Friday, May 04, 2012

Ill Communication

I don't remember how The Beastie Boys came up in the middle of a grammar lesson in my Intro to Comp class, but we were discussing rap lyrics and I brought them up. When I teach I like to incorporate a lot of different pop culture references, you know, things my students can relate to, so they stay interested and engaged and feel like they can relate. I did ok with that most of the time, but every once in a while I'd bring up something that I had thought was cool and hip only to learn that nope, it wasn't at all and I was just another adult pretending I was down with the eighteen year olds. I almost died when someone wrote on Rate My Professor that I tried to act young, because, wait, I thought I was, wasn't I and wasn't I just acting like myself? And I had to face the sad fact that while I saw myself as young and cool and entirely with it, that my students saw me as old, nerdy and kind of pathetic. I may as well have said "gnarly."

But when I brought up the Beastie Boys, twenty-six blank faces stared at me in confused silence until one kid came out with it.

"Miss," he said, "WHO are the Beastie whatevers?"

He was a thuggish Hispanic kid and of all the students in this class I figured he would surely know who they were. He was obsessed with Jay-Z and was from New York. He loved rap.

"Yeah Miss, are they like a Christian group or something?" another girl asked.

Stunned. I was stunned. I had to sit down to process that my students, who were born the year I graduated high school, did not know who the Beastie Boys were. And while I was at it, a girl just asked me if they were a Christian group. Seriously? What the f kind of a Christian group would call themselves anything with the word "beast" in it for God's sakes? Of all the stupid questions my students had asked me that was definitely in the top five, but I didn't tell her that.

"Umm, Jewish," I said, "They're rappers."

Hilarity. The whole class laughed. Jewish rappers, hahahahaha.

"No really Miss," said another kid, "Jewish rappers?"

"Only the greatest rappers who have ever lived," I said.

The class looked at me like I was on crack.

"You listen to Jewish rappers Miss?" The Hispanic thug kid asked with a look of absolute disgust.

Often when I taught I was reminded that my students didn't realize I was an actual human being, and if they did have some inkling that I was, they had no clue that I was a person who liked music and who swore and engaged in any sort of debauchery. They believed me to be a virginal, religious prude who did nothing but read Victorian novels and attend church services while wearing many layers of modest clothing.

I will never forget when I had to tell them I was pregnant to explain my constant puking and why I had to wear a wrist band and why I couldn't teach a class without sipping a Jamba Juice smoothie. After  I made the announcement I could literally see every single one of them thinking "OH MY GOD SHE HAD SEX" and then wondering if there was any other possible way I could have gotten pregnant because there was no way Miss Fedden could have ever done something like have sex because no one over twenty-five does that and teachers never do it because teachers are robots of chastity.

When you go to school to become a teacher they're always telling you about finding teachable moments. Well, this was one of them.

I dropped everything, fired up my classroom computer, pulled down the movie screen and we spent the rest of the period watching Beastie Boys videos and discussing them. Homework - listen to all of Paul's Boutique and write a response to it.

Many people would say, really Victoria? Really? Shouldn't you have taught your students about pronoun antecedent disagreement? Wouldn't your time have been better spent drilling into their heads for the seventy-ninth time that the period goes outside of the parentheses?

To this I say no. I am a teacher and I owed those kids a good education and on that day they got it.



Anonymous said...

Did you hear that Jessica Simpson named her daughter Maxwell Drew? The poor kid is going to be referred to maxi pads throughout her whole tween life.

Caelaeno said...

And here I'd always thought they were a seventies band. Whoops.

If you don't mind, I have a question on the quote-and-period thing: what if the quotation doesn't have a period in it? Then does the period go outside the quotation marks?

Wide Lawns said...

In a non-creative type of essay, a quote looks like this.

So and So explains that "Give quote in here. Blah Blah,"(So and So 13).

Here's the formula: introduce your quote, open quote, give quotes, punctuate normally until the last sentence of the quote. Do not add a period,. Use a comma instead. Close quotes. Open parentheses, Author's last name, space NO COMMA, page number, close parentheses. Period.

I was referring to the period inside of quotes in dialogue. I'm going to edit the post and take that out as it could cause confusion.

jennifer said...

so sad on a few levels

jez said...

They got started in '79, so technically?

Caelaeno said...

Awesome, thanks. =)

Pickyknitter said...

Good work, Miss.

Jean_Phx said...

Nice post.

Michelle said...

You finally came out! No more writer incognito!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! One of my all time favorite posts. Well done, WL!

Anonymous said...

thank you!! I love those beastie boys, too, and I'd be sad to meet a room full of people who didn't know a thing about them.
Also, thank you giving me what I need to read some of your other pieces!


Joanna said...

I am 23 and I love the Beastie Boys. The young are not all devoid of good taste in music.

Steph in Tampa said...

I love this post.

You rock. :)

Miss Kitty said...

One of the most awesome posts ever, WL.

I was in the 7th grade the first time I hear "You Gotta Fight" on the tinny little radio in our '81 Escort. That song was unlike anything I had ever heard before, and I had the distinct feeling I was listening to something not meant for kids' ears. I still like the song.

Rest in peace, MCA. Namaste.

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