Today, I actually observed an English class, finally, instead of just a Study Hall. Ms. Patapow was in a much better mood today than she was last week, but she does seem to yell at her students a lot. I would imagine, though, that with the way that some of the student behave here, you aren’t left with much of a choice, and it has to be really difficult not to yell. She also told me that on the form(s) that she has to fill out, she is asked if she would ever want me as a Student Teacher, and although she did clarify that it was absolutely nothing against me since she does feel that I am doing a great job, she would not want me as a Student Teacher. She said that only once during her teaching career has she ever had a Student Teacher, and it was not a good experience.
The students are incredibly disrespectful. After the first bell rang for Study Hall, less than half of the class was in the room, even after a few minutes. A female student walked in, and for some reason, a reason that I can’t recall, Ms. Patapow needed to know the student’s Global Studies teacher, and the student didn’t know. She said, “I don’t know; I just call her miss.” To me, this is very disrespectful.
During the Study Hall, students were talking about girls who have almost been stabbed, and one girl brought up a girl with whom she is apparently upset, and she said that when she sees her, she’s “gonna do her mad dirty.” What I find sad is that it’s as if these kids have nothing to talk about apart from violence. Additionally, I find something else to be sad. A student asked me if I was a student, and when I explained my position to him, he said, “Well, then, how come you ain’t yellin’?” It’s as if they expect that someone who is not a student would have no reason to be there except to yell at them.
After Study Hall, finally, I observed an English class. The class began with, like Study Hall, Ms. Patapow yelling, but like I said,it must be difficult not to yell; the students simply don’t listen. They talk amongst themselves and continue to do so despite Ms. Patapow repeatedly telling them to stop. They began the class either working on a writing assignment or reading a book of their own choosing, and some of them were listening and trying to work.
When Ms. Patapow’s English class found out that I was observing the class and was therefore not a student, a lot of them looked at me in surprise. “I thought you was a student!” I heard. One of them, however, looked at me and said, “You kidding me? There ain’t no thirty-year old student here!” and I just found it funny, because she was an entire ten years off.
Before beginning work on The Pearl, the short novel by John Steinbeck, Ms. Patapow had the class take out a sheet of paper and write everything that they know about John Steinbeck. A student asked why, which I think is a fair question for a student to ask, and Ms. Patapow said that she was trying to jumpstart them. Then, she wrote on the board, “Tapping into Prior Knowledge/Background Knowledge.” This directly relates to what I have been learning in my Lit 396 class. Ms. Patapow said that one way that we learn is by determining what we already know and then building on it, which is exactly what I have learned in my Literacy class. This is indeed important.
This class, this whole day, really, actually went really well. The students in the English class were actually really cooperative and ultimately read about the life of John Steinbeck and about living conditions during the Great Depression. I had a much better experience this week than I did last week.