Did you see the Olympic women’s gymnastics team win gold? Who didn’t? I applaud them and their coaches for their great work and their victory. Awesome effort, awesome results, awesome cuteness factor, something the government, I mean the corporations, will be able to take to the bank. An all around good day for America.
Hey, didn’t those girls look like they study hard and get A grades in their foreign language classes? I’ll bet they do! They remind me of how the little four percent white girls I used to teach before I turned the tables on them looked like as they year after year took their places in the front of my classes, memorizing stuff, following directions, being special, going for the gold in French class too.
I know it’s a gross generalization, and I may piss some people off here, but it’s my blog and I simply don’t care, but what about the fat kids? What about the uncoordinated kids? What about the losers? What about those kids with chains on their jackets and piercings and tattoos all over the place?
Lest any of us forget, and we do, those losers AND those winners are our students. No Child Left Behind, right?
Most kids deal with the constant unending drudgery of school, even the four percenters, by getting into extracurricular activities in or out of school. Gymnastics, football, choir, yearbook for the cute and shiny ones; potsmoking, skating, hanging out on Colfax for the not so cute and not so shiny ones.
And classes? Classes for the cute kids are… well, classes are just vehicles to college. The cute kid gets the A, or whatever GPA is necessary to get into college. Classes for the noncute kids? Thanks for asking, they are a special form of hell.
Actual learning? Not that big a deal, truthfully, for the special kids as well as the non-special kids. No real actual learing for either group. Lots of memorization, but not a lot of actual learning going on.
For the cuties, a good smile goes as far as a lot of studying and doing homework to make the A happen. The A is what counts. For the not cute, a bad smile with teeth that reflect a diet based in poverty won’t get the A, but hey, they’ll take a D, right?
Both the cute and the uncute kids tolerate school so that they can see their friends and be in clubs, whether they are good clubs or clubs of rebellion. Right?
But what if the losers who are usually disenfranchised by the wonderful girls in the front row, those girls who so much resemble our American gymnastics team, found a place where they were creative beyond measure in a random messy looking group of freaks who happen to be able to rock a French class?
One of my career goals as a teacher has been to help kids out who hate life and hate school learn to embrace life and get a real education. Maybe I was like that in my military school in northern Indiana. Maybe a lot of us hated school! Now, I can do reach those kids, and in it reach and re-teach myself, because I now teach in a way that allows ALL my kids to enjoy the process of learning a language.
Rose, my best student last year, before she was expelled for grades (all F’s with no “effort” in any classes and could never say no to a good hallway fight) was a supertalented auditory learner. She was a talented artist. When she left in February, with a perfect A in French class, it wrecked the class and we never recovered.
We had come to depend on Rose as a boat depends on its rudder. Her mom actually came to me with Rose and challenged me on my evaluation of her talents in French. I told her the truth, that she was my best student of all my students at Abraham Lincoln High School, and that her being pulled out of school was very upsetting to me.
I told mom that Rose’s leaving ruined one of my classes for the rest of the year. I told her that I didn’t think Rose got a fair shake. I told mom that I was deeply sorry that she didn’t believer in her daughter and had to come to interview me personally when her daughter told her that she was getting an A in French. I don’t think mom believed me. I am still pissed about that.
Where is this mini-rant going? It is going in the direction of pointing out one of the great advantages of using CI in our classrooms – that, as long as we use CI, our classes are never going to be filled with white female blond hair memorizers. Cheerleaders are of course welcome, but they can’t run the class. I’d say that is a great reason to do CI, maybe the best reason of all. With CI, we can give kids who have no hope some hope. How does that sound? I like it.
I am not disparaging the Olympic girls. I am just reminding myself here that America is, or was, an equal opportunity country, giving chances in life to everyone. If I can finally do that in my classroom, it makes me more of a patriot, a conscious patriot.
Using CI in the classroom makes me a patriot who KNOWS that his work is patriotic and that it embraces what we as Americans are really all about. I like that. I like proving to kids in class that a lot of what they have been told about themselves is simply not true. I like democracy when it is actually democracy.
Very cool, Ben, very cool. Keep on doing it.