Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Have You Had a Day Like This?

The story you are about to read is true, the names haven't been included to keep me from having to worry about ... hell, in education these days, who knows? I sent this out to colleagues about ten minutes after it happened, thanking God the whole time that I had a free period in which to do it in:

Sorry to put this together this way but right now I'm a bit put out and I want to run this one to ground ASAP and since I don't know the perpetrators responsible for making me write this missive this is the quickest way I have of tackling this quickly, so ...

During second period advisory I made the mistake of leaving the door to my classroom open. Sometime around 12:25, as I sat at my desk, in slides, literally, a tall, thin young man, whose insouciance alone, which borders on sloth, surely makes him a standout amongst his peers (though, alas, I may be kidding myself). This takes me by surprise, but no less than his immediately starting to hawk something to do with Mother's Day. Mind you, I LOVE Mother's Day, especially now that I'm responsible for someone having become a mother who's not my mother, but you see there was no knock on the door, no, "Excuse me, may I talk to the class for a minute about something important", nothing at all to give me a sense at all that this young man was at all imbued with any sense of a finer appreciation for the rudimentary manners we'd hope that all of our students would understand and, better yet, exhibit in their daily behavior.

I immediately told the young man, "Hold on, you didn't even knock!" - of course I was thinking something else, but I, fortunately, do have manners. The young man got the message though, and proceeded with all the showiness of Harpo Marx in any of an innumerable number of Marx Brother's movies, to ostentatiously go out of his way to knock on my door, from the inside of my room, of course.

I said thank you, and then immediately asked him and his companion, who I adn't seen up to now as he had stayed out of the room, to leave. I then went to close my door, and oh how I had wished I had done this from the start of my advisory (C'est la vie, as they may say over in the foreign language department, and sometimes in science, too). It was at that point that the partner in alleged
Mother's Day blandishments informed me that I was "ignorant".

I then stepped out of advisory, and asked the second student for his name, which
he didn't seem to want to give me as he and the skinny fellow walked away. The second gentleman was a big student, though not what I'd exactly call corpulent -
more the type you wouldn't want to run into on a football line or behind the back of O'Leary's on 44th and 8th in Manhattan. He also had a lovely diamond stud in his left ear, which I had opportunity to admire as I followed him a few feet, and, given my general sense of cold this day, the fact that he was wearing shorts caught my attention as well. As I attempted to get his name, at one point saying, "You, the large guy with the box" -- I think he was the one who took the money, a role I'm sure Tony Soprano would have conferred on him as well -- the skinny guy then made a comment to the effect, "Whooooa, he called you a large guy, you should give him his ass ...", or words to that effect.

So here, dear reader, I should hope you can appreciate my sense of ire, and moreover my heartfelt desire to see these young men identified and appropriately instructed, if not flat out disciplined for these incidents, all of which took place in the space of about 60 seconds, as well as their being instructed to come by to talk to me and hopefully render a soulful apology (yeah, well ...). Your help with this matter would be greatly appreciated.


At this point both students have been identified, I've had a discussion with the asst. principal who told me he appreciated my "subtle sarcasm" and he'd be seeing these young men sometime tomorrow, and I've tracked down the teacher they were doing this for and working to arrange a face-to-face, though what merit that may have is questionable at this point.

Education, ya gotta love it.

Update as of today, 5/11: The young men came by, separately, and both apologized. And, to top if off, I had the impression that they were sincere ... ok, yeah, I may be kidding myself, but it makes for a reasonably happy ending and I'll leave it at that --- too damn few of those in the world nowadays.


Blogger Katie said...

Wow. This one is a tough one. Although perhaps calling someone "large" may not be the best choice of words, in my opinion it is more descriptive rather than insulting, no? Also, clearly the student was threating in return and I think that is more of a "crime" than perhaps the choice of words.

I think sticking to one's principles is the best course. In my opinion, no crime was committed by the instructor. Cannot say the same for the student though.

4:35 PM  
Blogger James said...


The student was "large" in a sense that wasn't offensive - this was an honest-to-God big kid, one who could hurt someone without too much trying if he put his mind to it. So no, I wasn't trying to be insulting so much as using a word that was descriptive.


7:05 PM  
Anonymous David C said...

Oh no, I'm getting those flashes, those last period journalism students that wonder the halls instead of, well, learn journalism (I think you're familiar with my opinion on the paper). They've no appreciation for teaching as they barge into any class to interrupt and push thier, well, printed dribble.

It also reminds of the poor children left out in the cold by thier teachers who refuse to let them come to class once they are late. And I'll admit, they're usually not duking it out for valid victorian, but the ethic makes no sense. If late, issue tardy. They arn't being a distrubance more so than that of softly creeping toward thier seat. But once they are kicked out and doomed to wonder the halls, my Government teacher / School Soccer Coach Don Allen (honestly, Don is his Mr., some may see it as a bit disrespectful but the man enjoys it and has insisted on several occasions that if he wanted to be called Mr, he'd "Damn well make us call him Mr.") employs his empty 2nd period desks as refugee camps for these lost souls. So long as they shut up or sleep.

Damn kids need to learn themselves some manners!
Not to metion, I need to learn myself some lines. I blank giving a five minute speech in class and now I have to master 64 pages of Woody Allen? oy.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Classroom interruptions for any and all reasons? Don't get me started. OK, do.

Just for fun this year, I choose one random week each semester and recorded all of the interruptions I experienced in my English classes. They averaged 1.3 per period, with as many as 7 in a single 50 minute class. Let's do the math (I was born without the math gene, so please help me if I mangle this)

We have 1.3 per class, times 7 periods a day = 9.1 interruptions per day. About 180 days in the school year, so 9.1 X 180 = 1638 interruptions per year (in one teacher's classes!). Keep in mind I didn't include things like pep rallys, assemblies, and myriad other things that not only interrupt classes, but literally wipe them out.

Just for fun, let's assume that each interruption disrupts the class for say, 3 minutes (I'm being conservative here). Three X 1638 =4914 minutes, 81.9 hours. If we figure a 7 period day of 50 minutes per period, that's a bit more than 5.83 hours per day of class time, which, divided into 81.9 give us a minimum loss of 14 days of class time a year (one day short of three full weeks), for one teacher's classes alone.

Makes one wonder, doesn't it?

11:02 PM  
Blogger James said...


I don't think my post adequately conveys the situation as, given how it reads, you'd think that this sort of thing happens in all sorts of situations, but that's not the case at all. Advisory, where this happened, is a period of time set aside to interact with the students, or, if the situation doesn't warrant it, to read, catch up on homework, whatever. In this case we were in our "reading" day when this young man came sliding in. On the whole I don't suffer nearly the interruptions that I hear about from other teachers such as yourself. While we may have our share of difficulties/problems, I have to say that the administration does doe a decent job of keeping the interruptions in check. Were I in your situation, and you're not the only one I've heard this from, it'd certainly drive me nuts.

8:10 PM  

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