Today I got roped into substitute teaching at a mystery school. It was in Astoria somewhere; the G train ride was easy enough from my house.
For a B job I occasionally will work as a substitute, but only at cushy private schools which are a treat. Everyone friendly, helpful and informed. Students who will quiet down at the slightest rise in my voice. They seem to know that they are lucky to be there — they have seen the reports on 60 Minutes about the conditions of those “other schools.” Or maybe they just know that by working their way to a good college they can cruise onto a six-figure job.
There was no such connection or belief at the charter school where I was working today. At the beginning of the first class I kept the class quiet with continual reminders to individuals and groups to stay on task. They seemed to think it was strange for someone to ask for their complete attention — who is this lady and why is she so uptight?
Then I turned my attention to the video that the lead teacher left behind. This was a science class. The video was about Alaskan dog sledding. Not only were there no 8th grade science curriculum standards to be seen anywhere within the film, but it was also terribly boring. I had to side with the students — why should they pay attention to meaningless filler with no real connection to their lives or anything they have to learn for their class? Also I did the math — was the stress of policing disrespectful students worth the pidly sum I am paid?
And so I gave up. Sat in the desk chair and let them go about their chatter. The bell rang and a student informed me that this was a double period, so they would be staying in the room for another fifty minutes. Yipee. I changed by job title from teacher to babysitter. My only rule was for the students to stay in their seats. And if they must shine a laser around the room, just don’t shine it in people’s eyes, because that’s not nice. I planted myself in the middle of the room so that offending students couldn’t make it across without being stopped. The three nerds who isolated themselves at the table closest the door said: “We are so sorry for everyone’s behavior.” I said: “Well, don’t apologize, I think its fascinating.” I laughed as one student’s homework was passed around the room for everyone to copy. I asked a student sitting nearest to me: “I think an average of three people do their work and everyone else copies.” She thought I was overestimating: “Well, THOSE tables [3/4 of the class] never do ANYTHING.”
Another teacher came in and I explained the situation — there is no real work for them to do and they weren’t up to the task anyway. He was nonplussed by the inattentive and disregarding nature of the students. I’m guessing….this is the norm? I told him about one student who would not stay in his seat. “Oh, he does that, and don’t worry about it, they’ll be out of this class in 10 minutes anyway!”
On my break I stayed in the classroom to use the computer…and eavesdrop on what goes on for other teachers. Pretty much the same thing, except that unlike my reaction, the teacher gets frustrated. The teacher and students went through cycles of twenty seconds of quiet instruction, leading to three minutes of warnings, yelling, joking and paper throwing, which led back to instruction. It gets old. But since the teachers don’t seem to view it as unacceptable behavior nothing improves.
Of course the students know the conditions of their classroom are pathetic. And the teachers are annoyed by the whole thing. Because of the way this school runs I predict that some of these teachers will quit. And some students will flunk out. New teachers will come in and be thrown into the same conditions. Most will fail in a similar way. Similarly, new students will enter the school and perish.
Is everyone better off staying home? I know I am.
Although I would like to be on TV, I don’t watch it. Bad form, I know. Sometimes, however, a show sucks me in and I go back to where I was when I was thirteen and watching twenty-five hours of TV per week: enraptured and engrossed in drama that will not help me learn more about the world. Or will it?
Last night I happened upon the Survivor finale. Within five minutes I was cursing the world about a particular player named Russell. This chap was a “good Southern boy” (as described by a player who was being mislead and about to get seriously played by him). Interestingly enough, Russell was recently arrested for punching a woman at a street fair. He is a stand-up kind of person who swears on his family, children and grandmother when telling blatant lies. At Tribal Council, where the players who were voted out decide on winner of Survivor, Russell was asked if he regretted his actions. He responded: “No that’s just the way the game is played.”
However, he should know that to win this game you must make sure that the people who get voted out don’t hate you. If you make it to the final Tribal Council you will need their vote to ultimately win the game. In Russell’s case at Tribal Council he was called an evil, despicable human being and told outright that no one would vote for him because he plays the game in a way that no one respects.
America, on the other hand, voted for Russel. In a viewers poll Russel was chosen as the player of the season. Why? Because he is amusing on camera. And incites passion in his followers. Passionate people vote and hence Russel was gifted $100,000 for his antics. Russel’s fellow players, the people who knew firsthand how his methods cause pain in those around him didn’t find him so amusing. He did not receive a single vote in the final Tribal Council.
As Jeff Probst, the host, read the votes at the show wrap-up filmed in NYC, Russel looked like a wounded bird. (More specifically like a bald eagle who just drank the blue juice in Charlie’s factory.) He knew that he had lost, but he could not admit that it was from his doing. He told Jeff, “There is a flaw in the system. America should have a say on the Survivor.”
interactions and deals that happen on that island. Tribal Council is constructed to be an informed body who can make the right choice. They knew who the right person was for the million dollar prize.
This is the point that junk reality TV started to apply itself to the real word. Russel reminded me of the Tea Party’s call to create a more populist approach to governance. Which our founding fathers warned us against. Some even go so far as to call for a new Constitutional Convention.
But the whole point of our legislative body is to guard against reactionary politics. Citizens elect representatives who know more about governance than the general citizenry. These are officials who know how to handle the politics and the details, so that they can do our bidding in Washington. If the masses don’t like what they are doing they can petition, protest or vote them out next election. It is not a flawless system, but it guards against an ill-informed and inexperienced public from making important decisions.
Jeff Probst read my next thought and responded with: “Well, you agreed to play Survivor. This is how this game works. If another game operates with those rules, it is a separate game. Go play that game.”
So Tea-throwers — go find an island in the middle of the Pacific and construct your own goddamned game.
But, what happened when they let populist fervor dictate the winner? A dishonorable person was rewarded for their trickery. The episodes and the media only give a brief glimpse of the many
Here are observations from spending a week in Louisiana:
1- The best way to read a book is on a porch swing.
2- It’s possible to fry all types of food: from gizzards to shrimp to vegetables.
3- Alligators are roadkill near the bayou.
4- The neighborhood areas of Louisiana look like the set of Forrest Gump (which was in Alabama, but for yankees its close enough).
5- Folks in the deep South still call Northerners “yankees.”
6- Cajun accents sound a lot like Brooklyn accents.
7- One should question the usefulness of exerting effort when its 95 degrees with 100% humidity.
8- Life is much more pleasant on eight to nine hours of sleep daily.
9- If you are working so hard that its stressful, then its probably not worth the effort.
I’m hoping to take a more laid back approach to life in NYC!