The day has finally arrived that I, Jesse, have become The Enemy – I have become an Algebra teacher. It was my first day teaching at the school I affectionately call “Flexing Poplars”, a rather expensive and small private high school comprised primarily of troubled kids from white suburbia. But before entering the ranks of the despised Math Teachers I first had to survive my 1st period Speech class.
All the classes at Flexing Poplars are small (usually 5-8 students), but I currently only have three in my Speech class. However even this is misleading because, as the director of the school warned me, one of the kids never gets to school earlier than an hour after it starts. So when the bell rang I found myself sitting in a room with a freshman who wouldn’t look me in the eyes and a senior who only met my gaze with sustained defiance. The defiance was probably born from my refusal to (and I know that it’s hard to believe that I could be such a Nazi) let him play cards in class. The defiance seemed to turn to curiosity quickly, and soon I found that this Senior was a self-improvement junkie who was analyzing my body language and trying to understand “what made me tick” so he could manipulate me with skills he learned from Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Clever kid, and a natual conversationalist, but I don’t think that class turned out to be what he expected. For the rest of the class we held a discussion about “why we celebrate Holidays” and analyzed our discussion. There was no card playing.
The rest of the day consisted of Algebra classes, where concepts weren’t nearly as challenging as class control. Conversation breaks out perpetually, especially when the students want to get out of school work – which is always. I told the students right away that I don’t tolerate interruption and text messaging… and all day long I fought those battles.
After school was out I found myself in conversation over cofee with Katie, John, and Benjamin and tried to explain what the atmosphere is like. Sorrowfully I told them that I have no choice but to allow crass joking and “F” words in my class, because to combat that directly would be a losing battle that would consume all of class time and pit them against my authority.
Katie told me that at Cambridge, Christiana’s school, the students stand when the teacher enters the room, and may only sit once the teacher grants permission. That sort of behavior is incomprehensible at Flexing Poplars.