Tell me if you heard this one: a student sits in class, and s/he is bored. The lesson is not challenging; it’s just more of the same rigmarole that s/he has heard time and again. So the student, bright, bored and frustrated, acts out: s/he makes rude comments; the student wanders from his/her seat; s/he challenges the teacher’s authority with verbal jabs and by ignoring the lesson.
Sound familiar? We’ve all seen these kids in our classrooms; hell, some of us were those kids. I know I was.
Now you know that kid? Well, I have that kid’s opposite.
There is a kid, whom I will call Bucky, who is just about as dumb a person as I have met. I pity the dumb as I also envy them; they may not know what’s going on around them, but they seem happy that way and that’s fine, at least for them. Bucky is so dumb that he fucks up spacing out. If they gave out grades for lunch, Bucky would have an incomplete. Bucky is one more piece of proof that intelligence and jaw muscularity are directly proportional. Bucky drives me insane with his inability to think beyond the seven seconds his brain is currently failing to cope with. Bucky is failing P. E. for the third straight year. Bucky is so frustratingly ignorant and rude that I feel that I deserve sainthood for not wearing his blood like sloppily fitted crimson gloves. I find myself hoping, daydreaming, that Bucky tries something violent after school, so I can throw him into a trashcan so that he can begin his work on the rest of his life.
But I can’t do that. I am Bucky’s teacher, and while everyone else has given up on him (I’m not saying they’re wrong for doing so, mind you), I cannot. So I told him to meet with me after school so that we can discuss this day’s outburst and try to find reason and peace in the class. He didn’t show, and that’s a good thing, because then I didn’t have to face a moral quandary.
Had Bucky shown up, I would have tried to tell him that he can still make something of himself, and that high school is the last chance he would have to do so. I would have said that college is still a possibility for him, that he could achieve what he wanted, but only if he put his nose to the grindstone and worked with me and his other teachers; he could graduate with a GPA worth remembering.
Since he didn’t show up, I didn’t have to worry about lying to the little moron. Except for the GPA bit. I doubt anyone would forget a student who could win the James Blutarsky Award for Academic Embarrassment.
I think that what bothers me so much about Bucky is that he is the contradiction to what I am taught about students. What I am taught as a teaching student is that, no matter what, you don’t give up. You keep trying, reaching, and someday you’ll get through once you apply the perfect pedagogy to the student that was nearly custom fit for her/him. What I am seeing is that, once the students give up, it is almost impossible to get them back. There is no real extrinsic motivation; it’s all internal, and it’s all self-generated. I didn’t put out that fire, so I have no idea how to rekindle it.
That, and I have little patience for undeserved arrogance.