January 31, 2005

One of the many jobs with which I keep body and soul together (or at least within spitting distance of each other) is a gig for a company that helps students prepare for standardized tests. I work with the programs for elementary and middle school New York State math and English tests; this means I go into schools populated by poor kids of color and subvert the racist and classist educational system by teaching them test-taking tricks that rich white kids get for free with the hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of education their parents buy them.

The main thing that worried me when I first started working for this company was that I would have to come into contact with actual children, a population I both fear and despise with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns. Luckily, however, I ended up in the “professional development” branch; this meant that I simply went around New York City training teachers in using the company’s materials. This has been a fairly satisfactory: though the commute is often unpleasant (once I had to go to Canarsie, for God’s sake), the money is good, and the sessions rarely last more than two hours, so if I get stuck with a particularly obnoxious teacher, I know that in less than 120 minutes I’ll never see him or her again.

Then, three weeks ago, I made the terrible mistake of accepting a different kind of assignment: I would go to one school for seven Wednesdays in a row and work with teachers in the classrooms, making sure they were using the program correctly and generally being a cheerleader (a function I can still perform even after being kicked off the gay cheerleading squad). I would also do some teaching myself.

I never used to have a strong opinion on corporal punishment in schools. Well, I thought, I don’t see the harm in smacking the hand of a kid who misbehaves. On the other hand, I also understand that that’s probably not the most effective way to win kids’ trust and respect. In other words, I really could have gone either way.

I have been to this school for two Wednesdays in a row, and now I think that children who misbehave should be put to death instantaneously, in as painful a way as the imagination can compass.

I can’t even begin to tell you how horrible it is. I’m dealing with four classes of sixth-graders. One of them is almost bearable; they sit quietly and listen to me as I talk to them about math, and they answer my questions. To be sure, there are occasional outbursts of youthful vigor, but my heart is not made of stone; I smile indulgently and continue with the lesson. Two of the classes are made up of heartless recidivists; half the time they listen, and the other half they shriek wildly amongst themselves, gibbering in their utterly incomprehensible adolescent language, impervious to any pleas on my part for silence and attention.

They pale, however, in comparison to the fourth class, which is populated solely by monsters in human form. They laugh and scream and run around no matter who is in the room. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them rise up as one and eat whoever they decide is the runt of the bunch. Or me, for that matter. Even their regular teacher, a lovely woman who clearly adores children and has the patience of a saint, can’t control them; how then can I possibly dream of doing so except by judicious application of a machete? I wake up in the morning thinking about them and fearing the day I next have to see them. I loathe them. I abhor them. I would give my immortal soul not to have to see them ever again.

On the other hand, the school principal is a totally hot latin daddy type, so maybe I can stand another Wednesday or two.

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17 Responses to One of the many jobs

  1. JP says:

    You were kicked off the cheerleading squad? Apparently I missed something.

    And, it’s “white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.” If you’re referencing the “Cheers” episode. Which, now that I think about it, you’re probably not.

  2. Jess says:

    Then I guess the goal is to get the “totally hot latin daddy type” principal to “rise up … and eat” you (just not in the cannibalistic way)! πŸ˜‰

  3. i. bendito says:

    Would that I had guidance of the sort only Faustus can provide during the dark days of my preadolescence… then again at that time you were a prezygote and could not have lent much input.

  4. Lucky J says:

    Thank you for this hilarious post, as well as the thoughtful email I received last Friday. After reading it I surely felt the same way as you did after receiving Liza’s autograph.

  5. SPG says:

    Kill them all!! πŸ˜‰

  6. Jere says:

    Yeah, I want to know why you were kicked off the gay cheerleading squad too. πŸ™‚

  7. Convivia says:

    “The white-hot intensity of a thousand burning suns” is how I’ve always heard it, and I didn’t know it was on “Cheers” (though hurray for them for using it!) I thought it came from a crappy 19th century novel by Bulwer-Lytton or Marie Corelli or Ouida or Blasco Ibanez or someone else of that ilk. It was certainly in use in my family long before the premiere of “Cheers”, so my guess is that my parents got it from wherever the “Cheers” writers got it from.

    Speaking of “Cheers”, I always had a beef with the theme song. My idea of a place where “everybody knows my name” is either a) the small town I grew up in, or b) jail. In neither case do I feel the need to go there and relax.

  8. JP says:

    My lack of couth is exposed once again. I do agree with you about the theme song. The idea of a place “where everybody knows your name” is actually rather frightening.

  9. sam says:

    I thought I had missed something there, but apparently I am not the only one to have not heard the tale of you getting kicked off the cheerleading squad. At least I don’t have to go to the Pride Parade anymore… But do tell.

  10. Monica says:

    The first children’s poetry workshop I ever did contained 45 sixth-graders. I had been told to prepare for 20 or so elementary school children.
    There was one boy who found any excuse to work the word “pimp” into anything he wrote, and then there was a darling boy who wrote about his “exquisite melancholy”.
    I didn’t like sixth graders when I was one–if only the exquisite melancholy boy had been around back then…

  11. David says:

    Your heart is not made of stone?

  12. JP and Convivia: I bow in the presence of true wisdom and knowledge. I was referencing neither Cheers nor Bulwer-Lytton (which was my mistake to begin with–how great would life be if people only spoke in quotes from bad 19th-century novelists and 80s sitcoms?). A first pass at cursory research (i.e., Google) fails to reveal the Ursprung of the phrase in question. Anybody else know? And as for the Cheers theme song–to me the place where everybody knows your name is a mental asylum. Which would perhaps be an easier place to live than America today, but still.

    Jess: I will, of course, allow myself to be guided by your sagacity.

    i. bendito: I think that even as a prezygote I probably had a tendency to insist that others do things my way.

    Lucky J: I don’t think I’m quite in the same inspirational category as Liza, but thank you for not taking me to task for my boorishness.

    SPG: Would you care to sub for me this coming Wednesday?

    JP, Jere, and Sam: My exit from the cheerleading squad actually happened months ago. The tale will be told here soon enough.

    Monica: I think I was exquisite melancholy boy. I remember writing a poem in free verse about whippoorwills in sixth grade.

    David: No. It’s made of a mixture of black tar and volcanic ash.

  13. Sin says:

    Spoilt brats who need SAT prep here in Karachi are even worse. They all need to be soundly beaten.

  14. AC says:

    I taught public school for a total of nine years. I would do ANYTHING to avoid ever having to do it again.

  15. Sin: Perhaps you and I can join forces. Or maybe we can just let the hot latin daddy do it all.

    AC: I agree with you, and I’ve been on the job for two days.

  16. Jason says:

    Is there a word missing in the second paragraph of this post? I’m sure I’m missing the primary point, but, then again, maybe not.

  17. KELLI says:

    Tell the cheerleading story already!!!!


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