Monday, January 4, 2010


New semester. Some new students....some re-arranged schedules.

A program like the one I teach in is interesting because our student body is ever-changing. We have students who come to us for as little as a partial semester - they got kicked out early in one semester and will be allowed back as soon as the next one starts.

Others are with us for a year and some as long as two years. There really is no rhyme nor reason to who gets expelled for what offense for how long. We, literally, have students who live a block away from each other but attend different high schools who, when disciplined for the same exact offense, are punished differently. One kid from one neighborhood attending East Peoria High School who tested positive for smoking weed might get a two year expulsion, but her buddy who lives a couple blocks away and goes to Pekin High School and was caught WITH drugs in her possession might only get a ONE year expulsion (or maybe only a semester).

Go figure.

Most of my classes are the same and the curriculum continues from the 1st semester through the 2nd. I have the same kids in English, Math, Science and Social Studies....we just continue through the curriculum one semester to the next.

The exception is my "Social Issues" class. This semester is the 4th semester I've taught this class and my principal basically turned me loose, gave me a dozen kids and said "Keep 'em busy" and suggested a framework. I have no one set curriculum but I've steadily pulled things from here and there and cobbled together a current events/teen issues/how-to-function-as-a-human-being type class.

We cover everything from common courtesy and etiquette to how to discuss volatile issue such as race and religion in an acceptable fashion. I know the most of my students probably consider the class a "gimme" and that's pretty cool because it's really a lot more than that. The class itself is a semester long exercise in tolerance and acceptance.

So, today starts my new semester of "Social Issues" and there's this one kid that I've had in class before. I call him a "Returning Contestant"...he was in our program as a Middle School Student and is now returning as a High School student. He's in my S.I. class today and is very reluctant to participate. I'm not understanding what his deal is...the class is easy... participate, give biggie.

I ask him to hang for a few minutes after class and I say "Hey, Alex, I'm totally NOT happy that you're back here again [because that means he got kicked out of his high school] but I'm totally happy to see you! What's up? You seem way bummed about being in Social Issues class."

He says [in his best Jeff Spicoli voice]...."I'm really happy to see you too. But, dude, I don't know why I'm in this class. There's nothing wrong with me. I don't have any issues. And, dude, I'm totally social."

Uh. Yeah. It's going to be a good semester.

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