Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spare the Cane, and Enable

About five years ago, I was asked to cover the class of an AP. It was a wondrous thing coming in from the trailers to a classroom full of computers, something I'd rarely seen. The kids were mostly doing something or other on them, and I mostly let them do it.

One boy kept listening to music on his iPod. I asked him to put it away, and he did. I carried on, doing whatever I was doing, while the kids carried on doing whatever they were doing. But a few minutes later, there was the same boy, listening to the same iPod. I explained to him that if the principal walked in, it would be me getting in trouble if I allowed him to listen to it, and he put it away again.

But five minutes later, he was wearing it again. The hell with it, I thought. It's not my class, so I called the dean. The dean arrived and confiscated the offending instrument. The boy was distinctly unpleased, and I came to the conclusion he would not, in fact, be sending me a Christmas card that year. I resigned myself to this sad conclusion, and went back to doing whatever it was I was doing.

When I finished doing it, I went to the dean's office. A woman I had never seen before started shouting at me. "You're the guy who took away my son's iPod? How could you do that? That's his enjoyment! I don't ever want you to teach my son!"

A few things went through my mind at that moment. One was that her son's English was certainly native, as shown by some of the choice words he offered the dean upon the removal of this enjoyment device. This in itself would preclude his attending my ESL classes. Quite frankly, though, another was total agreement. I was not at all anxious to teach this boy, nor would I have wished to call this woman and report on his conduct in class. However, in a rare exercise of common sense, I said nothing at all and left the office.

Perhaps his conduct would have been better had I been his regular teacher. It's pretty tough to be a sub. I've never much liked it, and I absolutely never volunteer for it.  Some people do it for the extra money, and some people I know are much better at it than I am. But kids I know are rarely so flagrantly disrespectful. And honestly, while I've had uncooperative parents, that was the first and only time I heard one so passionately defend a kid's blatant violation of school rules.

Am I naive? Should I not have been shocked? Do things like this happen to you each and every day?
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