Tuesday, May 17, 2005

My Month of Hell

OK, the eyes are feeling better now, no longer doing the Bela-Lugosi's-Dracula-in-the-sunlight thing. Hooray for that.

While celebrating my newly renewed vision, I was taking a stroll through other peoples's bloglists. From the list of Doc in the Box (for whom I am still grateful for my first ever list link) I found El Mundo de Cancer whose author goes by the Nom de Blog "Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-files". His post Racing Toward Idiocy: Team U.S.A. versus Team U.K. brought back some painful personal experiences I had as a teacher, particularly about the time I had to help grade the school's writing assessment papers.

So there I was, an engineer in between jobs who thought that I could make a go at teaching. Junior High no less, that wonderful age between child-like innocence and adult self-control. After a few months of bouncing from one school to another, I was offered a long-term assignment to take over a class whose teacher had been promoted mid-year to Assistant Principal (aka Seduced by the Dark Side in the parlance of my school-district employed relatives). The position taught two periods of math and two periods of "language arts", the unholy conglomeration of English, Writing, and Spelling. If there was anyone who might cross the conceptual gap and teach both subjects, I thought it would be me as I knew I could teach math and wrote well, I hope.

I might have stood a chance, but only if I had understood why someone said "Dead man walking" when I first entered the teachers' lounge. I might have been able to make a difference had I not spent so much time immediately fighting for control of the room. And my fighting for control of the room might have gone more smoothly had I not spent so much time banging my head against a wall, ie asking for help from administration.

The time came when all of the students in the school had to take the writing assessment. Essentially it is the practice of rating an essay on an assigned topic in order to gauge the students' writing skills. I came away from the experience with several pieces of knowledge:

1) Very few seventh graders at that school could write in cursive. More common was an oversized, blocky scrawl that probably would have looked better when executed in spray paint.

2) A misspelled word in a thought is like hitting a pothole. Twenty-five-plus misspelled words in a one page essay is like taking that final ride with Thelma and Louise.

3) A kid who can say "Like" three time in one spoken sentence can just as easily put three into a written sentence without realizing just how much more annoying it is to read than hear.

4) Somewhere in the twenty-five years since I was in junior high, someone got the idea that punctuation is optional.

So thank you, Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-files, for ripping open these wounds and setting my therapy back about six months, you go on the blogroll. I hope you are happy with yourself.

1 comment:

Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Pleased as punch, hehe.

*evil grin and long drag on imaginary smokey treat*