Monday, October 29, 2007

when the leaves plummet down

hockneyizer number one - 1995
When I returned my first set of graded papers, a kindly student, Eric, stayed after the bell. If I remember correctly, he had earned a 'B'; a pretty good understanding of Lady Macbeth's motives.

"Mr. Rodoff? Yeah, um, I want to thank you for taking the time to grade our papers. But here's the thing: You spent a lot more time on each paper than any of us did."

hockneyizer number two - 1996
I am coaching the lacrosse team at an all boys' high school. It's our first day of practice. I tell them, "If you've never played lacrosse, you'll learn rather quickly that it requires a lot of running."

"Okay," says one of the would-be midfielders, "Why aren't you running with us?"

hockneyizer number three - 1997
It's my first year at Springfield, quite possibly my second class on my first day. A student in one of the dark corners of the room raises his hand.

"So, you got tired of teaching just guys? Learned you're not gay? Is this why you want to teach at a school with girls?"

hockneyizer number four - 1998
Serving as the Faculty Manager at a basketball game, my job description is simple: make sure students don't curse or do anything inappropriate that would reflect negatively on the school.

Colin, sitting in the back of the bleachers, sees his web design teacher. Colin yells out, "Yo, you failed me, bitch. I oughta kill you!"

I remove Colin. I write him up. The next day I am in a meeting with my Principal. I ask, "How long will Colin be out on suspension?"

"Are you a Principal?" he asks. "Sometimes the fear of punishment is more effective than any punishment. Maybe you should learn that before you tell a Principal how to do his job."

hockneyizer number five - 2002
The students I am teaching are low-achieving seniors. They are respectful, but I can tell that literature is lost on them. They speak of careers in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work.

At a meeting with the Special Ed. Coordinators, I ask about teaching life skills.

"It's not our job," says one of the Special Ed. Coordinators, "to teach them how to do their laundry. Is that what you think you or any of us are here to do?"

And that ends the meeting.

hockneyizer number six - 2003
One month before I leave for Japan on my Fulbright Memorial Scholarship and I am well-beyond excited. I begin preparing my students for my trip, sharing with them some of the beautiful elements of Japanese culture.

Two students ask questions, rapid fire:
"So you'll be the tallest one over there, right Mr. Rodoff?"
"How does everyone in Japan walk or drive when they always have their eyes closed?"

hockneyizer number seven - 2006
A student passes me in the hallway between A and B block. She asks, "Is it true that I won't have you for English next semester? You're going to work with teacher instead? I was looking forward to having you. I've really been looking forward to your class. I even read the prerequisite reading. And I've never done that."

So, Taylor, would you believe me if I told you that all of these snapshots are the reasons why I think the good ones stick around?


Blueyestars said...

What about the year of 99 at SHS?
Referring to 2002, Life skills, when all else fails, Life Skills need to be taught! That is their job, unless told otherwise. Then you go above them! :/ I find that crap at its best, when taught to think outside the box and not able to teach and go above and beyond the box! At this rate, almost becoming a teacher, I see it almost as a ‘what if’ dream for me, so I might as well prepare myself for the Golden Arch (dislike the smell of Ketchup) or back to bagging! How do you like your Coffee maybe better, so I can drink on the job!
I know that when my time comes, I may not be liked by the fellow teachers, but if the parents like me and the students are learning so I am doing my job.

I enjoyed your writings. Keep it up!

Andrew said...

These were all awesome. And you ended on a great positive note. I agree with blueyestars... keep it up!

ken said...

@blueyestars: At the end of every day, at the end of every year, I thoroughly enjoy what I do. And that enjoyment stems from the amazing people that I've taught and worked with throughout the years. No one is perfect and I'm surely no exception, but without the experiences noted in my post, I would not have the ability to adapt to new situations and people. And if you're taking orders, I'd like a Grande Joya del Dia Blend. But I think you will do far more impressive things in your life!

@andrew: thanks for plopping some text on this little blog o' mine. I can't lie: I thoroughly enjoy the comment feature! the one transparent joy of teaching is that I'm never short of subject matter!

Jim Gates said...

Very nice post. I could appreciate every one.


Just WAIT until you have a student who sits quietly most of the period in the back of the computer lab and then asks, "How come YOU'RE our computer teacher?" I respond with, "Why wouldn't I be?" To which he replies, "I thought computers were for YOUNG people."


I'm a very lucky man. In this (hopefully my last) year of teaching I get to go back and work with the kids again. I can't WAIT to hear comments like this and others you mentioned.