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Merry Charisma-s

March 13, 2012
teaching new orleans

Christmas maybe 1984. My grandparents lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma. My dad's family tried to convince us Santa was real, and as a cynical 4 year old, I acknowledged their efforts. To one of my students in New Orleans, charisma and Christmas are one and the same.

A student of mine told me that his girlfriend was at court today for a gun charge against her. My student told me he prayed for her last night, that she’d get off like he did when he took his gun on the RTA and the police came to our school, put us on lock down, and arrested him only to have the charges dropped. A couple minutes later I heard rumblings of a drive by shooting they were involved in.

A male student I had earlier this year has a baby on the way. This student went from 8th to 9th once his LEAP scores were recovered from a school that shut down last year. That took 3 months. Then he left our school to go to a school a little ways away from here. His name came up this morning because he has a new girlfriend at his new school, but his baby mama still lives here.

Another one of my male students revealed he has a baby on the way. This guy also left me a 30 second voicemail this morning about how he was so, so sick with the flu, and then showed up all grins at school. Must’ve decided his severe case of the flu was actually a severe case of the Benchmark exams.

Speaking of Benchmark exams, I spent the afternoon coaxing, prodding, poking, and encouraging 2 students to work on a reading exam. Both fought me, slept, pretended to be sick, made “emergency” bathroom trips, broke multiple pencil leads, lied, stared out the window, feigned migranes, and then generally gave up. We give kids exams to test their reading comprehension, but they can’t read. It’s like giving the kids a 200 word essay prompt yesterday asking them to describe in detail someone who has charisma.

“Charisma? That like the other half of Christmas?” sputters out of the mouth of a student who sits in the desk that backs up to the window, giving my always-sweating student a cool breeze.

“No, sweetheart, cha-ris-ma is not the same as Christmas. Let me explain.”

“Oh, well it sounds like Cha-ris-mas. I have Cha-ris-mas. Once a year.”

Oh, the joy of teaching to standardized tests (which begins in Louisiana next Tuesday), the one size fits all version of a torture chamber for kids who can’t read or write, and whose vocabulary range rivals a 3 year old’s. Merry Charisma-s, sweet children. Presents for everyone!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. moonmaid permalink
    March 14, 2012 8:09 am

    I’m sitting here on vacation in Florida checking the court dockets to see the date of my student’s upcoming felony drug possession trial. Great, it’s right around the time of when his girlfriend gives birth next month. So I compose another email to him, just to keep in touch, let him know I’m on his side, and reminding him to show up to school so he can graduate and provide for his family. $14 an hour vs $9 an hour, I keep telling him. He nods, serious expression always, and tells me, don’t worry I won’t miss no more. And he keeps cutting class. Two arrests since January. 80s and 90s on his science and history assignments. Drives me crazy.

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