Combining Shakespeare and Tolkien

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a character calls a short young woman he doesn’t like a “dwarf.” One enterprising summer school student, doing a creative writing review of the play, took this quite literally.


More Summer School Fun!

First of all, I told you so.  I.  Told.  You.  So. 

In my post on Tuesday, I predicted that I would have kids who were absent on that first day of the new session and who would expect to be easily caught up on what they missed.  I had two of them on Wednesday–one girl who simply enrolled a day after class started (representing a week’s worth of missed work), but she strangely got called out of class today and never came back–I guess she and/or her parents changed their mind about taking the class after all.  But then there was this other guy. 

I first noticed him when I took roll and he said that I hadn’t called his name, which I hadn’t done because he hadn’t been there the first day for me to put him on my list.  A few minutes later, when I gave the class their seating chart, he said he wanted a different seat, one by a wall outlet, because he “had to plug in my ankle bracelet and charge it.”  Yes, he had a tracking device from the police on him. 

Later in the day, as people were working, I heard some stifled laughter and looked up.  This kid had moved his desk over to an empty corner of the room and had taken out a charging kit from his backpack, which he’d connected to his ankle bracelet and plugged into the wall.  This was clearly going to be a big distraction for the class, and it was made even worse when he saw me looking and drew everyone else’s attention to the situation by announcing that he had to do this now or he’d be arrested. 

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Twelve Notes About Summer School

Today was the first day of the second session of summer school.  Twelve notes about this summer so far:

  • On the first day, I asked kids to write down a few hobbies and interesting things about themselves so I could learn their names better.  One boy put down for his first hobby, “smoking.”  A girl wrote one word: “lesbian.”
  • One boy put down “tattooing” as a hobby.  I can’t help but notice just how many kids have tattoos now.  They’re not small, either.  Maybe a quarter of the boys in summer school have large tattoos on their arms, and it’s long since become very common for teenage girls to have lumbar tattoos.  These aren’t amateur tats done by friends in their bedrooms, these are professional store-bought works.  Clearly, they’re getting these either with parental approval or money, or at least without opposition.  What are these parents thinking?  Permanently scarring the body of a teenager?  How do they think this will affect them in life, already setting the bar of acceptable behavior that low?  If they’re getting tattoos at 15, what do they think their children will they be doing at 25?  Volunteering to read to blind orphans at the hospital? 
  • On the first day of class, I noticed two kids who spent their down time between assignments doodling in their notebooks.  They drew mushrooms and one girl decorated a graffiti-styled “420,” a popular reference to marijuana smoking.  She also had a 504, which isn’t surprising–I’ve come to believe that much of America’s special education, therapy, and remediation for teens is just treating their drug use. 
  • When I asked students to write interesting things about themselves for first day introductions, several put down their ethnicity. Continue reading

Summer School Follies

First of all, I like summer school. Its compacted time frame forces it to be rigorous, disciplined, and serious. Tardies and absences get hammered pretty quickly, daily quizzes and grade updates keep the kids on top of their game, and the fact that they (or their parents) had to pay for it creates an immediate investment that improves their own efforts. These kids may have messed up, but their desperation now brings out the best in them.


However, this summer I’ve noticed that too many kids come into summer school in an entirely wrong state of mind.


And I don’t just mean the stoner who asked to go to the bathroom about an hour and a half into the first day of school, and who never came back.


One boy just this morning looked at his failing grades in my class and rattled off his list of excuses, clearly a well prepared and rehearsed litany that he’s used comfortably for years. I can only surmise that he started this class, as he may start all of his classes, intending to “see what happens,” and fall back on his excuses if and when he fails. I just can’t get people like this to be more proactive, to overcome the fatalism that got deeply instilled in them somewhere along the line.


In June, a girl with special ed problems gave me two papers that had been due the week before, both very poorly done, and without any discussion with me about it first. Continue reading