Sunday, November 28, 2010

Call me!.....and don't trust black dudes

A note one of my students gave me prior to leaving for Thanksgiving break:

"Dear Mr. Lowe,
Hav a faburistic Thanx-Givin. Love you, we all do...
tell ur wife 2 call me!
Candie Monster

How nice. My wife never called. Bummer.

Then, as I was grading the exams they took on Tuesday before the break, I came to a shocking answer that details just a lil' bit of racism in one of my students. We've been researching the case of Emmett Till (see previous post) and so the whole test had to do with Emmett Till and the events surrounding his death. As a wrap-up to it all, the last question on the test was:

"Based on the facts and testimonies given, whom do you believe? Why? (Remember, you need to base your decision in FACTS from everything we've read)"

The correct answer would consist of either siding with Emmett Till or his accused murderers based on an assortment of facts (there was more evidence for Emmett Till's side; there wasn't enough evidence to convict the murderers; the witnesses gave perfect testimony to convict; etc.).

RC's response: "I think black men can't be trusted."

Ummm.......a brief history - or civics - lesson may be in store.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


In the spirit of the giving of thanks, a few things I'm thankful for:

And the best of all...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vocabulary Blunders

Although grading is one of my very, very least favorite tasks, I do love seeing all the random answers I get on vocabulary quizzes. Here are a few of the best examples from Friday's quiz:

1. Segregate: "I dog and cat are separate at the pet shop." --AD

2. Segregate: "He was segregated be his girl friend." --MR

3. Indigenous: "The boy and the girl were indigenous in the store together." --MR

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Do I do the prostitution?"

As a wrap-up to our unit on Emmett Till, we are doing a review the day before the test, but instead of a game or a review sheet, we will be doing a mock trial, complete with a judge (myself), lawyers (select students) and a jury (everyone else). I explained the ins and outs of a trial, including when the prosecution presents its case and when the defense presents its case, opening and closing statements, etc.

I didn't realize that they had no idea what "prosecution" and "defense" mean, so an interesting conversation followed my explanation. R, one of the lawyers for Emmett Till's side (the prosecution team), came up to me and asked a question. Now you need to know that this girl, along with many of her classmates, speaks so softly that I have to practically touch my ear to her lips in order to hear what in the hell she's saying. Here it goes:

RG: "(mumble mumble mumble)"

Me: "What was that?"

RG: "Can I do (muuuuuummmmbbblee)?"

Me: "Can you what?"

RG: "Is prostitution okay?"

I honestly thought that I heard those words come out of her mouth.

Me: "Is prostitution okay? No, it is not okay. Why?"

RG: "Well, I'm making my case for Monday and I'm not sure where I go. Do I do the prostitution? Do I prostitute?"

Me: "No, R, that's prosecution. To prosecute. And yes, you are the prosecutor. You will prosecute the defendants."

I couldn't stop laughing. I informed her in ever-so-politically-correct terms that prostitution is, in fact, walking the street and soliciting to pervs, while prosecuting is making a legal case against a defendant.

And, thus, her vocabulary grew.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Young Love...

I'm so mad at myself that I can't remember who I took this note from because I'm actually interested to know who's getting with who's man. I'll call them S1 for "Student 1" and S2 for "Student 2."

S1: "J's girlfriend is mad becaues she nows I can git him anytime I want to. She said she will fight for him and he said that I will win and hunrt her to."

S2: "OMG! so are you and J going out?"

S1: "No not yet but we will are you Ok and your boyfriend OK."

S2: "Yea but I didn't get to see him in 3 days I think his mom or dad takes him to school because it is cold outside."

S1: "ok cool."

S2: "does that mean he loves me if he comes down my bus stop everyday."

S1: "yes that way he does it."

S2: "oh why does he always smile when he sees me"

S1: "becaues he know you ok and you love him."

It reminds me of my courtship with my wife: I used to always go to her bus stop and she definitely had to bat off some hoes to get what she wanted...except for the whole part about me getting with other girls, that part's not true at all. But she did fight some beezies along the way. Young love.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today is just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Plain and simple.

Fighting the bull

There is a girl in one of my classes that only comes about 1-2 times per week on average. She is very defiant of any authority and she is difficult to work with when she does actually come. I just flat out didn't like her. She never comes to class, but somehow she scored a 100% on my unit test. I know she didn't cheat, I watched her like a hawk because, at that point, I wouldn't have put cheating past her. She is a very smart girl that just doesn't want to behave or, for that matter, even come to school.

She got a 10-day suspension three weeks ago for fighting, so last Monday was her first day back. I was dreading it. It's not that I didn't want her to come back, I just hated that I hated her. I didn't want her to come and have bad feelings toward her because I felt like I wasn't being a good teacher. If she didn't come back, I wouldn't have to confront those feelings.

She came back.

I prayed silently for patience with this girl, M. I saw her coming down the hall and the dislike was coming up in me. She walked past me to the bathroom, then came out and was about to pass me. I realized then that I had to be the one that changed. I said, "Hey M, how was your weekend?" She smiled. It was the first time that I had seen her smile. She responded, "It was good, I didn't really do anything." I then told her that I was glad she was back and couldn't wait to have her in my class later that day.

Since then, she has been wonderful. She came every day last week, took notes, raised her hand and participated on her own. She was a different person.

On Wednesday, I found one of my students with a phone so, per school policy, I took it from her. She then wrote a note to M and they went back and forth until I took the note from them. It read:

CB: "Hay! Hw yah doin!"

MH: "Good and u?

CB: "Fine and bored, Imma b gud so i kan try tah get tha phone bak."

MH: "He's good like dat, lol, he will give it back."

CB: "I kno! I luv him (az a teacher!) datz wat up"

MH: "Hez kinda cool! lol

CB: "Kinda! He iz! He colorful, but yu kno I dnt want my brutha 2 distrust me!"

CB was one of my worst behaved students at the beginning of the year, but we were able to have a breakthrough and now she is in the palm of my hand. She behaves very well and if she has a problem, she comes to me like an adult and tries to solve it without freaking out. The other teachers have noticed a significant change in her. Now MH was coming around. The girl that I had previously loathed was now say that I am cool.

Yeah, it's just a couple of lines. Yeah, it might seem stupid. But I was able to meet her halfway and now we can have a great relationship and she can truly shine. If she can get a 100% with behavior problems and never showing up, imagine what she can do now that she's coming and wants to participate.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm getting through to at least two

As stated before, our entire unit is focused on Emmett Till and what really happened that night in 1955. The students are very engaged and I was so stoked to find my students writing this to one another. Generally, passing notes consists of illegible or completely absurd conversations about who-the-hell-knows, but this one was spectacularly different.

AB: his face so messed up he used to be cute

AA: awl wat happen I wanna kno! you ain't even gon tell me? LOL but I will find out today.

AB: Nooo but his face is messed up I could not sleep afta I read all dhis. I been to where he got killed and where they dumped his body at...

AA: Where? is it a book? wat iz it?

AB: No its a true story, no book.

AA: but you said you read it. im scared to look! i wanna kno wat happen!


AA: oh. on google? or anotha web sight? OMG im finna (fixing to/going to) cry!

AB: google he got his own page

AA: oh my GOD dats wrong, oh GOD dat iz

These two girls know how to spell very well, but apparently it's not cool to spell correctly when you write notes. Kaboom.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A regular Tuesday, a murdered boy and a changed class

This takes a more serious tone than my usual rants, but it's totally worth it.

My students are usually well-behaved and pay attention in class, but they have yet to really grab onto something and claim it as their own (although the letters to the superintendent complaining about the current - and completely bogus - grading scale really did great things for their teenage angst appeal among one another). They seem like they're completely content with just going day to day, learning their bit and moving on to the next grade. I needed something to get them fired up.

And thus it was...

His name was Emmett Till and he was murdered. In the summer of 1955, while visiting family in a small town of 500 called Money, Mississippi, he unknowingly committed a terrible sin that would prove to be the catalyst to his brutal death. He whistled at a white woman. He had grown up in Chicago - in the more moderate North where such behavior would have warranted a smack on the head and strong words from his mother - but he was now in Mississippi, deep in the Delta, embroiled in the racist South.

Two men - the woman's husband and his half-brother - kidnapped Till in the dead of the night, drove him 30 miles to a remote barn, and proceeded to beat and torture him until sunrise. They then took him to the Tallahatchie River nearby, tied barbed wire around a 130-pound fan and then around his body, shot him in the back of the head, and threw him in the river.

Two days later, the world witnessed the fruits of their labors.

The boy died in 1955 at 14 years old. It kick-started the Civil Rights Movement. It showed the nation what atrocities were happening at that time in that section of the country. It did all these things, but most important to me: it made my students realize that the world isn't perfect, but they can try their hardest to make it just a little better.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is Memphis a state?

Today all of my classes went to the library to dive into some research. Yesterday and today, we focused on getting specific topics and researching only those topics and nothing else. I told them to get into groups of three and choose any country in the world, then focus on something very specific about the country (Mexican food, Canadian sports, Italian fashion, etc.)

First problem, a lot of the girls didn't know any countries past the United States and an embarrassing majority of them thought that Africa is a country.

The most terrible conversation of them all went as follows:

CG: "Hey, Mr. Lowe, we need your help. Is Memphis a state?"

Me: "Is Memphis a state? No."

At this point, I thought they were kidding. They are 14 years old. 14 years old. I soon realized that they were dead serious.

BJ: "Well, then, what is it?"

Me: "It's a city in Tennessee."

BJ: "So Tennessee is a country?"

Me: "No, it's a state. What country do you live in?"

The three of them looked at each other doubtfully and uncomfortably.

Me: "What is the name of our country?"

KM: "Don't we live in (she mumbled something)?"

BJ: "Yeah, what she said."

Me: "Ladies, what's the name of the country that you are in right now?"

KM: "Is it the Uni...ted States?"

Me: "Yes, yes it is the United States. Ladies, it should not have taken you that long to answer that question."

14 years old. 14 years old.