I let my 10th Honors students watch Freedom Writers today. I love watching this movie–and seriously wish I’d read the book (maybe I should buy it on my Nook).  First a little background: Sunday and Monday, I spent hours reading definition essays that were much to be desired; then yesterday (Tuesday), I spent three hours begging those students to revise, to try, to care. But to no avail. I still struggled with the same sort of off-task behaviors that has plagued me since last year, namely, I can’t seem to be mean enough to stop all the talking. The poor darlings kept asking me to just throw that essay away–they they had “tried,” but the prompt was “so hard.” One kid asked: “Does effort not even count? It’s the first assignment I wrote more than one paragraph on.” Hmmm….poor little kid.

So, when my last class period rolled around, I was totally tired; too tired, in fact, to fight this class, as well. Hence, the video viewing. I made it “educational,” of course; they took notes on how the characters showed individuality while they where in a group. Sounds like so much fun, doesn’t it? Maybe I’m just hoping that in nine days when they take their test, they’ll be able to use something off that movie or the students’ situations–I know…I’m grasping!

Here I am, minding my own business, watching the movie and trying to find places I can inject “note-taking,” trying not to think. But then I start. Thinking. I don’t like that Erin Gruwell gets a pass for betraying her marriage for the sake of kids with no hope. I don’t like that she worked sun up to sun down to engage those kids–and had them actually respond. I don’t understand why she gets so many accolades for her “teaching” when she only actually taught four years, then began working at a university, and now runs the Freedom Writer’s Foundation. While I don’t begrudge her for her effort, I’m with the character I call “Mrs. English”– the unionized, stoic, English department head–when she said, “What if all teachers tried to teach like this; we have thousands of students to get through the educational system; how can we do this if all we do is try to get publicity?” Hahaha….I know, I know…you’re thinking I’ve gone completely nuts. You’re thinking that I”m just a jealous meany who’s lost her fighting spirit. Maybe I have. But Gruwell put all teachers on notice: either go all out and copy my give-it-all-up-for-the-kids style, or be labeled “ineffective.” What teacher wants that?

I hate feeling inadequate. But watching this movie, I can feel my students looking at me and wondering why I can’t make English interesting like Mrs. Gruwell. And then I start wondering, too. Am I lazy? Am I not committed to their education? Is it my job/responsibility/calling to create those sorts of experiences for my students? Is my effort at being an effective high school English teacher lacking, like my students’ effort on their essays? Would Bill Gates or Baby-boy Facebook walk into my class, see the glazed eyes, hear the extemporaneous chatter, and deem me unworthy of my 3 teaching degrees?

How am I supposed to deal with this pressure???? Man, oh, man…I wish I was a ditch-digger.

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