Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Surf the Channel- Another Companion

One of my other companions on this trip is "surfthechannel.com." If anyone knows anything about me, the one thing they would know is how much I love television and media. Growing up and watching The Simpsons, I grew fascinated and obsessed with media. I would literally watch 5-8 hours of television a day, sometimes to the wee hours of the morning. Since it's important to me, I have found a way to keep it in my life.

When moving to Honduras, one of my many concerns was, "What the hell am I going to about television and movies?" Then came the wonderful world of surfthehannel.com. I had heard it from a friend, don't remember who, and so I took it upon myself to find this website where the magic happened. I was not disappointed!

Every movie and television show I can think of can be found in this website. Any documentary, funny item, anything (except "The Devil Wears Prada") can be found. And for every item I see, there is always something interesting to say.

On that note, this marks the first item about surfthechannel.com section. There will be many more commentaries about the website, and what's on it. Check it out and see if you can find your long lost brother!

Monday, March 1, 2010

"english speaking zone"- part one

"The reason I'm going into everything that happened in San Francisco is because it ties up with everything else all the way down the line." -Sal Paradise

My first day of school and the rest of my tenure was something worth celebrating. I had arrived at my destination, and unlike Kerouac, I had my reason for travel with me. I was able to obtain a decent job with medical benefits, and a place to stay. I thought it was something worth celebrating, but the circumstances of my job soon unraveled in ways unexpected and down right crazy!

Coming in to the outdoor auditorium/gym, I could hear the loud buzzing of the students chanting their daily mantra of gossip prior to their daily prayer. It was mandatory that everyone join in and share their faith with others. Of course, I would prefer to get on with the daily activities, but that is another blog all together.

After the prayer, the national anthem is sung by all of the students. Again, this is going on during the first period of the classroom, roughly about 15-20 minutes total time. The rumbling of the students takes about five minutes to subside, and we begin, "Tu bandera...." It's a beautiful anthem, but it's quite unnecessary to ramble it every single day, as most of the students did. Once finished, the lovely director, which will be named a "miracle," comes to the stage and introduces the new teacher: Mrs. Melgar! Now, I am not married, so how do I come up with this fabrication of the "Mrs"? I have to keep up appearances at school, and to avoid any misunderstandings, I am married with Mr. Melgar. So very antiquated...

Now that I am introduced, I am given my books (yes, the same day I start) and sent my way to my first classroom. I taught a combination of different classrooms in various grades. To begin writing about my tenure, I can only say that I truly wanted the best for my students. I was ready and willing to devote my time and make sure my students were successful. Unfortunately for me, nobody told my principal of this, nor my students, so I was in for the ride of my life.

A key component to successful teaching is classroom management. I had absolutely none! Imagine a typical day in a class, say Sociology,

"The noise of the students continues in an uproar as the teacher attempts to write the notes on the board and have the students write it down prior to having the lesson start. All of the students are sitting with their faces against the board, speaking in a Spanish that the teacher has never heard. As the teacher asks the students to begin writing their notes, 85% of the students get up to get their notebooks, not even ready and five minutes have passed. Another ten minutes are used to have everyone obtain their materials for "learning." Once they have their notebooks, they begin to ask for pencils, pens, anything they can get their hands on for writing. Two or three students get up and walk around for another two minutes asking everyone for a pencil; and anything else they can think of, only finding one on the desk they left. And the lesson begins, about 15 minutes into the period. Throughout the hour, reprimanding students for speaking without permission is constant. Cell phones are passed around, and notes are thrown. Some students get up and use the restroom, without permission; and some fall asleep, only being 8:30am. As the classroom time finishes, many of the students did not write their notes, and the teacher leaves feeling hopeless and desolate."

This would be a daily occurrence in the classroom and throughout the school. Students, especially in a particular grade, had absolutely no sense of respect for an educational institution, and it was because of the principal. I have taken the blame for all of the faults I had while teaching at the school. Yet I will not take responsibility for that's school's failure. This chaos has been run that way prior to my arrival and it remains the same today.

I say this with the utmost respect, but the principal of the school set up her school so that the students had very little opportunity for success. There are no rules in the school. Children do as they please with very little consequence. An example of this would be the time that two of my thirteen year old students were caught ditching in school property. They chose to not attend my classroom and hung out in the building that was being constructed. As a responsible teacher, or so I thought, I found the students and sent them to the office. These two particular students had already been causing problems at the school, so I asked the principal to contact their parents and possibly even have them suspended for the day. I certainly did not want them in my classroom. The next day, not only did they come back into my classroom, but they taunted me with the fact that they got away with it and continued to fail in their classes and in their lives.

It was impossible to have the students complete their assignments, but more impossible was failing a student, even if they did NOTHING. Paying for the tuition meant that students were guaranteed a diploma at the end of their run. Grades, participation, and behavior were all additional circumstances to the grade, but the MAIN component is money. Students knew this, and took full advantage of the situation. I have one specific example where one of my students, no name mention, received a 54% in my Reading class. He did not turn in his final project, an essay on your favorite book, and so he failed in my eyes. He begged me to change his grade, and gave me excuses, but I said no. It wasn't about the essay only, his overall performance was beyond a failure. So to conclude my example, the next day I see the assistant director changing his grade in front of my face, so that his grade was in the 70% percentile. To make matters worse, the student is dictating to the assistant what he wants for his grade. I was shocked, appalled, embarrassed, undermined, humiliated, and disturbed, among many other things. I asked and continue to ask myself, "How can someone live with themselves knowing that a student is learning how to avoid consequences from the person that's suppose to enforce them?"

Kerouac also had his first travel job in Mill City, CA. His friend, Remi, got Sal (Kerouac) a job as a special policeman. It seems appropriate that both of our job had something to do with dealing with other people, and children at that. His responsibilities began with his, "...flashlight to illuminate my way; I climbed the steep walls of the south Canyon, got up on the highway...scrambled down the other side, almost falling, and came to the bottom of the ravine." This passage way led to barracks filled with "overseas construction workers." As his main job, he had to make sure that, "They didn't tear the barracks down." Most of these men were running away, as he puts it, probably from the law, so one can assume them to be trouble makers.

And soon we come to find out the making of their trouble the night Sal is working alone. The construction workers decide on that great night to get drunk, and so began the tumultuous chaos. As Kerouac explains, "Men were shouting, bottles were breaking. It was do or die for me. I took my flashlight and went to the noisiest door and knocked." The conversation that ensued reminds me of the conversations I would have with my students.

"What do you want?"
I said, "I'm guarding these barracks tonight and you boys are supposed to be quiet as much as you can.
They slammed the door in my face. I knocked again. "Listen, I don't want to come around bothering you fellows, but I'll lose my job if you make too much noise."
"Who are you?"
"I'm the guard here."
"Never seen you before."
"Well here's my badge."
"What are you doing with the pistol cracker in your ass?"
"It isn't mine. I borrowed it."
"Have a drink for christ sakes."

My comparisons are pretty obvious, but I will explain how I came to the conclusion that Kerouac and I had similar experiences with our first travel job. First, there was NO respect. With a few exceptions, there was no respect given to the teacher/special policeman. When I had to enforce anything, like a suspension, it was met with complete shutdown and mockery. When Sal attempts to bring down the noise level, the door is slammed on his face. Once he finally gets in, instead of following orders, they ask him to get a drink, as to say "If you can't beat them, join them." It's as if there is no authority to bring this group to a place of respect. Both of us dealt with the fact that the only way people will get respect is by joining them, and not beating them.

Another item that I took from this was that there is NO authority to bring this group down; which is one of the many reasons why there is no respect. Neither the sheriff nor the principal can honestly bring these kids down, so there is no reason for them to behave. To add to this argument, specifically, the only person that will get in trouble, on both fronts, regardless of the outcome, is the teacher/special policeman. They take the responsibility and they get paid, so they can also get F**KED in the ass.

Although we felt different about our responsibilities, our outcome was the same regardless. I would work long hours and fight everyday with my students, feeling exhausted and hopeless. Kerouac got drunk and posted the US flag up side down, feeling exhausted and hopeless.

To bring everything together, my only concern was the fact that we were failing these kids every single day, and not in their grades. I was unable to give my best because that would conflict with the true philosophy of the school, which can be described simply as the "english speaking zone." It is an inside joke between the people that experienced this horror unfold before them and myself, but we can't help but feel the sadness that occurred daily at that school.

The system was completely broken, and the living situation turned out to be completely disastrous. Because I lived at my school, my landlord was my principal. I blame my departure of San Pedro Sula on her, and this would be the reason. My principal did not like me. My principal hated Carlos. This is the kind of hate that can only be described as pure. I mean no empathy whatsoever; the way you see a friend whose stabbed you in the back.

Kerouac also encounters problems at his home while he deals with extenuating circumstance. Stay tuned!