Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lynwood: Hosler Middle School: Emotionally Disturbing

Could it have been any worse than the previous time, in January?

Yes, indeed.

The second class of emotionally disturbed students that I covered for, this class had articulate students, not autistic or suffering from mental retardation of any kind.

But they were rude, crude, and with no other rule than to act up at the expense of everyone else.

They had no respect whatsoever for anyone, especially for me since I was a substitute covering this class for just one day.

There were three paradecuators in this class, including Sally who was transferred from Ms. M's class.

These kids were able to talk and write, and they engaged in higher order work than the other class, where the other teacher just babied them along with first and second grade worksheets.

These middle school students, five adolescents in seventh and eighth grade, were wicked-clever, in that they had manipulated parents and school staff into putting them into a special ed class for the emotionally disturbed.

This labeling has done more harm than good for these students. They are not emotionally disturbed, in that they had an organic brain disorder which requires medication. They have no boundaries at home, they have no parents who will hold them accountable for the things that they say or the choices that they make. All the medication in the world is not going to fix this shameful situation, which for many students puts them into a bondage which they rarely escape.

Two black and three Hispanic students, and only one of them, Jaime, was calm and well-behaved, wearing the school uniform without any pretense of refusing to conform to the dress code. Then there was one fat kid, Jose, one who called me and the other staff names. This kid laughed defiantly when I interrogated him: "Do you talk to your father like that?" He gleefully admitted that he did just that. The parents are just falling down on the job when it comes to raising their kids, and more than ever teachers do not have the authority to discipline students as needed. The whole affair is a growing disaster for youth who need a lot more than just a pat on the head and an easy treat when they act right.

Another kid was the quiet type, Ezra, but he could get out of hand at any time. The two black kids were a bit of study in distinction. Jack was a heavy-set type, wearing the largest, shiniest orange jacket I can ever recollect seeing. If someone has traced a zig-zag white line across his back, he would have looked like one of those Hostess cupcakes. The other kid, Carl, was a thinner, more frail one, but he sure loved to talk.

The class started out OK. The staff took Jose out of class the first ten minutes, because right away he was dead-set on causing trouble, since I was "just a sub" to him.

Jaime got right to work, never once did he have a problem. He seemed likely to go places, and if he could get away from the mad-house of Emotional Disturbed kids in a legally and morally disturbed environment like LA County Office of Education, his success all the more would have been assured.

Ezra was trouble toward the end of the day. He tried to take his cellphone out of class, enough that one of the staff threatened to call security. "You know better than that!" she lecture Ezra. Later in the period, he got so frustrated with the questions that I was asking, that he pushed his textbook on the ground. One of the staff members thought that he had thrown the book on the ground, which was enough to suspend him for the day. The confusion over one book falling on the ground served as a metaphor for everything wrong with public education. The students who do not know how to deal with the frustrations of life, which in part stem from the very schooling which they endure on a five-day-a-week basis; the staff members who are forced to walk a fine line between discipline and discouragement when dealing with the most unruly elements in the inner city school system. The threat of violence and danger at any stage of the day; the apprehension of wondering how much a person is really expected to put up with: all of these issues can play havoc with a staff member who is just trying to get through the day - and in that case, I am merely indicating the full-time people. Substitutes like me rarely stand a chance altogether in dealing with the tsunami of stupidity which has washed away any credibility in these schools.

These kids had been allowed to be temperamental and unruly for so long, I did not imagine that we would have had much victory with these kids. And that's a problem right then and there -- they are not kids, in a sense, but on their way to being young adults, yet the special ed administration babies these students in the worst way.

Jack would just not sit still. He would not focus, he would not listen, if I told him to go right, he would go left. He refused to do one thing that I told him to do. Finally, I just sent him into another room for the rest of the day. Carl was the defiant one in the room toward the final hour. When I told him that he was going to fail the class for the day, he just shrugged his shoulders and said "So What?"

So what, indeed!

The day had started out so well. Jack had promised, in his cupcake jacket, that all would work out just fine. He promised to behave himself. So much for promises.

Don't get me wrong. The math and English that we did early in the morning, those lessons went very well. The full-time teacher I was replacing for the day knew how to set things up very diligently. She commanded a great deal of respect with me, especially since many teachers refused to leave any plans at all, and in many cases the supporting staff refused to do anything. They took advantage of subs as much as the students did. What a shame all around!

That one class at Hosler Middle School had a very diligent assistance staff. They brooked no nonsense, but even they could do very little aside from exhort, cajole, and threaten every once in a while. But how many times can an adult take a student outside of the classroom? How many times before these students start to realize that "The Emperor has no Clothes" -- "The Teacher has no real authority?"

The whole scene belongs under one heading: Emotionally Disturbing. Hosler Middle School was no exception.

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