Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Student Teacher, Part 12

For every little success experienced in the classroom, there were two failures. For every pupil inspired, another was alienated, and still another discouraged. Perhaps it was because I was young and still a student, filled with a student's ideas of how things should be taught and learned, and not a grownup experienced in what methods work and which ones don't. At any rate, the kids I could not reach are the ones I remember most often.

Of course, there was Russell Karp. I may have been able to push him to the margins, to reduce his disruptive influence on the class, to tone down his antisocial behavior, but I could not reach or teach him.

A new kid started in my first class in March. Distressingly thin and always looking as if he'd not slept the night before, he spoke in slurred monosyllables, if at all. The seat of his corduroy jeans was flat, almost as if his backside had been surgically removed. No matter what commotion was going on in the classroom, he sat expressionless, staring at a fixed point. On the rare occasions that we had eye contact, I detected no one at home. After his first week at school, I began to suspect drug use. I decided to bring it to the attention of the principal the next time I saw him behaving in a strange manner, but I never saw him again. He was absent one day, then another, and then he was gone, almost as unnoticed as when he arrived.

So many of my students could not be interested, in anything. I remember a girl with brown, straight hair and a pale complexion, plain and ordinary in every way, dressed so as not to be noticed, speechless, emotionless and completely devoid of any self-esteem. Had she looked bored, I might have known where to start, but she looked nothing. I thought she needed extra attention, but when I gave it to her, she seemed mortified.

Toward the end of the term, I asked Miss Tygart what was up with the girl. "Cindy?" she asked, squinting as if to recall her face. "Cindy is 'present.' Perhaps her time will come later in life."
What sort of a life could there be without youth?

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