Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mediocrity



Mississippi River Valley - A dead field amidst bursting life - or only the final flare before all rejoin in the shadows of life.

Mediocrity

The majority of the world is ruled by mediocrity, and my fear is that my kids will realize this; my other fear is of my own hypocrisy and that of my fellow educators in the expectations for behavior that we hold for our kids.

I became the subject of my own scrutiny, and subsequent contempt, when I discovered myself exemplifying the very behaviors we claim are detrimental to our students learning and future, behaviors for which my students have earned my admonishments. I will continue under the assumption that I am not the only adult who finds himself doodling, dozing, day dreaming, fidgeting, goofing off, counting down the minutes or disrupting my neighbors, while in a learning environment. Not only can I not be the only adult, but more importantly I am not the only educator who, if observed by my students, would lose all credibility after a few minutes of observation in a “classroom” setting.
Though I have known this about myself and have observed this in others before, it was not as clear and salient because I was not fresh from the classroom, I had not the lens of someone who has to deal with this problem everyday. I was aghast to say the least, yet could do nothing to change my behavior. My behavior was the product of fatigue, hunger and boredom; then after lunch it was the product of food coma, more boredom and pressing thoughts about things that needed to get done after class.

ALL ISSUES THAT OUR STUDENTS HAVE DAY TO DAY!

I appreciate the importance of the information that my instructors were attempting to transmit, yet the presentation was not engaging and I could not force myself to overcome that, I just couldn’t! Time ticked away slowly; every long winded explanation, every monotonous monologue felt like an eternity. I looked at my watch to discover that what felt like 3 hours, had in fact been only 30 minutes. When it was time to read - I read, when it was time to discuss – I discussed, but those discussions soon took on irrelevant topics, and when it was time to write and reflect on the “activity” I discovered that I could not for the life of me connect it at all to what I would do in my classroom. Lord have mercy! Did I not just describe to you the typical student on a typical day in a typical class? As I looked around, and as I reeled in, my neighbors, were for the most part equally disengaged. The main difference between ourselves and our students is that we are not wholly disruptive when we are disengaged, but that is only because we are adults who are getting paid and whose jobs rely on not acting like douche-bags when representing our school at a Professional Development. Our kids have no such incentives!!! They only have our vague promises that behaving and paying attention will somehow lead to a better life in some distant intangible future. What some of them realize, and with information more readily disseminating every day more and more will come to also realize, is that they do not need to pay too much attention, they can in fact be slightly disruptive (within whatever parameters that keep them from getting suspended), and still succeed in this world!! The day this becomes clear to the majority of our students – I only pray that I am long gone from this earth.

Let us pause and reflect on our own lives in order that we better appreciate the truth of what I am saying. Think back to the last 3 bosses you have had, in retrospect, after working for them for a few months or years, how many of them were you shocked to discovered even graduated high school, or could use a knife and fork to eat at a table? And yet they made 3x your salary and worked 2/3 of your hours. They were in fact very likely to have been B and C students, who went to a mediocre college and earned similar grades there, they were hired by an ordinary company where they managed to not piss off the people in charge with too much thinking and too many ideas and were eventually promoted for lack of better options. They don’t know Africa is a continent; who our secretary of state or their senator are; they are not sure of which country or when Stalin was president and they certainly cant tell you a damn thing he did; they likely have not read a single piece of classical literature (certainly not after school); nor can they name anyone besides Beethoven and Mozart as being classical composers; they don’t know the diamond they bought their wife was mined by a black SLAVE who likely lost at least a few members of his family in the last coup d'├ętat by someone promising change and a better life – all the while raping the females of all those who looked at him wrong, killing the men and enslaving the boys as soldiers and girls as whores. But this ignorance does not stop them from having their car, house, annual vacation, RV, golf club membership, 200 inch plasma TV, gold watch, spoiled kids and perhaps a nice young mistress to boot.

So why the hell should my kids, who often have to work, take care of siblings, manage life with a parent or brother in jail, with a relative murdered, who may live in a temporary home, who wear the same clothes almost every day, who in fact cannot buy the loose-leaf paper I need them to have in order to participate in class – listen to a damn word of what I am saying about paying attention, working hard, being respectful and not disruptive? Am I the embodiment of hypocrisy? Do I represent the “American Lie”?

I fear to some extent I do, I fear more the extent to which I do it.
But what good is a realization if there is no lesson is learned from it? I do in fact have a take away: first of all most of my kids don’t know all this about our world and reality. Thank god!!!!! Though that saves me from appearing hypocritical it does not change the fact that they still behave the way they do in class, and learn the little that they do while there. Also they are mostly black and are immigrants which certainly does not guarantee them such an easy path to that house, car and middle management position as it does to an equally (or less) intelligent white American citizen - and this I proclaim as fact and in this I am wholly honest when addressing them. I see then that my job is to, using all available resources and strength, find ways to engage them, to relieve the feeling of time dragging slowly past with daggers of boredom skinning their consciousness, to interest them in the process and content so as to create as much momentum as possible going into classroom situations where the instructor may not give such a damn about how they turn out (college) or the effect they will have on society (and vice versus).

2 comments:

  1. T,

    Don't forget - some of these asshole bosses/leaders came from elite/rich families (i.e. George W. Bush). They have had success without effort because of the hard work of those before them (i.e. George H.W. Bush). For this case, it's important to note that indeed SOMEONE had to work hard at SOME point in order to attain wealth. H.W. didn't just sit there popping kids hoping one of them would become president, he worked his ass off and became one himself first.

    Obviously, there is another example, case in point: the cast of Jersey Shore. Sure, you can ultimately rely on your own stupidity or a little bit of luck for wealth and fame, but this is not a sustainable source of income. Why do you think the stupidest of the lot come back to do reality tv shows like "Celebrity Apprentice"?? Key examples of people having no shame, all for money. Make these idiots look like true idiots in your classroom.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't let a mere culture of mediocrity in the movies or MTV get in the way of pushing your kids. Ultimately, you must be the one to keep pushing positive role models in their faces; role models who stress the importance of hard work and putting in your time. A good example for our students is Michael Jordan. The guy's worst shot in high school was his fadeaway jumper. He made it his best. And an interesting fact about him: In high school he picked up sewing lessons because he thought he'd never get married. Truly a prime example of a guy thinking not just about today, but tomorrow and the day after.

    Yours,
    Yo Mista

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  2. Dear Mista!

    Certainly there is no sign of surrender from my camp (as the last paragraph indicates)!
    It has been difficult to fit in role models but you are most certainly right that I should - and so i will! :)

    What other examples do you, or anyone else, have for great role models?

    Thank you, as usual, for your support!

    Mr.T

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