"Fucking Board"

That bit o' knowledge was written on an assignment I graded this weekend...erased, but still completely visible. Oh, where to begin. I guess I'll start with my determining whether or not I'm offended. I probably should be, but I'm not.

I'm pretty aware that no matter what I do every year, there are going to be students who just don't "get" me, who may even outright hate looking at my face. I'm aware that there will be students who absolutely detest coming to my class for a variety of reasons even if I continually change my curriculum and the way I present it. I'm okay with knowing I will simply never win over a percentage of my students- either with my dazzling personality or with the activities I plan. I'm okay with this because I feel like that is real life.

In our day to day lives, we all have to adapt to our surroundings. Chances are we are going to come across people we just don't mesh with- no matter what the reason. We have to put up with colleagues whom we may or may not have great opinions of. We deal with co-workers who are late and force coverage, who call out and force coverage, who don't follow deadlines in anyway, who are not good workers, who are simply not good people. Sometimes we put up with some ridiculous and/or awkward situations because they are our co-workers. We did not hire them and we often have no say if they are to continue working. They are not our friends. Basically, unless we are getting paid, we are probably not electing to spend time with them.

In a way, students are my co-workers too. If I consider my normal weekly schedule, I interact way more with my students. Sometimes I go a whole day without interacting with any adults other than simple greetings. And these "co-workers" of mine don't always have the tact to deal with the bullshit they don't like, an ability that most of us adults have acquired, maybe even perfected by this point. As adults we put up with the mundanity of encountering a typical "case of the Mondays" and "humpday" and TGIF because we are used to the routine of it all. It doesn't mean we like it, but if we're professionals and for the most part enjoy what we do, we put up with the little things for the time being and choose to talk about it later, possibly ad nausea, with our significant others.

My juniors and seniors are probably better than they used to be, but many have definitely still not perfected their techniques in dealing with anything they don't like. They still roll their eyes. They still sigh at such obnoxious levels that I have to squelch my own reaction because it is unacceptable for me to ask "what the fuck is wrong now". They talk over me and their classmates to show everyone how much they know about a subject, to prove how right they are (even when wrong). During class discussions: they get on facebook and agree with each others' status about how bored they are, they snapchat picture after picture of their duck faces being sure to perfect those few strands of hair first, they put on makeup, they text each other, they write notes to each other, still (shocking I know), they ask to go to the bathroom while someone is actually talking, and they sleep.

As adults we have modified some of these same behaviors to fit in to the norms that are expected in the workplace because we want to keep our jobs (if we like them) or maybe we want to maintain a certain standard of living to which we have become accustomed. We might not agree with every single thing that happens in our workplace but we weigh the good and the bad determining if it's worth it to keep plugging away.

Students aren't paid. In education we often like to make the analogy that this is their job and if they do well in their duties, they will be compensated with good grades. I'm sorry but this comparison is kind of horseshit, because not all of our students care about getting good grades. Our students are not dumb. Many have learned that they can do the minimum to simply pass. Some don't try at all. Why put out all this effort if they have no intention of actually going to college? Why go to school when at this point in their lives they can actually be getting paid for working? Why attend classes when staying home getting high is way more fun? School is not exactly their priority.

I really believe part of the issue is how we continue to move students forward in the early years even if they sit there day after day without completing any assignments. We make high school, all the sudden, about having to earn actual credits. Many of our students have failed so consistently, and still moved forward, that by the time they reach us they don't even have basic skills. In what way does that teach students responsibility? I'm not even saying retention is the answer, but if you go K-8 not performing in any way and are still allowed to continue, what are the chances high school is going to be any different?

I only bring that up because so many of the students I work with are beyond jaded by the time they get to me. They have all these thoughts, many negative, about school in general. I go out of my way to interact and attempt to engage these students. It's not easy. Some of them refuse to latch on. I try to not take it personal when a student drops out after a month of my getting to know them. I put up with their ups and downs because my hope in the end is that I'll connect with some of them along the way. Hopefully I'll show them there is more to life than what they see directly in front of them.

It's sad because while I put up with their bullshit now, I know for some of them, actual employers probably won't. I know most won't be able to put their feelings and "priorities" aside in order to make it work. I know some won't make it beyond their first paycheck. I try not to spend too much time on their mannerisms not being in check, the obvious signs of boredom they display and the hurtful comments they say, because I know somewhere down the line they will have to adjust some aspects of their personalities in order to gain some success in life. I try not to take it too personal that some might not choose me as a teacher because I know if given the opportunity to choose, some of them might not make the cut either.

This girl, the junior who wrote "Fucking Board" on an assignment and didn't even bother to make sure it was erased... is bored. That's obvious. I won't take it personal because I don't just think she's bored with my class; I think she's bored with her life. And that is why it doesn't hurt my feelings.

But having said all that, I do think she should take some "fucking personal responsibility" for her own education. She's seventeen years old with only a few credits to her name. I graduated when I was seventeen. She misses most days. She completes about ten percent of the assignments given because she's usually too busy texting her friends and watching music videos on her phone to give a shit about what is happening in class. She sits there all period, distracts others, and does close to nothing. Maybe, just maybe, if she spent even just five minutes a period on what we're doing instead of continually building up this wall of belief that school is a waste of her time, she might actually be able to spell the word "bored" the way she intends it to be used.


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