Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Wolf-Children of Austin's Loisaida.

I got a sub assignment for today and tomorrow at a middle school not too far away. Poor neighborhood, downtown, mostly Latin kids. The teacher was there when I arrived; she was doing something in the building all day, just not in the classroom. She left a test for the kids and then they were to watch WALL-E and write down 10 things they noticed in the environment of the film. (It's a science class.) The test was fairly advanced stuff for 6th graders, stuff about cells and genes. I don't know how they did with it -- it's still very hard for me to gauge how much learning is actually going on amidst the chaos.

The teacher left seating charts, which helped, at least insofar as I could get the kids to sit in the seats assigned to them. Taking attendance is a minefield. All the Spanish names you'd think would be pretty straightforward but they're not. Some kids won't acknowledge you unless you roll that double R like Charo. And the next kid gets angry if you pronounce Gabriel with a long A. "It's Gay-briel!" I can't even begin to parse the politics going on there. And there's always a couple indigenous names with Xs that are never pronounced the same twice. It made me laugh that a black girl named Ty'quishia was delighted when I called her name -- she said, "You're the first sub to say my name right!"

It's so draining. I guess getting up at 5:30 is a factor. But the emotional exhaustion of being such a close witness to the mess of these kids' lives, it's heart-wrenching and it wears me out. It's like they've never had any socialization, any civilizing influences in their lives. They're like very smart 2-year-olds. Every now and then there's one who is hostile, but for the most part they're just clueless. They have no self-discipline; they literally cannot control themselves. It's like a nursery and an insane asylum and an animal shelter. They're adorable, hilarious, extremely manipulative, and sad as hell. They're feral is what they are.


lady of Luella said...

Wow, what a commentary. What observations. great post!

Anonymous said...

It was a similar experience stage managing (and occasionally filling in as a class leader) for a kids' theater program here, which was my second job in New York...

The younger kids were sheer delight (it tended to be their parents who caused problems); they were all love and enthusiasm.

The middle school group...exactly what you observed. Zero self-control or self-discipline. Zero real interest. They could barely read, they couldn't write a single complete sentence, had no connection to their own thoughts. Sarcastic, mean, racist (they actually straight-up admitted one day that they didn't listen to me because I acted white, but they did listen to another teacher because she acted black), careless. Like frighteningly intelligent toddlers.

I don't blame them; they were smart as hell, and could be immensely charming; I think at base they were attention- and approval-hungry. I think I blame a school system and entire society that tells them they're nothing and encourages them to DO nothing that really matters. They're expected to behave like sociopathic children, so they do.