Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Remember Me? You Kicked Me Out!" The Real Triumph

Los Padrinos is a great place for subs, at least to the extent that probation staff are supportive, and brook no disrespect from students toward staff.

I remembered covering one special ed class. The teacher's aide knew the students very well. She had a strong ghetto savvy about her. Her arms were covered in tattoos. She was more ink than skin, and she kept her students in line. When I worked with her on some days, I knew that the day was going to be smooth sailing.

On the other hand, there were those students who were so attached to her, that they did not think that they had to listen to me. When I approached one student to look over his work, the minor -- Steve -- just pulled his papers away from me.

"You're not my teacher. She gets to see what I'm working on, not you."

I had been to Los Padrinos enough times to earn my keep, and I refused to let one student blow me off just because he did not see me as a teacher, and certainly not his teacher.

I resented the remark enough to send him out.

"Mister, I never get written up. The principal isn't gonna say anything."

"I'm your teacher today, and you do not get to talk back to me. I get to look at your work if I need to."

"I do all my work, mister. You can't send me to the principal."

I have to comment on this common retort. Most students, incarcerated or walking free, have this empty notion that just because they are "doing their work", they are therefore entitled to talk back and be rude to the teacher. Respect comes first, whether they like me or not, whether they have  completed all their work or not.

While I was making this truth plain to Steve, one of the lady probation staff ambled by. She saw me making a point to the minor. "You don't have to babysit minors, she pointed out to me. You don't have to put up with anything. You're not here to babysit."

I loved it when staff backed up me. I did not get any  support at Hawthorne or Lawndale, yet here staff came to my rescue time and again.

One week prior, the lead probation officer not only helped me out, but commended me in full.

I was really pumped up when I came to the juvenile court school that day. I was ready for anything, not focusing on the negative, ready to do whatever it took to get through the day. I covered from Mr. T., and easy-going fellow who had fans on the outside as well as in the jail.

The class was set, the students marched in hands behind their back, but the moment that everyone got in the room, they started making trouble. Three student felt like moving seats as often as they pleased. Two students refused to stop talking over me. I began redirecting students right away. After I sent three students out, including one who begged yet failed to get a second chance, the P.O in charge of the unit, Mr. Shots, stepped in quick and shook my hand.

"Well done, sir," he told me, ""Most substitutes just put up with kids' disrespect, but you nipped it in the bud. I really appreciate it." Then I realized how important it was for staff that the teacher initiated every write-up, because probation officers can do nothing unless a teacher sends the student out of class.

That day was a real triumph for me. I never thought that I would be commended for sending students out.

"It's really important to send the message to these students that you are in charge," the probation officer continued, "they may not like you, but they will get scared and watch themselves so that they don't cross you."

I had forgotten that after five months of just putting up with kids' misconduct in Centinela Valley, a district which often placates the students instead of supporting the teacher. Most staff in that district had been beaten to the point of putting up with just about everything, fully aware from within that they are on their  own. At least half the teachers at the continuation school frankly told me that they transferred away from the comprehensive schools precisely because of the lack of support.

What a day for me, and for the students, too! Most of them do not have stable parents at home watching over them, keeping them in line. Probation staff are also losing their authority because of the growing fear of lawsuits and alleged civil rights abuses in the juvenile court schools. If teachers cannot command respect in their classrooms, then no one is going to learn anything.

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