My classroom this morning…
The sound of cell phones vibrating against desk, students yelling the lyrics of their favorite “songs,” while lacing in a few of their favorite vocabulary words …
Let me see ya make ya bootie talk
…Use ya bootie muscles…
…Shit…Fuck… (they get to curse with impunity, but I don’t)
My students are discussing the latest celebrity gossip while passing around centerfolds from their Vibe Crush magazines…they’re not doing the assigned work, which makes the preceding comments from my students all the more comical!
I was accosted with the following question, “Ms. Friendly, what grade do you think I deserve?”
I responded with, “You deserve the grade you make.”
So she reared her full weight back on to her hips…I guess I didn’t answer the question the way she wanted me to. I must admit, it was kind of difficult to take her seriously while her hairstyle resembled that of a Bird of Paradise…first micro braided, and then twisted into four corn rowed sections on the top of her head…with a smattering of blond and black chunks of highlights.
Once again she asked me, “Ms. Friendly, what grade do you think I deserve?” The emphasis was different this time.
I remained calm. First period…8:30AM…It was too early for this shit.
I responded with, “You deserve the grade you make.” …again…(I know I already said that before)
“No, but what do you think I deserve? ME?”
I sighed. Did she not get that grades are not a personal issue or a popularity game? Bird of Ghetto Paradise started a domino effect. All of the other birds in the jungle began to chatter.
I heard choruses of: “Yeah, because YOU GAVE me a 20.” “I don’t think I deserved a 78.” “She GAVE me a 54.”
I interjected, “I don’t GIVE grades! You EARN them!”
And they didn’t get it! …I have never seen a group of students who held a sense of entitlement when they have done absolutely NOTHING! The politics of inner-city “learning” is complicated because from the outside, it seems as though the kids are being educated…but if you take a magnifying glass and scrutinize the situation, you realize that those kids are just being passed along. I actually had a colleague, who has worked many years for this school system, tell me that he believes in just passing the kids along because he doesn’t want to be bothered with the obnoxious reactions of the parents. I was nonplussed. How could he confide in me such a detestable philosophy? “Teachers” like him are what makes my expectations seem so unrealistic to students.
And then there’s the administration…(you know I have to talk about them)…In this school system, a student cannot fail a class if he has not signed a notice form. When that policy was made aware to me, I thought it was a joke…or at least a soft threat with a loop hole in favor of the integrity of honest grades and real education. I had never worked anywhere that enforced such a policy as LAW, and I had worked in three other school systems before coming to this one. So when Judgment Day approached, I was ready to place all the 18, 13, 51, 32, and 6s that my students EARNED! They NEVER did any work! I emailed my fearless leader and asked, “If I have students who did not sign failure notice forms, am I still obligated to give them a 70?” He wanted to know why those students never signed the forms. I explained to him that none of the printers or copiers at the school worked…he said that that was no excuse…WTF? Hmph…my days of out-of-pocket expense for work were OVER!!!!! I explained to him that the students were SHOWN their grades, but did not have anything to sign. He told me that I had to pass them.
I then had students who had the nerve to challenge WHY they received a 70, once we all returned to school after Winter Break. I thought it was comical. The sense of entitlement was astronomical! They were under the impression that showing up to class and having a pulse would guarantee an automatic “good” grade. HA! I was more than happy to burst their bubbles and show them what they REALLY made…and WHY! Most of them were silenced into a state of embarrassment (that only lasted like five seconds)…but at least they saw what they EARNED.
But didn’t that just further feed their obnoxious sense of entitlement? Now, will they just think that some stroke of luck will always kick and save them? In my world, the grade you get is the grade you earn.