The Pineapple Chronicles, Vol. 2

Pineapple Boy (previously referred to as Muscle Boy, but the pineapple thing is already reaching legendary status) is struggling. I think all his braincells are engaged in digesting all his food, and then there’s the build up of muscle in his neck, which may be restricting bloodflow to the important thinking areas of the head. His class were doing an in-class essay a last week, and he had a lot of trouble following instructions, and especially instructions to do with the citing of sources in MLA format.

I give you the following as an illustration:

Pineapple Boy: So do we have to do that thing at the end of our story?
[It’s like a giant flashing warning sign when students refer to essays as stories, you know, like they have no clear understanding of writing as having genres or audiences or anything like that. Words on page=story. This is not going to be a nuanced argument that is produced here. But I digress.]
Me: The conclusion?
PB: No, the biography, or whatever.
Me [stabbing in the dark]: The works cited?
PB: Yeah, that. What is it called?
Me: The works cited. I just told you.
PB: Well, I can’t be expected to remember it. [I think the rule about “no food in the lab” is making him testy.]
Some time passes. I wander around the room answering slightly less moronic questions from the general populace. Later, I look over Pineapple Boy’s shoulder, and see that he has written “Citation” instead of “Works Cited”.
Me: You need to change that to “Works Cited,” like I told you.
PB: Well, geez. It’s not like I do this for a living, you know.
Me [thinks]: This is probably just as well, or you would starve.

Pineapple Boy’s “story” was not a roaring success. Among other things, it claimed that the term “sir” was a racial epithet equivalent to the word “nigga”.

So, he got a bad mark, and he wanted to rewrite, and against my better judgement I agreed. He informed me, during our conversation (which lasted about 10 minutes, and during which time he consumed some kind of health food bar) that he had “never heard of commas until this class”.

On Monday, the rest of Pineapple Boy’s class, who are lazy slackers, except for Entrepreneur Guy, who is very focussed but had to run out of class because someone dinged his illegally parked $60,000 vehicle, did not do their reading. The reason? Well, I had listed the pages they needed to read from the textbook in their Course Schedule, but I hadn’t given the exact name of the “stories”. Apparently, “Chapter 2, pages 67-78” is not specific enough. (I got the same shit from a student in another class who said that the instruction “Unless otherwise stated, all readings are from Textbook X” was not clear enough, and I should list the every single reading by the name of the story, the page, and the phrase, “this reading is found in Textbook X”.) Since none of them had done the reading, I turfed them out of the class with orders to do it, and the reading for next class for next class. They left. 10 minutes later, Pineapple Boy wandered back into the room – he was on a food break – and asked where everyone went. I explained. “I did the reading,” he declared, confidently.

So, Wednesday rolled around, and I decided to give the slacker class a kick in the pants by making them write a short essay about the reading. Because I am not utterly evil, I offered marks for students who did well. They moaned a bit, but eventually got cracking on the task. Five minutes later, Pineapple Boy – who had been on a food break – came back into class, and asked what was up. I explained. He proceeded to pack up his stuff noisily, including repacking his lunchbox, and flounce out of the class.

He emailed me later about how he was “sure you would not care why i left the class but i will tell you anyway”. Apparently, it is unreasonable of me to expect him to retain information or produce written responses to the assigned reading, because this requires him to remember stuff about what he reads. He has a lot of other classes, and after a couple in a day, his “brain is fried”. He also said he had been spending a lot of time on his “grammer. not that you will belive me when you read this email but i dont think that is important in this case.”

He’s very determined to succeed, but he has no idea what strategies will help him, so he flails around wildly. I offer suggestions about how he might work more productively, but he dismisses them as ridiculous and fanciful. He came to see me, all earnest about how he had copied out the reading. Why? I have no idea.

Stay tuned. There is sure to be an update.

12 thoughts on “The Pineapple Chronicles, Vol. 2

  1. Jessica

    Christ on a cracker.
    As a librarian, I am constantly amazed that some of the kids (and adults) I deal with are able to function in the world at all. I feel for you.

  2. M-H

    How do these students get to a tertiary institution? Dont’ they have to get a certain level of pass in High School? (I’m in Australia and am not familiar with the US system.)

  3. Sile

    How is it possible to never hear of a COMMA? What are they teaching kids in school these days? I learned of commas somewhere in early elementary school.
    Pineapple boy is severely lulzy. I’m glad you have a place to vent your frustrations. 😉

  4. Bobbie

    Here’s [some of] the deal, folks: Pineapple-for-brains most certainly HAS heard of commas before “nowish;” that he may have made no particular synaptic connection between that hearing and any funny little squiggly thingies that sit astride the not-there line in the text he had been reading–or not reading–has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with our (elementary-middle-high school teachers’) efforts to get him to engage and transit and flow and grow and change and become and give a good God damn about what in the hell he does KNOW–we coax and cajole; we breathe and bluster and blow; we hoist and heft and harangue. We tell him it is about power–HIS; we tell him it is about future–HIS; we tell him it is about ability to acquire–HIS. He laughs in our faces, calls us losers, then writes us a “story” about how when he gets the fuck outta here, he’s gonna go so far away away away all the way away to California, where he will pursue a Master’s degree (Yes!) in Mixology (Let me hear it, sisters!) at SUNY (that would be State University of New York, but don’t tell Pineapple-for-brains that; we ain’t got nothin’ to teach him he ain’t already learned!) that’s right, SUNY-effing-California, LA campus cuz that’s were [sic] da [sic] babes is at [sic] [sic]. He gets out. No Child Left Behind assures that–guttering a system that once required some evidence of functional skill and ability and replacing it with a competency exam that in our rural and suburban schools even the completely drug-addled can wrangle with a 55 or better–the new level of achievment for graduation here in NY, at least for now–and then they are off to college or university.

    And we look at each other agog. How the hell did Pineapple-for-brains get into UniX?! What the hell are their standards? Are they just taking any old body who can cough up the cash?

    Then Pineapple-for-brains comes back at Thanksgiving and struts through the building and tells all the chicks that college is “cool” and “way easy” and “the profs are idiots,” but “ya gotta know how to deal with ’em” and the “babes are hot” and the “drugs are fine” and “life is good” andandandandand–

    And then, sometimes, down the road, Pineapple comes home and doesn’t go back to southern Cal (“Whoa! Mrs. C–didja know they don’t call it SUNY out there? What’s up with that?) and takes a job in the food processing plant and knocks up his girlfriend and gets married or doesn’t and buys a home or doesn’t and takes some classes or doesn’t and comes back and tells us “If I had it to do again, I would do it different [sic]…” and we ask if he will come in and talk to the kids and he says sure and then we never see him again except in the grocery store with his kids where he ducks down the tampax aisle so he doesn’t have to talk to us.

    Let’s get real here: For me and for you and for all, Pineapple-for-brains has to bring his head with him to class. We can’t begin to do a thing with or for him until he does. And sometimes that never happens.

    And let’s get more real: For me and for you and for all, Pineapple-for-brains is NOT the norm. We all still work with a lot of great kids who DO bring their heads with them. At least on most days. And whilst the Pineapples seem to be breeding pretty heavy and the trend may be downward, it is still worth it to have those not-Pineapples show up and work it every day.

    And the biggest charge of all is when Pineapple-for-brains shows up and tells you “I had it all wrong and thank God for you Mrs. C and I remembered you said we all just really have to figure out what we were made to do and I did and I went back to school and I’m in architecture and I have all A’s and my dad told me I was a loser but I have never been so happy in my life and I bring my head with me every single day of my life now; I never leave home without it! Oh, and I figured out how to use a semi-colon.” And life is good.

  5. feckless

    Ok. This is not a good story/essay/essai to read just before I start teaching a first year class for the first time in years.

  6. Sile

    @what Bobbie said: What the heck happened to “you must pass all REGENTS exams to graduate”? Unless you’re in speshol ed, of course. This was the case when I graduated in 96. Has it changed? I really don’t appreciate this no child left behind bullshit, because it’s really cheating kids out of proper education. I’m beginning to think that I’m going to have to homeschool if things continue as they are. Or else try to get the money together to send my kids to Allendale Colombia or the Harley School. But those schools are EXPENSIVE!

  7. Bobbie

    SJ-didn’t and don’t mean to take over your ‘blog, but gotta respond to Sile, a’ight?

    Since 1948, when the Board of Regents was formed in NYS, it has NEVER been required that one pass all Regents’ exams in order to graduate; rather, one has always, even now, been required to pass all Regents’ exams to earn a Regents’ diploma. There has always been, even now, a “local” diploma allowance, and “speshol ed” kids may be awarded–always and even now–and IEP (Individual Education Plan) diploma and therewith graduate. Some schools, like mine, have always (at least since the ’70s) mandated that every kid ATTEMPT a Regents’ diploma, but we can’t withhold a diploma so long as a kid meets the State’s minimum requirement.

    Since the “new” testing (late ’90s), there has been an escalating requirement of passing Regents’ exams in order to be awarded a diploma of any sort: That number is currently 5; one each in math, science and English/Language Arts, and two in the area of social studies: one in Global and one in American history. Passing (through the current cohort) is 55-64 on Regents’ exams to earn local credit along with 22 earned credits for a local diploma, 65-84 on Regents’ exams along with 22 earned credits including approriate sequences in Regents’ course work, and 85-100 on Regents’ exams along with 22 earned credits to earn a Regents’ diploma with Mastery. After this year, students must earn a 65 or greater on five Regents’ exams along with 22 earned credits to be awarded a diploma. Period. We are lobbying for and sorely need a continued exemption for our kids who cannot now nor will ever be able to spell their own names correctly. On the other hand, though, our Pineapples-for-brains need to get their shit together. The gravy train is pulling out.

    That does NOT, of course, mean that they will no longer find their way into our college class rooms. The Uni needs to stop admitting those snowflakes (as they are so lovingly called on another site) and get them out into the “real” world (i.e., the food processing plants their dads and moms administer) so they can catch a clue. We’re tossing clues like crazy in our secondary class rooms, but like I said before, some of these kids just don’t take anything we’re lobbing as being meaningful to their existence.

  8. Jessica

    As I read the comments about standardized testing requirements and the level some of these “students” in college are at, what makes my brain hurt most is this – my ex-boyfriend’s daughter, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome – PASSED the MCAS. As in, passed – for real – not a special test, or a special ed test, the actual test.

    So, I would have NO PATIENCE for Pineapple Brain. But then again, I’m a snotty bitch. 🙂

  9. Bobbie

    @feckless: Well, sample What’s blogroll, and you’ll happen upon SJ–at least, I think that’s how I found her. I know that I discovered the joy that is this site through the Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog site, and much, much, much of my very best reading and commiseration links incestuously back to that one. I have an affection for smart writers writing and smart writers’ writing.


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