Saturday, August 28, 2004

Smart-Ass

Only about two-thirds of my students showed up on Thursday and Friday.

This is typical in Cleveland City Schools at the high school level. For some reason, there seem to be quite a few kids who will not start coming to school until after Labor Day, even though classes will have been in session for more than a week. The reasons vary from; "I was working", to "I was out of town", to "I had to get a babysitter" , to "I don't know".

I am pretty enthused about the kids I've met so far. Mostly polite, a few kinda bright, and one delightful surprise.

About halfway through my 4-5 period class on the first day, a group of older boys came strolling in with some excuse about being in the guidance counselors office.
"Fine." I conceded, "Take a seat."

I had been sitting at one of the tables with my students when the boys came to the door, and my class roster and lesson book were on the table where I left them. A tall, skinny kid, about 18 years old, in skater shorts and glasses plopped himself down in my spot, and pushed my papers to the side.

"That's my chair... move." I said as I walked up behind him.
"You told me to take a seat. I like this one."
"Move." I reiterated
He leaned back in the chair and just smirked.
"Why are you getting an attitude with me?" My voice was getting louder."You don't even know me."
"Why are you getting an attitude with me?" he countered.
With that, he stood up, walked across the room, and grabbed an empty chair from another table. Dragging it across the floor, he placed it right next to chair I had been sitting in.

I was incredulous and the rest of the class was silent.

"No! You are not going to presume you can walk into my classroom and rearrange the furniture. Put the chair back or get out."
I could feel myself starting to lose my cool.
"And by the way," I added "You need this class to graduate. Have fun in night school."

Angrily, he stood up, put the chair back, and sat down.

I continued my review of the syllabus, and then began a discussion on "What is Art?"
Every question I asked, this kid's hand went up. Each response was insightful. He got it!

A grin was beginning to spread across my brain. I found a free thinker.
No rules... testing the boundaries...I could work with a smart-ass.

Shortly before the end of the period I said,
"I'd like to talk to you before you go to your next class."

When the bell rang, the young man approached my desk.
"What?"
"Rough start." I smiled.
"Yeah," he answered "I wasn't in a very good mood...tired"
"I understand... You're pretty smart."
His eyes lit up as he looked past me. "How many computers you have back there?"
"Three, but they are all slow...gunked up with games and garbage the kids have downloaded off the internet."
"Who's supposed to clean them up? You?"
" I haven't had time, and Mr Rivera is pretty busy. These computers haven't been a priority"
" I can clean them for you. I've been working on computers since I was seven. I've learned a lot from my dad, and a lot on my own."
"You a geek?" I laughed
He nodded and grinned.

Friday after class, my new student got busy in the computer room, and before long, everything was back up to speed.
I'm starting to get a real good feeling about this new school year.

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