The day we returned from spring break, my juniors and I had a Class Meeting. We sat in a circle and I forced them to tell me their thoughts on TAKS, our class, whether they thought we were headed in the right direction, and what we could all do to get where we all want to go.
It wasn’t a total success. Culture is really awful in these periods, and I was the only one to offer any thoughts for the first part of both meetings. But I was totally real with them as I told them that I really do want them to graduate, I know they want it as well, and that we have to start trusting each other a little bit more. They admitted some things and realized some things and we came up with action steps for each other. We started our TAKS blitz and I convinced them their almost-blank Objective Mastery poster in the back was inspiring, not pathetic.
Someone came into my room yesterday toward the beginning of class as I referred to the poster in trying to motivate them to work harder. He saw the poster and asked publicly about it, and my kids explained it to him. And then, he proceeded to berate them for 20 minutes, telling them how much they suck. He reminded them that they didn’t pass TAKS in the ninth grade, didn’t pass TAKS in the tenth grade, and weren’t on the right track now in the eleventh grade. He told them that if he went to Vegas, he would put a million dollars on them not passing TAKS and not graduating. He asked me how many kids out of the 21 were failing (11). He said all sorts of things about a history of failure being predictive of failure.
I wanted to be pissed as hell, but I was just sad. I was sorry for my kids, who have heard all of this before from who knows how many educators. But I was also sorry for this someone, who feels so constrained and strung out that the only thing he can think to do three weeks before TAKS is walk into classrooms and yell at kids. I don’t think I would have been able to see it last year, but this year his own desperation was tragically visible throughout his rant. His job is just as impossible as mine, and it’s just so sad that it’s come to this.
I wonder, after all his hours of worrying and work, whether my school will exist next year.