Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Today in the afternoon class several students were disruptive to the point that I had to ask them out. We were taking an exam and the three women were noisy. After I spoke to them privately in another classroom, the blame was thrown around and landed in front of everyone except the ones' responsible.

I couldn't help but reflect on how last week our freewrite looked at blame and responsibility. Who is to blame Sebastian asks in "My Testimony"? Who takes the blame Smokey Robinson counters, yet no matter who owns the blame, it is not the one who is taking the blame who suffers. It is the one who loses her form.

This is called giving away one's power.

I told one student she could have moved when the student, let's call her "the instigator," kept talking. The girl in question comes in late every class and is disruptive because students let her. When she asks me questions, I keep going and make her wait.

If her classmates allow her to interrupt them then they are giving her power over them. What if everyone ignored her? What if, when she spoke, no one paid attention? What if when she sat down everyone nearby got up and moved?

One always has a choice. It might not be the choice that makes one feel most comfortable. It might not be the easiest option, but you have power over your life and if someone disturbs your peace then you gave it to them on a platter, so don't complain about being hungry.

If you are so behind you come in and are lost, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities and decide whether or not this class fits your life at this time. College life requires certain commitments and if you are behind and can't catch up, it isn't my fault or anyone in the class's fault if you are lost. It is not my job to catch you up and I am not going to.

The hole is getting deeper and pretty soon you won't be able to make it out. I am not going to sprinkle dirt on the grave you have dug, but I am also not going to donate money for a headstone.

Right now the hole many of you are standing in is pretty deep and while you are smart men and women, some of you are dealing with situations that demand all your attention: safety issues, life and death issues with sick family members.

School is serious and so are these other situations. There is only so much of oneself one can spread around and still have a bit left. Sanity is also important and school should be fun. If your choice means you cannot continue, this is not failure, it is being real. It is taking stock and being rational. I was surprised when I spoke to the three women that two of them didn't know that this class was not transferable and then wanted to argue with me when I told one student that honors English was a way to opt out of English 1A or Freshman English. I used to teach at a college prep school, Maybeck High School and saw it happen with most if not all of our students at universities not community colleges.

It didn't happen with me. UC Berkeley had me taking Subject A, which is like English 201, but this is not something that has to happen if one is prepared at the high school level for college composition. You are here, as I was there, and I made it through Subject A and Comparative Literature and then took English 1A again at Merritt College for extra practice and still couldn't write. I only learned to write essays when i took a graduate course on Teaching Writing at the University of San Francisco. I got an undergraduate degree and didn't know what a thesis sentence was. I had never heard of MLA or citations. Crazy!

My patience is endless for the serious student, but for the children who wanted argue and posture and swagger -- you will fail and I will not allow you to drown others as you go down for the count.

On another note
This Friday there will be an all day event on campus looking at ways to become business men and women, entrepreneurs--ways to make money and help make the community better too. If you attend, you might meet an entrepreneur you might want to profile for your final essay.

There are appropriate ways to behave for any given circumstance. If one is not familiar with how one should behave, she can watch others and learn or one can ask questions. For student behavior we have a college catalog where it is spelled out clearly. It is common sense but then common sense doesn't necessarily translate cross culturally or cross generations.

Rude behavior will not be tolerated. If a student cannot come to class on time, skip the class. Late is 5-15 minutes after class starts. When we move into 30-40 minutes students really can just stay home. We only meet twice a week. The most disruptive students are the ones who are most lost.

If this ever happens again I am going to call the sheriff.

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