I've decided to start the blog back up after a while, and for an opening shot, here's something I wrote as a Facebook note. Enjoy!
Today wasn't exactly a banner day in my life. It won't go down as one of those horrible days you remember for years on end, but today was a case where the two buttons that I can't stand being pushed were pushed and pushed hard. It took all of my constitution in one case to not bite a student's head off, but thankfully I stopped before going over the edge.
It is perhaps my biggest problem as a school teacher at a struggling school in a community that thinks someone who's mediocre is showing off by being uppity is the fact that I really have a short fuse when it comes to stupidity. I can put up with innocent ignorance, and even people who just don't get it despite their best efforts. What I can not stand are people who have the mental capacity to step up and be... normal, yet completely and utterly refuse to be competent and, in fact, go out of their way to be incompetent.
Rather than recite the litany of incidents today, I'd just point to the fact that about ten seconds after reminding my students for the third time in a two-minute span that when they come into my classroom they are to sit down and do their work, a student got up and started talking to a student across the class. When I informed them they would be receiving a minor infraction slip for being out of their seat and talking out of turn, they looked at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look.
I'm beginning to debate whether my students have figured this out and are proceeding to mash this button with glee. My cynical side says this is 100% true, but in light of how incompetent some of my students act at times, I think I would be giving them too much credit if I thought they were cunning enough to act dumb and get away with it, natch.
The other thing that really mashed my button was today's assembly, which was a giant facepalm for me. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I was raised in an Assemblies of God church, attended a (nominally) Christian school and later graduated from a (very) Christian high school, went to an evangelical Christian university for two years, and am a full voting member in an Assemblies of God church (Not to mention my mom's a licensed minister in the Assemblies!). I generally approve of the concept of church groups coming into schools and giving students a pep talk about making good choices in their life, and making the equivalent of the wrestler's advice to kids to listen to their parents, say their prayers, and take their vitamins.
So with that said, upon realising that today's assembly would be one of those, and it would be hosted by folks from the church I used to attend, I thought it would be sporting of me to toss aside my cynical nature and see how this thing would play out, since it couldn't be any worse than the semester of chapel services in high school about how premarital sex was bad, evil, etc. ... only to have our school's first pregnancy near the end of the semester. It wasn't that bad in light of that, but the same things that get stuck in my crawl when I deal with youth group culture stuck themselves in my crawl.
It wasn't the fact that the speaker said that Ernest Hemmingway wrote Invictus (Hemmingway was too manly to admit to weakness... which is why he blew his brains out!), or insinuated that Nelson Mandela got out of prison, looked around, then decided to run for president of South Africa (Ignoring that whole Apartheid thing, or the fact that he was the physical and spiritual leader of the popular resistance against the Apartheid government, but who's keeping score... other than the Social Studies teacher and the native-born South African teacher sitting next to me?), but rather the contradictory message that they sent.
The thrust of the message was that Pop Culture sends the wrong message about what is cool and what the measure success is in comparison to what being "cool" and "success" really is. In all fairness to my students, I seriously doubt any of them caught onto it, but why on earth would I listen to someone telling me to ignore pop culture when they're dressed in the latest style with the coolest glasses and the hippest haircut, and their folks in tow look like rejects from a Panic at the Disco! music video?
I may be a bit biased because I've never bought into pop culture, almost never comb my hair, and think wearing a sweater with a collared shirt underneath is edgy, but I think this is a huge problem in modern student ministries--youth leaders, in an attempt to reach our young people, go out of their way to adopt elements of the same culture they say is something you should ignore for a higher cause.
Of course, the clothes people wear and their interests aren't what makes a person (The Bible's fairly clear about that) and all that, but common sense has to come into play at some point in time and we have to look at the nonverbal things we pass onto the teenagers deal with and see if they are contradicting the words we are telling them. I'm sure someone whom I've tagged will tell me how wrong I am and how I just don't get it because I'm a sheltered curmudgeon who thinks soccer really is better than armoured catch, but I just can't buy the concept that I should be sold out for Jesus and to toss aside the things of the secular world like you when you're busy listening playing with your iPod, wearing an Abercrombie & Fitch shirt, and otherwise going out of your way to buy, wear, listen to, and watch what Pop Culture is telling you to buy, wear, listen to, and watch.
Don't know if I'm just being old and bitter, or if I'm onto something. Chances are it's just the former.