Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Old People and Fourth Graders

Old Man on Glascow Train, photo posted on Flickr

I read a post by Steve (a.k.a. Waiter) on his Waiter Rant blog. It was about old people who frequent a deli near his home. It made me think of my local Trader Joe's and fourth graders.

The Trader Joe's on Pacific Coast Highway in my town is close to a retirement center. The old folks come in alone or with their "new" friend from the center. The aisles in this particular TJ's are quite narrow. I do not mind waiting for these folks to slowly meander their way through the crowded aisles. However, I have a friend who hates it and constantly complains. She has gone as far as to suggest that TJ's should designate a "senior's day" and ban them from the store on other days. Wow.

Now the old folks in TJ's are different than the old folks Steve described. These old folks are usually smiling and happy at how cheap everything is at TJ's.

Photo posted by isco72 on Flickr

So last week, I had a fourth grade class from hell. Let me preface this story with the fact that these kids are nine. It was at a small school close to my home. I know most of the 400 students at this school and am mobbed by hugs when I walk onto the campus. However, I didn't know many of the kids in this class.

A week or so before I took this week long assignment, I was teaching next door to this 4th grade class. There was a substitute in the class and she sent a couple of the unruly kids into my class.

By morning recess the class had become out of control. They were choking each other, throwing things, and told the sub to shut up. The principal was called in and had to take over the class. I saw this sub and she looked like a sweet old retired teacher just trying to supplement her retirement. I felt so bad for her.

Classroom, photo posted by Charlyn W on Flickr

So when I stepped in for this fourth grade teacher, who went to Hawaii a week early for her holiday (don't blame her), I already had an idea of what I was walking into. I saw a note from a sub she had on Friday. In short, this sub wrote that she had a rough day. Later, I heard from the school secretary that this particular sub left crying. Wow.

Never in my life have I experienced such bad behavior. Such disrespect from these students. It took all my energy to make it through the week. There were about 5-8 kids who were good. But it is usually the other way around. Usually you have maybe 5 who are not listening.

I shared my hellish week with a friend at a happy hour.

After two margaritas, I said, "what scares me the most about the experience is that these kids were so disrespectful that I fear for the future."

Our waitress stopped by and we ordered another round. I continued my rant when she left.

"In this future I see me at the TJ's on PCH, when I am old, possibly living in the retirement center, trying to maneuver my way through the aisles, and these kids, now grown, knocking me over, causing my hip to break, landing me in the hospital, where I eventually die of pneumonia."

My friend laughed and said, "you can always see humor in the worst experience."
1st grade 1963, photo posted by Jim in Times Square on Flickr

I feel so old because I did keep telling this class things like, "when I was your age, we never disrespected our teachers because we feared the wrath of our parents."

What is sad is that they responded with things like this, "my dad's in prison" and, "my mom doesn't care and she is never home."

In the words of Bob Dylan, "The times they are a changing."

One last thing, if you have never checked out the Waiter rant blog, I highly recommend it. It is in my blog roll. Steve has written a book from the blog, was on Oprah, and has a second book deal from it all. His blog wins awards.

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