The echos of 7th grade math have been reverberating through my house for the past 2 months.
Sugar Mama volunteered to teach the “virtual” kids, and she has been holding court in the back bedroom. But after 30-plus years of standing and delivering to 30 loud kids in 1000 square feet, she hasn’t been able to adjust the volume.
The directions, the pleading, the compliments and the threats resound all around the house bouncing off the tile floors and through the single-pane windows.
From 50-feet away and through 2 doors, it’s an unavoidable study in behavior modification. The carrots turn into sticks and back again in mili-seconds.
“It’s OK if you are a little late, I won’t freak out,” teacher said. “But if you do it every day, my head is going to spin all the way around and I will freak out like you have never seen before.”
Attend and defend
Attendance and paying attention are the main focus for teaching math over Zoom.
“Asher, Asher… I will give you a million dollars if you answer me right now…”
Almost every kid unmuted to cheer on Asher and his new found riches…
“Answer, answer,” they chanted and pleaded. “Miss, Miss, why won’t he answer?” one innocent voice called over the cacophony like she was asking for another bowl of gruel.
“Because he’s not there,” Sugar Mama rasped like Aretha Franklin. “I knew he wasn’t there. He signed in and went off somewhere, because that’s what he does.”
As adults approaching retirement age, it’s easy to forget how stupid 7th graders can be.
First, Asher thought he could just walk away from the all-knowing eye of his computer camera and the instincts of a junior high teacher who has been doing this 3-times longer than he has been alive.
Second, that the rest of the kids thought a teacher would have a million dollars to give…
Asher is just an idiot. I’m more forgiving of the rest. Our middle class lifestyle looks like riches to some of them. When classes were in person, Sugar Mama would give away soda, chips and hot Cheetos to bribe the little bastards. For the first few months, she was driving to their homes on Saturday to give away what was left of our Sam’s Club booty.
Then she discovered Amazon gift cards. Just email the virtual $10 cards to those who do their work and don’t give her shit. To recross the digital divide, she has switched to QT cards — easier for kids to redeem at a convenience store than figure out how to set up an Amazon account when no one in the family has a credit card.
If you are giving away $30 – $50 a week, how much harder is it to give away a million? These kids don’t know how to do the math (yet). For those who can’t do it in their heads — there are 36 weeks in the school year — $50 a week adds up to $1800. It would only take a mere $998,200 to make it a million.
Sometimes I wonder how these kids react to all the different types of carrots and sticks.
“If you just show up and pay attention, I guarantee you will do fine,” teacher said. “I can teach 7th grade math to a dead person.”
Is that a threat? I asked. “Maybe,” she said.
Sometimes attendance is a problem for the teacher.
“If you don’t start this test in the next two minutes, I’m going to start texting parents,” teacher said as she watched the test data roll in. “Marisalla, Alejandra… why is nobody taking this test? I will text every parent in here if I have to… …Ohh my Gawd, I’m looking at the wrong class. I’m sorry guys, I apologize.”
Here’s just a list of shit I heard during her class:
- “One kid told his mother that he has been attending class on his phone — but it’s a flip phone. He doesn’t have a smart phone.”
- “Hey kids, one of you just emailed me to tell me that he can’t be here because he doesn’t have internet. You know email works over the internet, right?”
- “Goodbye McLovin. I love you all. I’ll see you next week… he’s not McLovin. Well, who is McLovin? Ohh stop lying to me, he is too McLovin.”
- “I turned 60 years old during Covid. Now that’s a big birthday, isn’t it. So don’t cry to me you didn’t get a birthday party this year. I got nothing. I mean nothing.”
- “If your computer is broken, just tell your parents. They can drive down to the district office in the morning and get it fixed by lunch… Ohh your computer works fine. I thought so.”
- “I know you guys think I’m weird, but I think I’m hilarious.”