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.