Sunday, June 12, 2005

Baile Rochel #7 The Little Darlings

Baile Rochel’s Back! #7
Eve of The 28th of Iyyar
June 6, 2005

The Little Darlings…

Well, not quite so little. I’m referring to those teenage boys I teach. Some of them are a bissel* large, but I can’t let myself notice that, or I’d never be able to control them. On a good day they are adorable, but on other days… I look forward to retirement.

Those little darlings respect strength. Every few years I have to prove I’m no weepy middle-aged wimp and hope that my reputation won’t need quick renewal. One year I wrestled a chair from a six foot two (about 1.85 meters) senior. He wasn’t one of my students but had walked into my classroom to “borrow” a chair. That’s one of my “no no’s.” “This is no storage room,” I boomed. “You had better give that chair back and if your teacher needs one, he should go to the maintenance staff like I do!” I grabbed that chair like a mother lion fighting for one of her cubs, with my young impressionable freshmen watching in awe. Finally the senior slunk out chairless. Ok, he figured that it didn’t pay to fight such a nutty lady over a chair, even with an audience. I’m probably older than his mother.

Sometimes I buy their respect with more skill and dignity. One day, all dressed up for my son’s high school graduation, I approached the school and saw some of my students shooting hoops. They passed me the ball; I prayed real hard, and the ball went right into the basket, after a professional looking tap on the backboard. Of course, they may not have realized that I used to be a gym teacher; though my specialty was Creative Dance and Creating Games with Dead Balls. My proudest moment was at a teachers training session when we were having an informal basketball game. I found myself holding the ball, surrounded by all the tall, agile athletes. Then I caught the eye of my teammate, one of the other rare short and dumpy teachers. Figuring that there was no way that I could throw the ball to him over the octopus arms threatening us, I just rolled it to him. Perfect catch!

The time has come for me to find a new success to buy respect. All the witnesses to my previous ones have graduated, and boys need proof before they fully accept a teacher. This year I threw out almost half my seniors, since they hadn’t done enough work in previous years to have a chance to pass the finals. I told the administration that I only care about those willing to work, and if a student only walks in to the classroom to disturb, he’s not welcome. It took a while until everyone understood that I was serious, and nobody appreciated it more than the remaining students. Once they knew that I would fight for them they worked harder.

I teach English as a Foreign Language, EFL, as it’s known in the profession. It’s a very difficult job, especially since I generally get the weaker students, those whose native language skills are poor. And it’s so much more difficult to learn grammar, literature, composition etc in a language you barely understand.

It took me quite a while to comprehend why they looked blank when I gave examples from Hebrew grammar. Simply, they don’t know Hebrew grammar. That propelled me on another quest, to try to change the general curriculum. Now I buttonhole everybody I know involved in elementary and junior high school education telling them that there must be radical changes in the foundation curriculum. Young parents are also targeted. I urge them to take a good look at what their children are learning and how. And of course, I tell them not to be shy and not to trust the bureaucrats.

Obviously, I don’t win any popularity contests. OK, sorry, this isn’t very funny. But let’s think of it differently. If the curriculum and teaching methods were what I say they should be, I would never have been asked to teach. That’s because a number of years ago, during an unpleasant period of unemployment, I was asked to “do what I could” with a few failing high school students, even though I had never taught English before.

After a few minutes of training and lots of encouragement, I began teaching the “little darlings,” and as the saying goes: “The rest is history.”

*wee bit

Baile Rochel
Copyright©2005BatyaMedad, Contact me for publication permission; private distribution encouraged.


Batya said...

I don't know if I'm all that successful. I have a lot of imagination, and teaching boys has its advantages. One thing about me; I never expect to be liked nor try to be liked.

Unknown said...

Sadly teaching is often a thankless job in the immediate moment, but when the future arrives many a halo has developed over the heads of those we forgot to thank.

Michael D. Fein
Editor-the Gantseh Megillah

Batya said...

I never thanked my good teachers properly. There was such distance way back when.
some of my students are so wonderful when we meet up.