Wednesday, April 13, 2011

steering lessons.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow I've become represented as an ADHD student specialist. About half my students are special needs, and without sounding fake, it actually has taught me a lot. I never really knew what to think about ADHD or 'behavioral learning challenges'. But if I ever questioned its existence, that has disappeared from trying to teach a literature class to one of my adhd students. Maybe it was the Asian upbringing, but try explaining the need for medically treating ADHD to a traditional Korean mother and she would find it ridiculous. Can't concentrate you say? Yes I have a prescription for that: Tie child to chair. Administer smacks often. Limit food consumption until the lesson is learned. Repeat as necessary.

Unfortunately I was witness to this a few days ago, one of my Korean students has a younger sister, a 5 year old who wears purple tiaras and likes to run around and color. She usually greets me at the door by slapping a sticker on my thigh and screeching "teacher teacher guess what I AM!"

Anyway that day when I came in, she was sitting in a dining room chair, crying while stuttering through "where is the dog?" Apparently her school report card had come back with a complaint that she couldn't sit still in class and that she was still behind the class requirement for reading. I spent the next two hours trying to ignore the sounds of crying and repeated smacking.

It was disturbing and not at all funny, but I wonder if later the mother will realize how ridiculous the situation was, and the amount of perspective she is missing as a parent.
screeching mother: "Where is the DOG?!"
lisping girl: "the dog ith in the"
"The where?!" smack smack.
"ith in the house?"
"No! why is my daughter so stupid? read it!"

awful. it was traumatizing.. i called my own mother afterward, which was a mistake because she got overly agitated and made me promise that next time I would interrupt the lesson and smack the mom instead.

yes totally.


When I first started, I was given instructions and notes about the students - various diagnoses that I would have to look up. For example, inability to convert spoken directions to paper, only learns "kinetically", must incorporate sound and rhythm in lesson, best if items rhyme..

I still don't know if I have incorporated kinetic things or rhythm in the lesson - the most I could do with that was tapping a beat on the desk when the student seems to be drifting off. The hours usually pass with my gesturing as enthusiastically as possible, writing quotes in different colors, acting out scenes. Most days this is successful and then there are the occasional days when a student starts to color inside the books, then repeatedly stabs the pages with a pen and then in the last half hour, silently shred the pages. One of my students has shredded through 5 copies of "Of Mice and Men" already. (In his defense, the book is thin)

But I've realized that the most basic thing is to be able to steer a conversation.
It makes me wonder if this is how driving school instructors feel like.. we're going off the road! off the road!

failed steering:
Discussing Streetcar named desire - student: "I have a friend who wants to name her kid stella. Actually she just got her tongue pierced last week, I couldn't tell if it hurt but omg it totally looked like it did i took a video do you want to watch it see she's not even flinching but i think she's just one of those girls who has a high pain tolerance. is that possible? see like it's so cute and it's clear so her parents have no idea she has it..." By this time the phone is out and the video is playing and yea teacher fail.

Discussing A Doll's House: "I don't get it... why is the loan such a big deal nora did it cause she loved whatshisname and it's not like she cheated on him actually i think cheating is awful like one of my friends.."
"cheating! it could cause venereal diseases like the doctor character, you see how ibsen uses the doctor as a physical embodiment of the..."
"Ew what did he have again syphilis? Like isn't that when... oh I saw the grey's anatomy episode where they all get it right, like have you seen the musical episode where they sing, you know one of them was on broadway I saw spamalot like in new york once it was hilarious my father used to make me watch like all of the old monty actually here let me show you the song - i love this song if i ever got married it would be my song... "
"Marriage! Yes what is Ibsen's view on marriage in the play... Ibsen! Ibsen!"
phone is out, song is playing. we are off the road stuck in a ditch..

successful steering:
Discussion Of Mice and Men, the puppy death scene - student: Omg so you know the dogs I have now well once they killed my pet rabbit there was bloodeverywhere and I was so...
"Rabbits, well you know that was Lenny's dream, to tend rabbits. Let's turn to that first scene about the rabbits. How is that referencing the american dream?"

"Is there really lots of killing in America? It seems so dangerous with the guns and stuff, like on CSI .. well it's funny there was this video parody..."
"CSI NY, well gary sinise played george in the movie version, how do you think he dealt with the ending? Is it sympathetic?"
"So my friend..."
"Friendship! That's a key theme in this book. Let's talk about the friendship between George and Lenny."
still on the road.