Monday, February 21, 2011

A Brand-New Insult

Lunch detention.

Bane. Of. My. Existence.

If there's anything that gets my blood boiling, it's realizing on Thursday at 9:55 a.m. - 15 minutes before my lunch period, yes, I said lunch period - that I have to do lunch detention that day. Thirty minutes of sheer hell, dirty looks and snide comments.

"Why do I have lunch detention?! I didn't do anything!"

Last Thursday, among the convicted were two girls - both of them new to our school - who had served lunch detention only the day before and were in my lunch detention because they wouldn't stop talking during Wednesday's detention. A vicious circle. They were flabbergasted that I had called their names, even though they had been warned. They put up a fight. I wasn't interested, told them to get in line. They gave me dirty looks and made snide comments. Go figure.

When we got to the classroom, they began to talk, then would FLIP the F out when I told them to be quiet, thinking that the counter, "I wasn't talking!" with a dirty look will make me forget what I had just seen. Anyway, they kept talking and would repeat what I would say in a mocking fashion. Pissed me the hell off.

So, finally, I had had it and looked up their parents' phone numbers to call right then and there. I had purchased an iPhone only the week before and was still learning the tricks. Well, apparently it's easier to put a freaking shuttle into orbit than it is to enter a simple contact into your phonebook because when I tried to make the call, it kept pulling up the e-mail.

Thanks, Steve Jobs.

So I'm trying to deal with these girls while trying to decipher my technology and finally one of them says, "Just get on your phone and get out of my business."

I figured it out and called the dads. They were livid. They talked to the girls and put them right in their places. But the girls were still mad during my last period and they showed it. Dirty looks and snide remarks. I caught them passing a note and so, per classroom rules, I took it.

CG: "Wat he say"

KW: "Mr. Lowe ugly a** told my dad that i had talked back 2 him He a junkie azz white trash ni--a."


Within ten minutes, I had both of these notes on my desk:

CG: "Mr. Lowe, I so sorry for my RUDE behavior today and I just wanted to say sorry for everything. And KW is too."

KW: "I'm sorry for talking back and doing what i'm not asked to do. I will not do that again."

I love reading notes.


Junkie Azz White Trash N---a.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sometimes They Just Can't Win

As funny as my students can be and as much as they can make me laugh, they can also break my heart just as easily. When I moved to Memphis, I knew I would learn a ton from the kids, be it slang or customs or culture. One thing I didn't foresee was the hurt and the pain that these kids encounter on a daily basis; life's hard, but sometimes it seems impossible for some of my students.

Yesterday, one of the students in my homeroom came up to me before the first bell rang and asked to use the restroom and I told her she could. (A bit of middle school background: the beginning of the day is as close to a "running of the bulls" as I'll ever come, especially because my room is right next to the drinking fountain and bathrooms.) That said, I didn't remember that I had told A she could use the restroom and just assumed she was running late. As homeroom was ending, she came to my door and apologized for being in the bathroom for 20 minutes, but she needed to talk to me.

AW: "Mr. Lowe, I'm sorry I've been gone so long in the restroom, but I was just sitting on a toilet crying the whole time."

Me: "What's wrong? What's making you cry?"

At this point, I'm honestly thinking that she's having drama with one of her friends because, let's face it, 14-year-old girls can get pretty petty and ruthless at times.

AW: "My dad...was killed last night."

She and I had spoken on previous occasions so I knew that her parents were divorced and she lived with her mom. She wasn't really close with her dad, but I knew that they talked or texted about once a week or so.

I'm still a bit hazy on the details, but apparently he was killed during a robbery by two men who have since been caught by the police.


I remember growing up and the biggest tragedy I encountered was when my best friend's parents divorced after 17 years of marriage. He was destroyed. I thought his world would cave in. We, too, were 14 at the time.

But that pales in comparison to what A is going through.

It's a tragedy that she has to bury her father at 14.
It's a tragedy that she had to find out that he was dead through a text message. It's a tragedy that she lives in an area where this isn't all that uncommon.
It's a tragedy that no matter what she does, she may very well go through this again with someone else in her family.
It's a tragedy that a divorce isn't the biggest letdown of her life.
It's a tragedy.

I had no words for her. I couldn't relate to her because I can't relate to her. My great-grandfather died when he was nearly 90 years old. My sister's best friend died pre-maturely at 25 and that's the closest I've come to death, even though I was 7,000 miles away when it happened. It's unthinkable that I've gone 23 years without experiencing something that a 14-year-old is having to endure right now.

Yes, I'm thankful for my upbringing and feel so lucky to have had that atmosphere growing up. But more than that, I'm terrified for her and every other one of my students who have experienced this. What's going to change it? Education. Who's going to change it? Only themselves. I can do my part, the city can do its part, community leaders can do theirs, but until my students realize that they don't have to experience this, nothing will change. They need to be the change they wish to see.

It's tough to hug a 14-year-old daughter of a murdered man and tell her that everything's gonna be alright because maybe it's not. Maybe not for her. But she can make it so everything is alright for her kids. And her grandkids. And her great-grandkids. But for now, everything's not alright.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bie-ber Fe-ver

A wonderful conversation to follow up a snow day:

BE: "Hey, Mr. Lowe, B and I are going to see Justin Bieber's new movie tonight!"

Me: "Can I come?"

BE: "You wanna come?! Yeah, you can come!"

Me: "Is it okay if I blow-dry my hair and wear a purple jacket like Bieber?"

BE: "Of course! We're going at 5:30."

Me: "I was just kidding about coming with you, but I am going to blow-dry my hair and wear my favorite Bieber Fever t-shirt."

Three minutes later, both girls come up to me with t-shirts in their hands.

BE: "Mr. Lowe, these are the shirts we're going to be wearing!"

BE's has a huge pic of Bieber's face on it; BB's says "The Future Mrs. Bieber."

BB: "You can only come with us if you wear a shirt like mine."

Me: "You think you can get that in a large? I'll totally wear it, but can you imagine the looks I'll get?"

BB: "Well, you can only come if you wear one like it. Will you really wear it??"

Me: "YES! Actually, no, so don't waste your money or time looking for one. Have fun tonight."

No Bieber for me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Funny Grading Moments

On this wooooonderful snow day, I've been able to catch up on some much-needed grading and, as usual, it wasn't a humorless experience.

I started by grading some vocabulary tests; due to an illness last week that had me out for a day and a half, we only had two vocabulary words (exemplary and consistent), so it should have been ridiculously easy. The students were required to match the word to its definition and then use the word correctly in a complete sentence. Some kids just left it blank if they didn't know, but some were pretty clever in trying to disguise the fact that they couldn't use the word in a sentence:

DJ: "My teacher told me to use exemplary in a sentence."
DS: " 'I really don't understand the definition of the word exemplary,' Frank said."

Sure. Blame it on Frank.

Another student, AG, threw her best friend, J, under the bus.

AG: "J's consistent facial expression was making me mad."

After vocab land was done, I moved on to some poems that the kids wrote while I was sick. They were supposed to follow the ABAB CDCD EFEF GGGG rhyme scheme, but could choose their own topic. D's was by far my very favorite because 1) it is actually pretty good and 2) it's so out of character because he is far from a ladies' man. It's a bit racy, but what can you expect when the music he listens to talks indiscriminately about much worse? Nonetheless, I'm proud of his writing ability, it's a huge growth for him.

I had a dream about this girl,
And I can hear, hear her voice.
She dressed in nothing but pearls
And she gave one choice.

I thought that I was alone
But I didn't waste my time.
She made me feel at home,
I searched up and down each line.

She has the [sic] of a butterfly.
She will always be in my heart.
I told her don't never cry,
We can go back to the start.

She will always be my girl,
I will show her to the world.
You make me turn like a swirl,
You will always be my girl.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Alter Ego

Q is a bit of a loose cannon - she is incredibly smart, but nonetheless prone to bad judgement when even the tiniest thing makes her mad. I was going through some old papers and found this conversation that I wrote down that we had a few months ago, it's good for a laugh.

QT: "I gotta talk to Mr. L before I hurt someone."

Me: "Who would you hurt?"

QT: "PW."

Me: "Why?"

QT: "Because she messing with me and she said I put her head into the wall and now she wants to talk about it."

Me: "Well, then, maybe you should talk about it."

QT: "I can't. It's against the code."

Me: "What code?"

QT: "Roman's code."

There is another student whose last name - and nickname - is Roman, but he's the very last person I would ever see hanging out with Q, so I'm a bit confused.

Me: "Okay, whatever. You cannot hurt her."

QT: "But Roman says so."

Me: "Okay, who is Roman?"

QT: "My alter ego."

Hmmm, well, you can't argue with that one. If Roman said so...