Weird dreams, misogyny, and terrible teaching

06Nov09

I had a lot of really troubling conversation with m last night which led to some pretty disturbing dreams.  And troubled/disturbed seems to be the order of the day today as well.  I’m going to start with today’s thoughts…

At our school, as a way of meeting new state laws that require us to prove we are intervening with students who are struggling, we have implemented a system of mandatory ELO (extended learning opportunities) time for students who are failing one or more classes.  Every day during lunch, kids who are failing are required to stay for a half an hour to get help from the teachers of the classes they’re not passing.  However, if they don’t show up at those teachers’ rooms during that time, they are required to stay in their 2nd hour classes (the period just before lunch) during ELO time.  Does that description make any sense?

My 2nd hour 9th grade class is half full of kids who are failing one or more classes–in most cases, not mine–and, as the semester rolls on, more and more of these are showing up on the DNR (do not release) list, meaning they have to stay with me during that half hour.  Because they’re not failing my class, they really should be working on assignments for the classes they ARE failing…but I don’t know what work they have for those classes.  So, generally, they do nothing at best, or distract those who are actually trying to work at worst.  It’s babysitting time.

The point of all of this is not to complain about the system; I don’t think it’s such an awful approach, considering the structuring of our school in general, though it obviously has its problems.  The thing that really troubles me, instead, is that I am starting to LOATHE these kids.  I hate shushing them, I hate that they won’t work during ELO, and I hate them for making me feel all this; lather, rinse, repeat.  This would be a new thing in my teaching career–the loathing.  I guess this is maybe telling, though; in the past, I’ve been able to deftly ignore the students who are uncooperative/unresponsive/hating school so much; they go their way, I go mine, and they maybe fail my class–their choice, whatever.  But now I’m sort of forced to face the fallout from our shitty educational system on a daily basis.  And I’m not liking it.  Surprise!

Let’s jump on back to last night.  I had a dream–well, several dreams, really, but there was one in particular that was extremely disturbing.  The dream started with me deliberately giving an old lady an overdose of one of her prescription drugs in order to kill her so that I could get one of her antiques.  I don’t actually like antiques much, or killing old ladies either, but that’s why it’s a dream, I guess.  Anyway, I was going about my business in the dream with the knowledge that I’d killed that woman for totally selfish reasons, and I was desperate to tell someone, but I couldn’t tell anyone because then maybe the burden of that knowledge would become even more real…Anyway, I knew that I would have a horrible existence from then on out, regardless of whether I got caught, which wasn’t, as it turns out, my chief concern, or a concern at all, really.

We’re gonna jump back a little further and talk about my conversations with m, which mostly focused on my misogynist coworker requesting that a female student use the pseudonym “Deep Throat” to protect his anonymity in her ethnography project, which focused on this colleague and other members of his department.  Talking about it with m made me realize how horrible this request actually was (even if he meant to allude to Watergate or even the X-Files, people are generally better acquainted with the original reference) as well as the depth of the ingrained sexism tolerated by our school (and, you know, of course, the culture as a whole).  Reporting this to my boss will likely just result in the misogynist spouting the “well, it’s a history reference, not a porn one!” defense; meanwhile, they won’t face any repercussions at all, and I’ll gain the mantle of The Frigid, Prudish Bitch Snitch With, Of Course, No Sense of History or Humor.  Now, the group of colleagues of which “Deep Throat” is a member don’t respect me anyway, so I’m not so worried about that, but they’re also influential in the school in ways that I am not.

I still haven’t decided what to do.  Obviously, it’s total bullshit, and I’m going at the very least to make sure the female student doesn’t have to continue writing the words “Deep Throat” every time she makes an observation about this particular asshole, and I’ll be letting that group of my colleagues know that the pseudonym is unacceptable, whether they think it’s just a clever history in-joke or not.  But I’m, well, scared of backlash, I guess, which is keeping me from wanting to go over their heads and let my boss know about it.  Still, (HERE’S THE BIG REVEAL, FOLKS!) I feel like I’m killing an old lady for her antiques by not being more aggressive about this.

I’m killing an old lady for her antiques by hating my kids for failing in a system that is BUILT TO FAIL THEM, too.

There is much metaphorical geriatricide happening in my continual involvement with the education system.  I feel like I’m going to finish my career, and at the end of it all I will have all kinds of this guilt, and other guilt I probably haven’t named yet, and lots of really privileged former students as friends on facebook.

What am I DOING?

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