In that one class, the one with Ms. "Kicked-Out", there were other students, about ten in all, who had no real interest in working or getting stuff done.
I had been an easy-going teacher during the previous term. I was the type who would come to class and joke with the students, convinced that the best way to get through the day was to play, not demand too much, since even the full-time staff struggled to get anything done with those kids.
When I came back the next year, I decided that just hanging around was not good enough. I wanted more for my life, and I would start out by expecting these students to do more with their time, instead of just hanging out and slowly failing.
Standing in for a teacher at the last minute in that late-afternoon class, I expected the day to go pretty well. The one kid, Denny, could be a real handful. He was bright and quick, but unstable and unruly, either looking for approval from others or looking for any way to make himself prominent. Back then, I had no idea what I needed to do in order to reach out and help the kid, since in many ways I was still growing up, myself. I made the most of my time, doing the best with what I had. I welcomed my time in that class, since it was me and another teacher, a young lady who had just gotten hired, a young woman who had been laid off earlier and needed a job, then got one in the nick of time.
I was not supposed to do very much. Just sit back, relax, and help out if any of the students needed any help. Some of these kids were down on their luck, like the young lady from Salk. Denny was a working kid, though. Another kid had originally been living in West LA, but at the time he moved back to Hawthorne because his mother kicked him out. How many kids have I met in schools who have been kicked out of their homes? What is the matter with many of these parents, women mostly (since their father are usually gone or dead) who were probably not ready for parenting in the first place. The teen years is a real trial, too, not just for the students themselves, but for the parents, many of whom witness the result of their poor choices, not holding their kids accountable at a younger age to make something more of themselves.
The next three hours went by without too much trouble, aside from Denny running around the room, talking a lot and getting off task. Some of the other students simply did not have any heart for the work that they were assigned to do. Credit recovery is not an exciting process, not an exhilarating experience for most people, teachers and students. Continuation schools turn into stagnation schools very quickly, as the incentive to do well is just not very strong. Even positive pressure cannot accomplish much when you are "just a sub."
The one interesting anecdote from that day -- Denny, who noticed that I was doing a lot of writing in my journals. I showed him my portfolio, detailing all the work which I had been doing over the past year, getting published in local and national newspaper. I also shared with him the blog that I was writing, too.
"What do you write about?" He asked me.
I rattled off the many subjects which took my interest: political issues, moral and spiritual issues, as well. I also shared that I was writing about my experiences as a teacher, that I was thinking about putting together a book.
"You should write about us," he then suggested. "You should write about this place."
And do it goes. . .