Feral Felons

My morning class has been with me since last August. It took a little rompe cabezas (breaking heads) for the the get that I like things a certain way, but by now, we are motoring along just fine.
Except for the occasional skipping-of-class, I have to do very few write-ups. Once (last August), I had a terrible time getting them to stop swearing, so I threw them all out of class and had them capped (confined to quarters) for a three day weekend. I’ve never had a problem since, except for the occasional new guy.

So today I started out with a whole new afternoon class (not exactly whole….a little more than half of them are locked down). I give my little speech about how I like things done, when the breaks are, what I expect. I mention that if they have a medical pass that makes them late to class that I need to have it signed and time stamped. I mention that we have computers and computerized hand held learning tutors. I mention, too, that I don’t like it to be noisy, I like them to all be on task and I don’t like swearing, cursing, bad language or cussing. Any questions?

Well, just one. ONE. Since I don’t have any chalkboards, how do I think I am going to teach? (I have been teaching longer than anyone has been in PRISON. How do I THINK I am going to teach? Do you ask a shark how it THINKS it is going to eat? Silly felon.)

I do an old fashioned five finger reading test. I have leveled book excerpts and if they miss five words, it is too hard. Three words and it is the instructional level; 2 or fewer mistakes? Leisure reading.

I have an easy math test on one of my computer programs; it generates problems from 3rd to 9th grade. Since it is generated on my computer, I can make a different version for each student. I highly doubt they will actually be able to guess the correct answers. And since it is generated individually, I can easily see who my cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eaters are.

Then I have them write a three paragraph essay about themselves so I can see if they are having problems with punctuation/grammar.
Easy, right?

Then when I have them informally placed, I yank out one of the 100 weekly packets and have them work on that, plus the computer,plus the learning tutor.

So in any one class, I can have a first grade reader and someone doing geometry, someone still counting on their fingers and someone reading Harry Potter.

So I am testing and placing, handing out work and suddenly it is recess time.
They all tromp out and 15 minutes later, they all tromp back in.
Three guys sitting thisclose to my desk start swearing up a storm “Hey! I can hear that! Knock it off!”
What I get is all three, turning their heads almost clear around like an owl and looking in feral astonishment at me.

“Remember, I told you I don’t want any swearing, cursing, bad language,offensive language, bad words or cussing? I mean it.”

“I’m a grown man! You mean you are going to discriminate against me because this is my form of expression?”

Duh, yeah

I repeat my little mantra. My feral student are still stuck in the A’s–they are amazed I don’t want them swearing/cursing/cussing or using bad or offensive language. WHO am I to decide what words are out of bounds?

Dude-I’m the teacher. This is my room. I make the rules.

So I repeat my mantra.
Feral Boys are still stuck in the A’s–they are amazed at this development.

“You have to understand that this here is a pen-i-ten-two-airy. This is the way we talk.”
So I repeat my mantra AGAIN, thinking to myself, You cannot scare me. I taught kindergarten. I have children. My mother is Inez Leary. I was married to Jack Bridge.

So Mr. Bemused (they are now stuck in the B’s) wants to know what I’m going to do if they just ignore me.

I have been teaching at this prison for EIGHT YEARS. I’ve worked in the SHU, I’ve worked EOP, I’ve taught on the dayroom floor with a guy with a gun watching me. I have worked with serial killers and pedophiles, rapists, assassins and kidnappers.

Does he think that he is the first guy who has asked me this?
Evidently, he does.

“This is my classroom. I run it this way because this is the way I like it. If you don’t want to do it my way, feel free to skip class. That way, I can write you up and you can spend the summer in the SHU, instead of in my air conditioned room. If you think I’m going to let you sit under my a/c and my fans and swear, you are muchly mistaken.”

Now they have skipped over all the letters in the alphabet and are simply stunned.
“You would send me to the SHU for swearing?”
Yes, yes I would.
“Isn’t that going to be a lot of paperwork?”
Not for me. I have a computer. I can print out complaints all day long. Wanna watch?

They are stunned into utter and complete silence.

I have spent almost 35 years doing nothing but teaching feral children how to be civilized.
I have been locked up with 35 5-year-olds for days on end.
This, my friends, is a walk in the park.


4 thoughts on “Feral Felons

  1. Our exercise yard is roughly the size of two football fields. It is open from 8:30-4:30 every day. That is where everything goes on-all the gambling, trading, contacting, exercise and any nefarious activities they can get up to.

    Since they all dress the same and after a few years, they all look the same, too–they can skip school and just disappear into the throng.

  2. Well, I understand your reasoning behind your “speech” but I could never compare prisoners to my precious Kindergarten kids I taught.

  3. These men were once someone’s precious kinders, too. In an inhumane setting, I like to pretend that someone is listening. I like to pretend that by knowing them by sight; knowing their names-I too am contributing to their rehabilitation.
    Maybe they are inherently evil. Maybe they are simply stupid. I like to think that I treat the least of them with compassion.

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