I left school so angry yesterday I wanted to throw things and cry, all at the same time. I have been in the trenches for 28 years now and thought I had seen it all but the apathy is more than I can handle for now.
We were watching an excellent film on artist Alexander "Sandie" Calder (1898-1976) and the kids were either sleeping or being reminded that the tv was in fact behind them, if they would just turn around to look at it.
I told them that their last project of the year was a mobile that was to be abstract, using only shapes and balance. Calder treated art as playtime and I thought they would be into that as it's been a struggle to get them to work on anything. These are 8th graders I am talking about. The counselor told me the computer was to blame for the three classes of lowest performing students in the school, but even I know that if you schedule students willing to learn into foreign languages, study hall, or band/choir there is nothing left but the apathetic students we are seeing more of every year. Notice I am not saying special ed. students who are also about 25% of my classes, as they actually come in wanting to learn.
"So, why are you making us watch this stupid movie anyway...it's BORING" said one girl ...I had taken this girl into my yearbook staff advisory and treated her with nothing but respect. I reminded her that it was to give her an example of an artist who made mobiles into an art form...that even his smallest mobiles command more than $100,000 at auction today.
Another kid who reminds me of the character Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) on the 70's Show chimed in with, "Yeah, like we want to be entertained. This is BORING."
Several others who had been punching each other in the arms as they entered the class also added their two cents about how they were being "forced" to watch a dumb movie.
I turned off the TV/VCR. and told them they had already done their last project of the year. Most of them slaughtered an architecture project based on the work of LA architect Frank Gehry, so I was attempting to bring the art back down to their level. I added that they would be reading and writing notes to turn in the last three weeks of class and I would be running it like a study hall...with the exception of a couple kids who give effort and care.
The yearbook gal and her female "lawyer" friend approached my desk to further their case, "But YOU need to give us stuff we want to do ." I supposed they meant like a few other students had asked the same day about doing an edible art project they could eat afterward (With their teacher of course buying the ingredients out of pocket).
In my anger, which I confess I shared with the principal later should he get a phone call, I told them Education has it all wrong. We need to be more European in our outlook. Stop education at 6th grade ,I told them, and send them out into the work force if they did not want any further education.
"And you will need to know how to speak Spanish, as your bosses will." I added. The lawyer friend called me racist and I told them that all they need to do is watch the news to know that they would be filling the jobs previously filled by people coming from Mexico, who would then move up the ladder.
The lawyer student said she wanted to be a tattoo artist. I told her she could apprentice and did not need school for that. She said it would be 6 mo. to a year without pay though. I answered that she would not need the money as she would still be living at home with her parents...she didn't like my response. The yearbook gal shot back..."You would be out of a job then!" I told them I could handle that if it meant the kids who want to be educated were the ones being taught.
Students are becoming increasingly apathetic because they have been given free reign by parents and society. They no longer have respect for adults or institutions as they have no self respect. They shout out obscenities to friends, wear their clothes to flaunt their bodies, sleep, eat, play computer games, talk and text message on cell phones, listen to their ipods, have sex before they are ready for the consequences and consume and destroy materials on a daily basis. Education is not something that is being sought by these students as their parents have never shown them an advantage toward having one.
Many of my students have parents in and out of jail, failed relationships, and finances. One student who has the latest clothes, nail and hair appointments has a mother who changes cell phone numbers and addresses almost weekly. I am shocked when a parent actually answers a phone or calls the school back on their student's behavior...as long as we are taking the kids off their hands (and off the streets) they are happy...gives them time to sleep in, make more babies, and run around.
Schools are asked to pay for these kids as they often do not pay fees, have money for breakfast or lunch, or the materials needed on a daily basis. "I need a pencil" they say instead of "I didn't bring a pencil". One student told me they didn't pay fees because "that's our Partying Money, Man!!" We also break up their fights and sort out their spats with each other. Better not stand in the middle of a hallway or you will be mowed down rather than walked around.
So, the next time you complain about the schools and the lousy job we are doing to educate your kids, remember that it's not the village that should be raising the kids, it's the people who gave birth to them. Wake up and smell the roses people. Stop being kids yourselves and take responsibility for the next generation before they decide to pay you back for the lack of parenting you gave them.
And this, my friends, is why teachers get their summers off...mental health. I know you begrudge us that break, but if we sent all the kids we see everyday to your house, you'd call the police!