to be a pretty decent human being because of it.
It was only about a year or two ago that I thought about becoming a teacher – a shaper of young minds if you will – and this is something I never quite thought I would actually do. Today, I am currently a 9th grade English teacher at a public school in the glorious (and by “glorious” I mean “awful”) state of Florida.
The first day of school was nothing shy of brutal. I walked in with a million questions. What kind of kids would I have? Would they be troublemakers as I once was at their age? Would any of them actually want to learn a thing or two from the curriculum? Would they like me? Would they care about anything other than the cell phones in their pocket or who is saying what on their Myspace accounts? I left that day with all of those questions unanswered.
The first semester is about to end. I have had these students for 18 weeks and in that time, I’ve learned more than I ever cared to. For example, each and every one of them has a cell phone on their person at each and every minute of the day. My school has a strict “No Cell Phone” rule that is ignored by 102% of the student body. They’d rather text than listen to the importance and significance of literature, Frederick Douglas, Shakespeare, and capitalizing words at the beginning of each fucking sentence.
When I first started, I’d make my kids write something every day – a simple composition where they would have to use critical thinking skills in order to answer a question about something we’ve read. I can’t tell you how many 14-year-old American children use things like “LOL” in a paper they have to turn in for a grade. It’s quite scary. The following story is something I will quote from a student’s work but I will not use their name. This is actually something that was turned in to me and after getting to know this child more and more as the year progressed I realized that this was indeed their best attempt at writing. They simply knew nothing more.
We were reading a short story called “The Open Window” about a neurotic man who moved to a new town and decides to meet all of his neighbors. So he shows up at this one house where a little girl creates this fantastical story about ghosts and such. The man panics and leaves, confirming his state of social retardation for the rest of his days. I asked my students to create a fiction and answer the following question: Who do you think will walk through this door next and what will they want? It was something simple to keep them busy while I took attendance and such. This anonymous student provided the following snippet of Pulitzer Prize winning material, complete with how they think proper punctuation should look like.
Theys gonna be 5 top modls walkin threw that door. They gonna come right for me and all the ladies be hollerin. Then theyll take me out this class wit them cuz they need to go wit em someweres. My teacher will be like oh damn were he goin’? but he ain’t gonna be able to hold them back.
That’s the long short of it. I’ve saved that paper in my desk drawer as a reminder of our futures. Today’s kids aren’t like us at all, though it seems that every generation is afraid of their youth. Not as afraid of them as I am now. This is a generation of the selfish, the gross, and the inconsiderate. If it isn’t on their phone or Myspace page, they don’t care for it. They talk to their parents as if talking to a friend. I guess that’s the point after all. When did parenting stop and friendships begin?
I’ve made over 60 phone calls home to parents about children misbehaving or failing. I think only 4 of those calls made a difference. The others would come into class the next day and laugh at my efforts and implore me that their parents don’t care. At first I wouldn’t believe them – my administration told me to never take their word for something like that. Then I would see how they would continue to misbehave or fail or not pay attention to the lesson just to get another text in or two to their friends down the hall.
I take cell phones all the time in my class. That’s the school’s policy – if we see a phone, we take it and turn it in the office. A few months ago, I took this girl’s phone. She spent the rest of the period pleading with me – “please, my mom doesn’t get off work until the school closes” – and on and on. I then told her that I stay late a few nights a week so she can come to my classroom to collect it if she’d like. So the mother came in, all irritated looking, because she was upset that her kid was using the phone in class. The mom tells me, “You won’t have to worry about this again sir, I am terrible sorry. I am going to take her phone away for a week.” Her daughter was with her – the girl I took the phone from. As she walked towards my door to leave, she begged her mom not to take the phone away. What happened next? After 4 seconds of begging, her mother handed her phone back. Lesson fucking learned.
What do kids need cellphones this badly for anyway? It’s not like they are helping prevent rape or kidnapping – just read the fucking news. Back in our day, if your kid was talking to someone on the phone, you’d be able to keep track of it, via caller ID or straight-up stalking. If someone wanted to talk to us, they’d have to call our house. That way our parents would actually be familiar who we were talking to. There be a bit of control – or parenting – involved.
Cellphones make all of this impossible. Sure, you can read the incoming/outgoing numbers and times on the bill when it comes at the end of the month. But that’s often to late. Your daughter has moved on to blowing someone different in the bathroom at school by this time.
Oh yeah, you’d be pretty shocked with how often blow-jobs happen in a school bathroom these days. Thanks to text messaging, this sort of thing can be planned in a matter of seconds. We’ve even bust kids having actual sex in the bathrooms – it’s that crazy. And we wonder why so many of our children are turning into Juno.
That is Probably Your Kid (3/2009)
I found out yesterday that I am not being re-hired at my school next year. I am not sure if it is because of my lack of experience, budget cuts, or if I genuinely suck as a teacher, but I can’t say I am all that sad about it. I’ve learned a lot this year, tons actually, that would make me a much better teacher next year. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to muster the strength to give it another shot, especially considering how parenting is ruining the classroom environment. What would be the point?