"If the drink not going, I not going!" Her eyes refused to make contact with mine as she leaned back in the broken piece of wood that passes for a chair in the first row of our auditorium.
Is this really happening?
We were supposed to take the kids to Marist college last Tuesday. At the last minute, we realized nobody had told them they weren't allowed to bring bottles on the trip (more than a few of our students are alcoholics). This was, unfortunately, after they'd all shown up with their black plastic bags they get at the corner stores full of potato chips, chocolate bars, and soda - and possibly alcohol.
As the 11th-grade team leader, I scrambled to figure out what to do. If anyone managed to get alcohol on the bus, we'd have to turn everyone around.
"Okay - listen up! You can't take your bottles. Leave them here. You can get your drinks when we come back."
Fifty teenagers in unison: ¡¿Qué?!
We talked with them as a group, and then individually. We reasoned, we raised our voices, we played the guilt card. It was no use. Three quarters of the grade was no longer interested in seeing Marist college without their drinks.
The teachers huddled.
"I don't feel comfortable taking these kids on a field trip."
"But they have to go on the field trip. We don't get the grant money if we don't prove we took every student on all the required college trips."
"Look at the way they treat us. They don't want to go on a college trip."
"But don't you think giving them the opportunity to see what college is like might be a motivator."
The kids complaining behind our backs the entire time. What a miserable moment.
"Okay - listen up! You can bring your bottles, but you have to let us search your bags before you get on the bus, and any bottles you bring must be sealed."
We make it on the bus.
"Mister - Alessandra is locked in the bathroom."
"Put on the movie!"
"In Spanish - no English."
"We can put on Spanish subtitles."
"I don't speak French."
Two hours of complaining about the snacks they got in the morning.
We arrive in the auditorium. The admissions staff is visibly upset by our tardiness, and is rude to our staff later when we ask about a space to debrief the day. It's clear to them none of our kids will actually be applying to Marist.
The behavior improves as the students have to interact with white middle-class college students, but they're clearly out of their element.
Class, culture, and language differences create a number of uncomfortable interactions. When asked, most of the kids say they don't like the college. They want to go to a Dominican college, like the one we visited in Washington Heights back in November. It's too strict at Marist, they say.
We huddle in a large room to debrief the day. The kids CANNOT be quiet enough to have a conversation. We decide to cut the conversation short out of respect for the college class going on on the other side of the partitioned wall.
Back on the bus - another movie with French subtitles and loud kids. My stress level is through the roof. I make sure nobody is sitting on anyone else's lap before I sit down and close my eyes.
I love teaching I love teaching I love teaching.