Friday, September 02, 2011

talking out of school

Summer hours at YB have drawn to a close, and I'm hearing dark murmurings that next week is going to be especially bad: because it's the first week of school for most of the kids who come to our center, many students are opting to avoid attending YB until they've had a chance to acclimate to their new academic schedules. That means bracing for impact: along with a return to six-hour days, we're likely to experience "rolling blackouts" in our schedules, i.e., the occasional four-hour day, or even the occasional off-day. YB Near has always been the quieter branch compared to YB Far (where, as you'll recall, I no longer work), and now that summer's over, we'll be returning to that quiet. (It's funny... I've gotten used to the hurly-burly of eight-hour days. It's amusing to recall when six hours felt like an eternity.)

Over the next few weeks, we'll see the usual complement of new and returning students. I'm currently teaching a new student who strongly resembles-- mentally, at least-- that clueless kid at YB Far who was unable to learn any French. Today, this student spilled out of his chair twice because he insisted on sitting in it the wrong way. He's unfocused, easily distracted, and obviously gets flak at home for being "stupid." He's even referred to himself as stupid a few times during class. I try to reassure him that he's not stupid, but dammit, he keeps trying to prove me wrong. The chair-spilling incidents-- which were loud and distracting to the entire office-- might have been as much a cry for attention as evidence of the kid's native goofiness. I actually like this student despite his near-complete lack of academic ability, and will do my best to see that he improves, but Christ can he be annoying.

That said, I'm thankful that the above student represents the worst of my problems. Two of my coworkers have to deal with a very different student-- a high school chick who fits the airheaded cheerleader stereotype to a tee.* She is, in fact, a cheerleader; she said as much.** This girl dresses in ultra-tight shorts, openly insults her teachers, acts theatrically bored, and does everything she can to avoid doing the work set in front of her. I have nothing but respect for the guys who are dealing with her right now, and I thank my lucky stars that I'm not teaching her. I fear, though, that my day is coming: luck always runs out in the end.

On the plus side, it's good to know that life at YB is never boring.

*NB: The year I graduated from high school, we had two valedictorians and two salutatorians, all four of whom were women. Two of those four were cheerleaders. I mention this so that you don't think I buy into the stereotype about cheerleaders. It would be more accurate to say that I partially buy into the stereotype.

**Our center is open; it's essentially one huge room divided into large, 4-seater cubicle work stations. In other words, we can all hear each other.



Charles said...

How did you ever teach high school students? That's what I want to know.

Kevin Kim said...

I did it for two years before I let go of my stubbornness and moved to Korea to teach paying, motivated adults. What I do now, at YB, isn't really the same thing, since I never have more than three students at a time. Still, I admit that some of these kids remind me of why I'll never go back to full-on HS teaching.

Charles said...

Exactly. I was wondering how you managed to do it for two whole years. I would probably go insane after about two hours.

I mean, that has to do devastating things to the human soul.

Kevin Kim said...

I'm not sure how I did it. After the first year, I had a pretty good idea that I wasn't cut out for the job, but because I'd had my heart set on teaching, I decided to tough it out a second year, foolishly thinking that a year of hazing would make me somehow better, stronger, faster. This turned out not to be true.

As I've discovered since then, however: teens, tweens, and elementary schoolers aren't bad to deal with in small numbers. For the most part, anyway: every once in a while, I have to deal with someone who's a bit emotionally stunted.