Statistics and crime map…
Oct 26 Published in Untagged by Purple
This is a continuation of my journal from my 2001-2002 school year. Please read the previous posts to give this entry context.
Monday – October 22, 2001
This afternoon the clock fell off the wall and hit me on the head. Time to wake up. It hurt a lot. The portables are so jiggly, someone walking by could have caused the freak accident. I didn’t report the incident, but I probably will tomorrow. I have a bump and a bit of a headache. I’m typing with an ice pack on my head.
Today my students went on a scavenger hunt in the library. In their assigned groups, they searched for information on John Steinbeck. The used the Internet, maps, books, the librarian. The group that produces the best paper will receive extra credit. I was really proud of my students in the library. They were focused and working. It was fun to see how excited they were when they discovered John Steinbeck was born in Salinas and that his sister’s house is the white Victorian they’ve seen at the Santa Cruz County Fairground.
I wonder how they will react when they receive their first quarter grades tomorrow. So many of them simply did not write their character analysis book reports. It was a big grade, one third of their expression grade, which is fifty percent of their total grade.
I feel disappointed and angry. I just don’t know what else I could have done. I handed out the book list the first week of school. My letter home was also quite clear that some assignments would have to be word-processed. On September 12th, all classes took a walking field trip to the Enterprise Computer Center, so that students would have a potential place to work on computer and to receive tutorial assistance. I mentioned the book reports to the representatives of thirteen students on Back to School Night. On October first, I announced the exact due date of October tenth. On October fourth, I had students take notes on the requirements and handed out two different graphic organizers to help them plan their essays.
Even though the due date was October tenth, I continued to take essays until the end of the quarter, October nineteenth, at a five-point deduction per day late.
In second and third period, I have a UCSC student tutor who helps in the classroom on Thursdays. Students who were struggling with their reports were encouraged to work with her. I am also available to help students every day after school from three until three-thirty. I allowed students with printer problems to email me their reports. With all this, only sixty-one of ninety-eight students completed reports. Not even two-thirds.
Wednesday – October 24, 2001
Twice over the loudspeakers the assistant principal reminded teachers that grades were due today. Chris was staying after school to see why he received a C. He looked askance at the speaker and said, “It’s funny that teachers have to be reminded.”
“It sure is.”
There may be a few teachers who need the announcement, but to the rest of us, it’s demeaning.
Sixth period finished the quarter with a C- average. However, looking at the letter grades, one can see the average is skewed downward. This is the result of some very low percentages on the F’s:
The B- for Rosa sent me back to my grade book to look for a mistake. But no, she’s a much better student than I gave her credit for. In another class, I’d probably be grateful to have her.
Today she dragged in and announced that she was beat up, her knee hurt, some boy had snapped her with a rubberband and another had slammed her hand in a book.
“Maybe he was flirting with you.”
“He needs to learn to flirt better.”
I liked that response. I like some spunk. I wrote Rosa a pass to the nurse for an ice pack.
The biggest disappointment was Xochitl. I love her peppy, feisty personality, but her skills are sooooo low.
“I only have two F’s this quarter,” Raymond said quite happily. “One in English, one in math.
“That’s horrible,” I said. “Math and English are core subjects.”
“No, it’s not,” he insisted. Apparently two F’s was quite an improvement for him.
“This class is easy,” he added later.
I laughed. This convoluted logic is not exclusive to Raymond. I told him, “Of course it’s easy to get an F. Any moron can get an F. Try getting an A and see how easy it is.”
Only three people in five classes earned A’s.
We’re on to Of Mice and Men. Today students responded to the anticipation guide. It included five statements (related to themes in the book) with which they agree or disagree:
1. If someone is broke or homeless, it’s his/her own fault.
2. Sometimes mercy killing is the kindest solution.
3. I could never be friends with a retarded* person. We would be too different.
4. Everyone needs to have dreams or life goals.
5. It’s better to create a memorable event than to plan for the future.
For now, we simply tally the results. All my students, of course, think that they’d be friends with a mentally retarded* person, although I doubt any of them are.
I’d think that there would be near unanimity on the fourth statement, too, but there were a few dissenters in each class. I’d like to hear what they have to say, but we’ll focus on only one statement for the culminating Socratic seminar, the one of which there’s the biggest split, and therefore, presumably, the best chance of lively discussion.
“Oh, good!” Lupe exclaimed. “You mean we get to have another one of those circles where we yell at each other?”
I do love Lupe. She’s counting down the days to her birthday. “Ms. Hansen, it’s only seventeen more days ‘til my birthday.”
I guess if I were the baby of the class, I’d be pretty excited about finally turning fourteen, too. A couple of weeks ago, Lupe dyed her hair and it turned greenish. She redid it to a patchy maroon. It’s certainly better than the ghoulish look. Attention and drama. I think about our neighbor girl at fourteen. Dark blue hair. Rose-colored hair. Now that she’s a senior, she’s figured out that style isn’t so overstated. She wears her hair bleached and a little spiky, but there are no more of the big, bold statements of fourteen.
Before we checked out the books, I gave a little warning spiel about the language.
“We’ve talked about how authors characterize through what their characters say,” I explained. “Steinbeck’s characters are rough men, living without families, and they use rough language.”
“They speak in a coarse way,” Mark volunteered softly, proudly using his new vocabulary word.
“Yes, they’ll use swear words . . . .”
“Cool,” Mark said.
I also prepared the class for the use of the word “nigger,” reminding them of the setting. We went over that yesterday. I explained that the 1930’s were pre-Civil rights, that overt racism was common, even in California. I explained that the use of the word didn’t mean that Steinbeck was a racist, but that his characters were. Over the years, I’ve learned that most freshmen need to have this distinction made for them.
Elizabeth, in her usual overalls, has a habit of sitting on her desk rather than in it. Since she’s in the back and doesn’t bother anyone, I let her. “It’s interesting how black people can use that word to other blacks,” she quickly pointed out.
I agreed and said that the same thing would be true with any group. That two white people can joke with each other about their whiteness, but wouldn’t like a nonwhite person to call them “white bread.”
I haven’t told the students yet about how Of Mice and Men is periodically banned. There’s nothing like censorship to arouse interest.
*I found this anticipation guide in a resource book, and it used the word “retarded.” The word has certainly fallen out of vogue, and the use of it usually causes some discussion.