Monday, April 14, 2008

Teacher Man

Will Okun is a genius. Just so you know. He writes these brilliant photo essays about teaching in Chicago. Sometimes I feel like he's writing his column from under my desk. It feels like he's seeing what I'm seeing, feeling what I'm feeling, sweating when I'm sweating. I think one of the most difficult decisions in the profession is the idea of "passing," and what can be even more difficult, "the grade." Even in an age where there is "content area mastery," there are lots of gray areas. Don't get me wrong, grading is not subjective. Not all the time. And sometimes when I don't think a tenth of a point matters, I hear that graduation march in my head, I see slide shows of students' lives flash before me, and I think about the implications of passing and failing very seriously. Will Okun's essay does that this week.

Insert Clever Title Here....Cause I spent all my energy on a local tax return today

So it's National Poetry Month and I need to give a shout out to The Bard who is the namesake of this blog. Good job Willy. You've been making high schoolers miserable (read enlightened) under my charge for six years now.

OK. Now with the real post.

I think it's absolutely hilarious that my students don't know each other's last names. They'll spend gobs of time together, talk about intimate details of their own lives, even ride in cars with people they only know by their first name or nicknames. There is no way you could get me into the car with some kid nicknamed with some of the names these kids brag about. Since they don't know each other's names, they resort to identifying their peers by the way they look. Take the following conversation for example:

Student A: So you know Neisha?
Student B: Nah, who's dat?
Student A: That light skinned girl that used to go with Darnel?
Student B: Oh yeah, the one with the busted A1's?*
Student A: Nah, the one with the crooked nose.
Student B: She wear tracks?**
Student A: She got micros.***
Student B: Yeah, she used to go with Darnel's cousin, she's got that Baby Phat jacket....the purple one with the fur, she always eatin' and her mama and my mama work at the same place once. I know her.

*Air Force Ones: popular shoes busted: not new
**Tracks: a method of attaching synthetic hair; the "real" hair is wrapped and the tracks are glued in
***Micros: another method of attaching synthetic hair; hair is braided into tiny braids with extensions adding length and sometimes color

It seems like an awful lot of effort to have to learn so much information about someone just to identify them. On the other hand, I think it's cool that they're so attentive to details.