everywhere i turn… i can see them.
I’ve mentioned before that I started teaching at the children’s museum. I’m teaching an Internet Diary class. Well, this Sunday is the last day of the class, and I’ve learned a few lessons.
I’ve learned that if you’re dealing with five children who haven’t learned a lick of HTML, they aren’t ready to sit down and start making a journal. In fact, they are more amazed with the wonders of Photoshop than anything else, and your five-hour class period mostly becomes an elaborate explanation of how to make the colors change.
Don’t show kids Dreamweaver before you teach code. You might think it will get their interests up, but they’ve already figured out that they don’t need to know coding to make a web page, and think you’re just trying to teach them something that looks suspiciously like algebra.
There are different learning levels for different ages. The eleven year olds pick it up immediately and are ready for the next lesson. The thirteen year olds really don’t care a rat’s ass about your class and will just do things as slowly as they can and then complain if you keep telling them to do something.
I am not supposed to be a teacher. I do not know how to handle psychological issues and teenage problems, and when they ask me for advice on something that’s bothering them, (like their weight) I’m tempted to say, “Fuck that. You’re beautiful. Don’t think that.” But I can’t, so it comes out, “No, you look nice,” which I know gets mentally changed into “You’re fat, kid.” Ugh.
I will make a terrible mother. Kids are squirmy. I just end up standing still and staring at all of them squirm around singing the words to the Thong Song (which they all love, and again, I feel like I can’t tell them why it’s so wrong for them to love the Thong Song, and I don’t think they even know what that song means) and I just watch them and think, “How do people do this?” I can dance with the eleven-year olds. I can talk to the fourteen year olds. The ones that are in-between that age seem to be lost to me. And to themselves. I remember that age. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone my age. I’m all old and shit.
No, really. No mommyhood for me. I watched the eleven-year old stand on a stool and look out the window, and all I wanted to do was pull her down and tell her she was going to get herself hurt. One of them will just outright lie to me and say that the other one hit her in the head, when I saw that she didn’t. I don’t know how to deal with lies about physical violence. These kids aren’t getting grades. There is no principal. If they don’t do their work, they don’t do their work. It’s that simple. I have no way to punish.
I have a hard time competing with the massive amount of toys and fun things to do right outside the door of my classroom. And there are days that all I want to do is go outside and play on the giant slide.
I tried to explain why they might want to keep a sense of anonymity about their pages and not tell everyone who they are or where they live, but I wasn’t sure how much I could discuss the Freaks of the Net with these young children, and basically they told me that they know all about Bad People and that they would be careful.
When the eleven year old shows me her protest letter on why she doesn’t drink Powerade because their advertisements never have any women in them, I feel like a big loser poseur feminist.
And for some reason, whenever I look over the pages we’ve been uploading, my browser crashes. I don’t know if this is because we’re using Geocities, or if one of them has put in some very strange code that makes everything go crazy.
Squirmy. Very squirmy. I can’t get them to sit down. And it’s not like there’s thirty of them to keep each other in check. These are five very very different girls who are starting to make friendships and in doing so decide that when they don’t feel like writing anymore, it’s time to run around and dance.
I thought that I could trust them with homework assignments, but now as I’m looking at the pages they are uploading, I realize that some of them never bothered to do the Online Diary portion of the class, and I’m wondering what the parents are going to say when they see the final projects.
Some of them are further completed than others. This is due to some of them catching on quickly, and the rest is due to using old Mac machines that can’t have two applications open at the same time. The scanner refuses to save any file we make. I cannot get all of them on the network. Some of them don’t have network access on their machines. Last week I had to resort to letting one of them use my iBook to make her content changes, and you would have thought I gave her fifty bucks right in front of the others. I understand, though, as their machines are so crappy that I sometimes put my head down on the desk to take a break from the constant “working” icon. They often think that I’m crying when I do that, and they quiet down.
They like to know what’s going on with my life, what kind of money I make, what kind of jobs I do, and why I would want to spend my entire day working on a computer. In fact, they ask me the same questions I’m asking myself. They just really really really want to know how I got this bruise on the back of my arm, and I’m not really sure where it came from. They made me a “Hello My Name Is” sticker with “The Bruised One!” written in Sharpie. I think I got off better than my assistant in the class, who was labeled “Oreo Stealer.”
They find each other’s lives fascinating. They like to discuss their schools. They hate homework. Every week one of them complains about it being Sunday, because that just means she has school the next day. I’ve never heard any of them discuss boys. They hate and love my big shoes. They thought I was very strange the day I walked in wearing my “geek girl” t-shirt. They always want more Oreos.
I have learned why there is a One Dr. Pepper Per Girl rule. Sugar is evil.
They haven’t figured out that I have a journal yet.
I have one week left to teach them why we made journals, how to write entries, how to maintain their own journals without Dreamweaver, how to find other html editors, how to register for an e-mail account, how not to destroy each other’s pages, how to move their own site if they want to, how to put on a counter (they all want counters), and how to add pictures and what to do after this class is over.
I may not make it.
I’m glad I did it, as I’ve never been a teacher before, but I think the wear and tear on my brain has been greater than the paycheck. Oh, and one of them was outraged that I was getting paid to teach her something that she didn’t even want to learn. Heh-heh. Kids. Can’t step on them no matter how much they brat. You just can’t. And that came out of the mouth of the one that I just adore. They turn on you so quickly. They all grow up so damn fast.
I understand why Miss Hannigan made bathtub gin. I understand why she sometimes took to locking the girls in closets. I understand why she wanted to sell Annie to Daddy Warbucks. I love Miss Hannigan.
Where’s my whiskey sour?