Monday, October 1, 2007

Public Education is So Not Gay

* names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent

Just before 1st block started today, while all the kids were milling around, going back and forth between the classroom and their lockers, I overheard Adam tell someone that they were "so gay," which I reprimanded, but not two minutes later he was referring to someone as "a beaner" which I also addressed. I still can't believe my ears when I hear this kind of crap. The combination of feeling incredulous and hopeless makes me want to fall in a puddle of clothes and evaporated human onto the floor.

I noticed that Darren had a laser pointer. Had to nip that in the bud right away. He was showing it off and pointing it at Jacob's book while he was trying to read. It took two warnings, telling him I would take it away, then he put it up.

After a half-hour or so of constant chatter and interruptions I got so frustrated that I just told everyone to put their heads down on their desks. I planned on waiting until they were still and quiet, then continuing on with the activity. After a minute or two, I told them to lift their heads, and as soon as they did, they started griping and complaining and bitching and interrupting. So, heads down again. We did this more times than I could count. Ethan got up and walked out of the room when I refused to meet his demands to go next door and ask Mr. Teacher to adjust the air. When he came back a few moments later to get his books to take to ISS, Jordan walked out with him. It was then that I realized that the two of them have joined forces against me and I will have to deal with them this way for the rest of the year. Not looking forward to it. Ethan has just returned to regular school this year after spending the past few years at the alternative school due to behavior problems. He is twice the size of the other students and has already threatened one little kid (see previous post). Jordan has a "mental illness" that require that I not "be direct" with him, or else he will "shut down" which translates to I can't so much as say "Jordan, get to work" without him flying into a rage and, if I'm lucky, sitting at his desk with the look of a demon on his face refusing to do any work at all. Together, Ethan and Jordan are going to be the evil version of Batman and Robin.


During my planning, I decided to walk over to the library to turn in a form that was due a few weeks ago, and I overhead the assembly which I at first thought was some sort of animal being tortured, but turned out to be a motivational speaker, from what I could surmise. It was loud, energetic. The kids were laughing. Grrrrr. Skulk to the library. Frown, frown. Stomp, stomp, stomp grumpy back-hurting, feel older than I am. Probably should've gone in and listened. Could've used some motivation. But I had stuff to do.

Hannah drove me crazy asking over and over again if she could go to the library to turn in her overdue book. I told her no over and over again, and each time she got louder and whinier. The first thing they want to do when the get to the classroom and in their seats is to get out of the classroom and/or out of their seats. They want to use the bathroom, blow their noses, sharpen their pencils, go to their lockers, go to the library, etc. etc. etc. just constantly and randomly getting up out of their seats and I can't get them to sit down, or if I do get them all to sit down, I can't get them to shut up.

The most aggravating thing today was that I could get neither the dvd that is attached to the tv nor the dvd on my computer to work, so I wasn't able to show the video I had planned. I tried everything I knew to do. I even called in Mr. Teacher from next door, and he couldn't figure it out either.
What good is technology in the classroom if it doesn't work (or if I don't know how to work it)?

So weary. Is it only Monday?

Postscript: As an update, I should report that in reaction to Adam's "so gay" comment, he apparently received nothing more than a stern - maybe even a not-so-stern - talking-to from an administrator. I hope it was at least a stern talking-to, but I suspect not. Every other time thereafter that I referred a student to the administration because he had used the term "gay" or "queer" in a derogatory manner, the administrator did nothing more than meet with the student (the referrals I got back after the event simply read "met with student"). The issue was not addressed in any substantiative way, as is proven by the fact that the issue continued. In fact, I don't imagine that the administration would even recognize it as an "issue," as I do, because they do not place importance upon or feel the rage and disappointment that I feel in the face of flagrant homophobia and hate. The administration would likely give only politically-correct lip service to the idea of promoting true diversity, diversity that includes sexual orientation, while meeting in their heterosexual-family value churches every Sunday morning before the school week starts. Students' homophobia is a problem that is swept under the proverbial carpet because the school administration and staff are most likely uncomfortable with gays themselves; they can relate to their homophobic students. In fact, my students once told me that the social studies teacher on my team uses the phrase, "That's gay" when someone says "something stupid" in his class.
I have the memory of a goldfish; I keep forgetting, or never really getting the fact that homophobia exists. In any case, true to grassroots protest form, I'm going to reclaim the term "gay" from the enemy, turn it into a positive, and proclaim: Public education is so not gay.


Katie said...

Amber, things are no better here in Yankee land. My kids call things "gay" and "retarded" on a weekly basis. They do say it under their breaths because the first week of school I tell them that I hate people saying either of those terms in the wrong context. I also went off on a kid who said an assignment was "gay." I asked how that could possibly be because an assignment is not a living thing, then reminded the class that I am personally offended by people calling things gay.
Kid: Why do you care? You have a boyfriend.
Me: So what? I have friends who are gay. Several people I know are gay, and I like them all just fine.
Some Other Random Kid: Are your friends guys or girls?
Me: Both. And you have to remember that plenty of people in this room may have gay neighbors, relatives, or friends. You could be offended a lot of people or making them uncomfortable.
Some Other Kid: Gay girls aren't gay, they're lesbians.
Quiet Girl: Ms. M is right; my next -door neighbor is gay and he's so cool.
I doubt that most of them really learned anything, but hopefully a few did...

Amber said...

You're right; this isn't just a Dixie land issue - anti-gay attitudes exist everywhere, especially, I guess, amongst middle schoolers.
I think there are a range of pockets across this country, pockets of homophobia and pockets of fabulous gay bliss ;) as well as the in-between places where attitudes are more fluid.
Reading your post, I also realize that I should've taken a more proactive stance on the issue, like you did, at the beginning of the year, instead of waiting for it to happen and then reacting, then relying mostly on the administration to deal with the issue, when really, it's my issue and I should've stood up for it.
I think (one of) the reasons that I wasn't more vocal, at the beginning of the year or otherwise, about my personal offense to homophobia, is that there would be the good chance that my students might then accuse me of being gay, and then I would have had some serious choices to make about how brave I was willing to be, about rather or not I was going to say "yes" or "no" because "I'm not going to talk about my personal life." wouldn't have cut it at that point. Students would have made their guesses, and most likely would've guessed correctly, which could've meant big trouble for me.
I wasn't very brave as a gay teacher; when my students tried to play matchmakers between myself and another teacher (the same one who uses "That's gay." to shoot down "stupid" comments, by the way), I gave vague answers to their inquiries such as "No, I don't have a boyfriend." earlier on, and then when they persisted later on, "I'm dating someone." and then, the old stand by, "I'm not going to talk about my personal life." when they wanted to know "his" name.
Anyway, I have to forgive myself for not being the gay superhero. I could've done better as a teacher, all around, but I've got to let myself move on and try not to beat myself up about it; I'm meant for something else.
But, you, Katie, you rock so hard as a teacher! I can tell by the things you say about how you deal with your kids. You're awesome! I love you! Thanks for commenting on my blog!