The Kids Are NOT Alright: Cuts for Day 16

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

Blogger’s Note: the post below written on 4 days ago and some content was lost. I was out of commission for the weekend, but have been making cuts and will be back all week with new and aggressive cuts. Some of the cuts from the original post were lost, but readers will be filled in soon. This post is primarily an essay about the social dynamics involved in de-friending ex-students. The headline of this being day 16 reflects the date on which the post was originally crafted. We are currently on day 20 and there have been 168 cuts, with 332 remaining over the next 30 days. Thank you and apologies for the delay in posting.

Having spent the first two years of my post-graduate life in the urban classroom, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve become something of an expert on social media trends among middle schoolers from the ghetto. I’m now forced to become an expert on the subtleties of de-friending them.

As late as last year, the creation of Christopher Columbus myspace pages remained a favorite activity for many of my students. Facebook was largely not in vogue until the late spring and a faux-twitter assignment designed around the Revolutionary War proved woefully unsuccessful, largely because the kids had not gravitated toward tweeting yet either. I’m not sure why they were late to facebook, but if their perception of G-mail can be taken as related, it must have had something to do with facebook’s decidedly caucasian/non-urban origins. When I give my e-mail address to my first ever group of students during the end of summer school in 2008, one kid shot me an incredulous glance. A classmate kindly deadpanned back to the student that “gmail is for white people.” Some will chuckle at this anecdote, but when you think about it, it’s actually quite sociologically perceptive.  The spread of  g-mail was inarguably a viral byproduct of gentrifiers and not  one which came from the gentrified.

By the time I decided that teaching was not my true life passion and announced my resignation in early August, seemingly all of my former students had joined facebook, however, and a number of them took to sending me friend requests.  My initial reaction was panic, followed by a heavy use of the privacy settings. But I confess that I was curious as to how these kids would evolve throughout high school and beyond and since their conception of privacy is essentially non-existent, facebook has provided me pretty much real-time updates on everything from fake status updates about deaths suffered by their friends (really, a kid did that…don’t worry, he’s been cut) to how bored they are in some earth science, regents prep course.

As time has gone on, though, I’ve increasingly come to a rather profound and somewhat tragic realization about the teaching profession: you don’t have lifelong memories worthy or savoring for each and every child. That might be because I taught over 200 of them in two years and my first year only taught the kids for 45 minutes, 4 times a week. That may because I neglected to successfully internalize the mantra that to be a great teacher you had to genuinely love every child. It may may be for a number of reasons, but the reality is that not every child who has friended me left enough of an individual impact on my life such that I feel the need to learn of every development that affects their teenage existence. And I don’t think that’s bad to say. The kids I grew especially tight with still e-mail me and will continue to do so. They also won’t be de-friended. Even those kids who were quiet and had a certain kindness to them might make it through the cuts. But particularly when you are a first year teacher and lack control of a classroom in the early months, there are some children who you would rather forget.

Perhaps fittingly then, my first and easiest cut tonight was a kid who gave me hell that first year. Making matters easier, if slightly more depressing, was the fact that under the profile category “studied at,” he wrote “IDK.” Well IDK why I was friends with you and removing you is my lone way of exercising all of the bent up pettiness that has lingered in my body since the first time you convinced me not to call your mother, only to throw a pencil sharpener across the room moments later.

  1. darrell johnson says:

    I can’t ignore the irony of this having been posted upon your return from perhaps the biggest gathering of passionate education reformers evar.

  2. anonymous says:

    some teacher you must have been. “the reality is that not every child who has friended me left enough of an individual impact on my life….”

    the point of teaching, esp. in underserved areas, is that YOU try to make an impact on the kids life, not vice versa. perhaps this is why you so quickly left the education profession. get your priorities straight.

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