Saturday, September 15, 2007

Motivational signs

Seventh period Friday, my last class of the week. Didn't really feel like being in the classroom, so I decided to do some hall walking. I've got a student teacher that period, so I asked her if she'd be OK if I left. My plan was to snag all the kids coming into class late and force them to walk around with me.

Three fell into my trap. As they walked up to the door, three minutes after the bell, I stopped them. "Nope, too late, you're coming with me." Two of the guys have been late every day this week. The third is the quarterback on our football team, and he protested. "No, come on, I want to learn," he said. "This is my first time late."

"Sorry, man, you picked the wrong day to be late," I said, and off we went. We slowly walked away from the classroom. Got a chance to mingle with the real hall walkers. It's only the second week of school, but we've already got kids not going to class, just wandering around, trying to stay away from security guards.

I wasn't content with just walking around with these guys, so I pulled out some fliers I was supposed to hang on hallway walls. They're little motivational signs that say interesting things like "You can make today better than yesterday" and not-so-interesting things like "Be respectful. Walk" or "Why are you shouting? They're right next to you." I always hated the signs, thought they made the school look cheap. And scolding. But then I accidentally signed up to be on the committee that posts them.

"Here, guys, hang these up," I said.

"What? These stupid things?"

"Get going."

Two guys got rolls of tape, and the third had to hang them up.

"You know that no one reads these things. They're so stupid."

"I'm not the one hanging them up. You guys are, so don't call them stupid."

"You know they're just gonna rip these down."


"I don't know. Them. They just walk down the hall, have nothing to do, so they rip stuff down."

"Yeah," I said. "How does that make you feel? Here you are working so hard, and someone's going to come along and rip it all down."

We noticed one sign that's been up since the start of the school year that no one has touched. It lists all division teachers and their rooms. One of my guys pointed out: "No one's gonna rip that down, it's got the bell schedule on it."

We laughed.

The guy hanging up our signs all of a sudden started posting them high up on the wall. "No one's gonna rip down my signs," he said.

Teachers walked by, laughed. "Is this your idea of detention?" one asked.

The principal walked by, then hung out for 10 minutes. I think my teaching style amuses him. He chatted with the guys, lightheartedly making fun of them.

"So, have you completed a pass this season?" he asked the quarterback. "Interceptions don't count."

"Yeah, had a touchdown last week."

We all laughed.

A teacher poked her head out her door. She saw me. And the principal. Went back in. Five minutes later, she poked her head out again and whispered to me, "Trying to teach here ..."

We moved further down the hall.

"I have a question for you," one of the guys said. "If Bin Laden attacked us, and he's from Saudi Arabia, why are we attacking Iraq?"

And so it went, 46 minutes of talking about politics and war, the football team, mean teachers, how quickly the school year's going already, how it took me two hours to prepare the lesson they're missing, a plan to get to class on time on Monday, and then the bell rang.

"Here," I told the quarterback, "one more."

"Oh man, I'm putting it right here," he said and quickly slapped it up on the wall as students started filling up the hallway. "I'm not gonna let anyone see me putting these up."


Anonymous said...

I really like your blog. Your accounts of your CPS hs students show them as people rather than the cardboard stereotypes seen in the local mainstream media. Keep it up!

appopt said...

Thank you! I'll try to keep it up, as long as visitors try to keep it up and read from time to time. I'll try to post each day after school, for two reasons:
* to remind myself what happened that day.
* to remind myself to focus on the students. Every year as a teacher, I get so frustrated by the job, but it's usually something to do with downtown, or the administration, or colleagues, or one rotten kid. When I reflect on the vast majority of students, though, I realize that it's an amazing job.

Anonymous said...

Love, Love, love your blog. Please keep it up!

appopt said...

Monday Update: All three guys made it on time today! Woo-hoo! For two of them, the solution was simple: They have lunch sixth, but can't take their bookbags into the cafeteria. So I told them to drop their bags in my room on the way to lunch, so they wouldn't have to run all the way to their lockers before and after lunch. Well, they remembered, and were in their seats before the bell. Proud moment for me. (Patting self on back.)

middleson said...

great stuff. it is experiences like this that they will remember.