The Difference Between Bad and Worst

Today I taught a class that’s the same level as my worst class. Unlike my worst class, though, they are bad in a better way.

First some history: A few years ago, the school where I work changed the way it divides junior high school English Conversation classes. It added an extra section to the grade to make class sizes smaller, then divided the classes with the “S” class having 20 students and the lower level “R” class having 14. The idea was that 14 students would be easier to control than a larger class. (Note: the classes used to be divided more evenly with about 17-21 in the lower level class and, yes, 14 are a lot easier to control than even 17.)

Because the “R” classes are lower level, and because no one can fail, they are often rowdier than the “S” classes and usually more trouble. The worse they are, the more likely they are to get a nickname: Class 2A (Second grade, A class) becomes “2 Awful”; 2B becomes “2 Bad”, etc. (Note: the others are “2 Crappy,” “2 Damned/Dammit,” “2 Evil” and “2 F@#ked”.)

Today’s class was loud and the students have a typical “I don’t understand, therefore I now have free time” attitude but they actually listened and actually did work (most of them). It was only in the last 10 minutes or so that things began to collapse. Some gave up; some finished and started playing; everyone was talking; no one was working. This is typical of an “R” class. I’ve always maintained that if “R” classes were 40 minutes long they’d be great; unfortunately they are 50 minutes long.

Also unfortunately, my worst class tends to skip the first 40 minutes and starts well after the collapse and goes downhill from there. Those classes tend to get lots of worksheets and they often make me recite the mantra (it’s only 50 minutes, it’s only 50 minutes) and start counting how many more times I will have to see them.

The better bad classes, though, tend to be more fun to work with and they often surprise you. Today a student who got in trouble stayed into lunch to help another student finish his writing assignment.

This class doesn’t have a nickname yet, but it’s still early in the year.


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  1. Pingback: Losing Theirs and Blaming it on Me | Mere Blather

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