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March 2009

lost my shit

TeacherMoi Wow, what a day. For the first half hour of class there was me . . . and six students (of 25). I cannot get it through people's heads that they need to be on time for class, or within a couple of minutes of on time. Not fifteen. Not twenty. Not a half hour. I have a couple who wander in as much as an hour and a half late in a two-hour class on a regular basis. I'm not sure whether they don't care or if it's that no one has ever taught them how to be a student. In some cases, I realize it's life getting in the way; they have families and many of them also have jobs. Juggling work, school, and kids is not easy. There are parent-teacher conferences, court dates, job schedule changes, overtime, rush hour traffic, parking meters, and picking the kids up from school to contend with. But with a number of them, I suspect it is a lack of knowledge about what being a student means and what its responsibilities entail.

That's particularly true of one student who's been a hijacker of my class since she first arrived. She's habitually late. She missed the first two days of class entirely (we meet once a week), then gave me a song and dance about not being able to download the syllabus from her computer (it's just as easily available from the computer lab here). She shouts over anybody with whom she does not agree (which is almost everyone). Today, she had a hissy fit about the two papers that are due at the end of the semester. One is 5-10 pages, the other is 10-15 pages. She seems to think this is an inordinate and unfair amount of work. Considering the only thing she has turned in is the midterm in 9 weeks of classes where there is an assignment every week, this makes me laugh.

Well, not really. Her response to "discovering" she had two large papers due at the end of the semester (we're now halfway through it) was the aforementioned hissy fit saying this was way too much work (there are two two-page papers due sometime during the semester for the class that requires the 5-10 page final paper. That's it.). The best part was that she threatened to go talk to the administration about the amount of work I was assigning. That in itself was pretty funny, but she was so obnoxious about it that it disrupted the last 20 minutes of the last class.

And I totally lost my shit in front of the class. Briefly, but still, I lost my shit, and lost control of the class. That has NEVER happened to me before. I'm really embarrassed at how unprofessional it was. At the same time, I'm proud that I reined myself in much more quickly than I would have at another time in my life. Apologies will be forthcoming, and so will a statement of rights and responsibilities.

The bright side was that the rest of the class rallied around me. One student pointed out how easy they were getting off (and they are) compared to other colleges. A number of them came up after class and agreed with me, as they had when the disruption was going on. A couple have emailed me to show support. Several stayed after to do the same. The ones who did recognize that there's a "type" of student at JOC (probably not at the main campus of CNR) who have not yet figured out what this education gig is all about. They're still mentally in the high school mentality, and some of them are still in what one student called the "ghetto-fabulous" mindset that she said she herself had been growing out of gradually since coming to school. Most of my students realize that education should and does change you: it changes your thought patterns, your speech, your skills, your style of communication.

It's funny, but we'd been discussing Octavia Butler's story "Speech Sounds," in which most humans lose the ability to communicate with each other, and the few who retain the ability to speak or write are in danger because of the frustrated rage of those who can't. Civilization has fallen apart as a consequence of the lack of communication in this story; and that's just what happened in my classroom too: lots of shouting, no real communication. Hmm, there's a teachable moment.

And here's the draft of Kottner's Classroom Rights and Responsibilities:

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Natasha Richardson, RIP

Cry in your beer Moi  

The Accident

He crouches beside her,
the space too small for his tall frame
even were he the one tucked in blankets, like she is.
He folds himself onto the narrow seat
and holds her hand through the flight,
through the long, uncomfortable drive
to yet another hospital,
this one closer to home,
as she held his
when it was he laid out here.
When he lay there, he could feel his bones
grinding, already cracked,
and now it’s his heart, because
she feels nothing.
He caresses her face with outsized hands
(an ex-boxer’s hands, blunt, thick, rinsed
of brutality now)
as he has done
for fifteen years
and two children—boys, a year apart
—prays they won’t be motherless
so young,
and he a widower.

There is little hope.

Or so I imagine
from the news reports.
But it needs little imagining, and
the actors need no names.
Not long ago, it was my mother
and a stroke,
and my bantam dad
held her hand too,
and like Natasha,
she never knew that last caress.

© Lee Kottner 2009


a new schtick

Photographer Necessity is the mother of invention and hard times bring out people's creativity. I was heading down to Whole Paycheck yesterday (I've got to stop shopping there; I can't afford it), when I spotted this guy (below) and his beastie, just hanging out on the corner of 14th St. and Union Sq. West. The cat seemed quite comfortable and pretty friendly. Whenever someone took a picture, the guy asked for a buck or two, which seemed fair. It's his cat, his image, his time. I gave him two; one for him, one for the cat. That seemed a small price to pay for the amusement value. He looked and sounded like a typical construction worker/blue collar kind of guy, who was apparently out of work. The cat, he said, was about two years old and looked well-fed and cared-for. A woman standing next to me claimed that she saw Parisians walking around with the cats on their shoulders all the time. I can't say I noticed that when I was there, but it was August and any self-respecting Parisian had left town. Is it true?

Cat-on-head