The year I had them, I was in my third year teaching and was juggling teaching classes from 3 different departments. ESL, Health and Spanish. I was also pregnant in the smallest classroom on campus. The class list as the year started was 53 students. I asked for more desks, but was told that the students might winnow down as the first day arrived. Three of our five principals started running around finding me desks as kids filed in, when I called the office because they were sitting on window sills and floors.
I was nervous as I watched this huge quantity of kids file in. Thankfully there was a very set curriculum for Spanish which is helpful when one is starting out, unfortunately, the Spanish department staff were a 20 minute walk away and think only 2 of the 4 on staff knew who I was, and that I was teaching Spanish.
Eventually the size of the class went down to about 22 after the first 3 or so months wherein they had to move me to another classroom to accommodate the size of the group. I will never forget them.
As I describe them, keep in mind they are way out of the league of what is normal in a classroom for me.
Skinny E: one of a very small number black kids in our school, he would never look at me as he spoke, and never intended to ever do any work. When I asked him if he would turn around when I spoke to him (he put his back to me) he told me he “only faced his mama”. I was always gently perplexed and never got to know him before they moved him out of my class.
future Shaq: who threatened other kids with expletives as he entered the room late. His administrator who I sent the referrals to was on her year before retirement and told me to my face she didn’t have time to deal with him. I was glad to see him go, though felt bad for him as I saw him trying very hard to be the partying player basketball star, before he was kicked off the team for his stunts.
Shaneeka: also a study in early pregnancy. also gave me intimate details of her female issues.
molester if I care: parents divorced, dad was trying to straighten up wayward son. made sexual harrassing statements to one particular girl in the class consistently, and felt that I was completely out of line to step in.
devoutly religious homeschooler girl: she was just so happy to be in school, and though she mangled the spanish, because of her sheer effort and enthusiasm, I knew she could do it. As she graduated, she won the class award for being inspirational and positive.
abercrombie blond: confused with home issues, the unspoken leader of the class. Initially tried to be the class pet, which made me uncomfortable probably because of the amount of power she wielded among this group of very immature 9th graders (they would name their teams after her when they competed, she chose a name from Lion King as her spanish name –at the time I hadn’t seen Lion King)
“I’m dumb” boy: Got C’s until he decided he couldn’t do Spanish, then tried to get out of the class. I protested, knowing he was smart enough, but he just never tried again. I guess now with experience I would let him go. He always just gave up before ever attempting anything.
“but I am a missionary!” goth girl: I will always remember her. Mid year she went goth. She was a year younger than her classmates. When she didn’t understand a very simple concept (she was pretty smart) I told her to skip it because I could tell she was getting really frustrated, and I figured we could come back to it. As she left the classroom that day she sobbed “I’m going to be a missionary, you know!” in such a strange way as to suggest that I was somehow impeding her from this noble goal.
Her brother was in the class, and while we were learning colors he was incensed that I wasn’t aware that he was colorblind, and so how dare I introduce colors. How strange. Once I learned he was colorblind I told him to not sweat it, but still I had dared, which sealed the deal that I was so unfair.
I have never experienced a class like this one, the kids did projects and tons of communicative stuff, I learned alot of fun activities this year from a really excellent Spanish department, but still I somehow got branded as the wicked witch of the west. Was it because I wouldn’t let that one boy draw dirty pictures on the whiteboard? Maybe it was the girl I sent out for her thong underpants and cleavage? Maybe it was because they had to do homework?
Guess I’ll never know, but I was okay with it when they all graduated.