You may have noticed my absence over the last week, and let me soothe your fears that I have not been shanked. Only that the week has been incredibly tough, harder than any college course of second-hand story could have made it out to be.
To start off, I have a new students either coming in, or leaving my class almost every day. Which means that some students I’m only working with a day or two before they go off somewhere else. At one point I had 19 students in my roster, where legally I’m not supposed to have more than 12. And this constant revolving door in my classroom doesn’t allow my class to settle down, I already know I have 3 new students that should be coming to my class next week, when the school busses start.
So, the first problem in my classroom is the constant chaos; I can’t be sure what’s happening, or who’s going to be around on any given day. A connected problem to this, is the fact that only 2 of my students come with any sort of punctuality; so I have student arrivals as a disturbance throughout my day. To the point I wish I could turn students away at the door.
This last week has really changed how I look at teaching, and has obliterated a lot of my naiveté when it comes to emotionally disturbed teenagers. I started out wanting to nurture my students, offer them rewards for hard work and not shout at them like I’m sure their family does. I wanted to start the year with good phone calls home, and positive notes when students do well. I was using soft tones with “Honey, please get started on your quiz” and “Sweetie, I would appreciate it if you put your umbrella down and stop poking Raquel.” For some reason I thought I could reason with these students, be kind but still be respected by them.
It was at that point, the inmates were running the asylum; doing whatever they wished because Ms. C wouldn’t yell at them. Don’t feel like doing your class work? Take it home, sure! Do it there! Better yet, have your older sister or brother do it! Awesome!
At first I was afraid to fail the student because they refused to work, thinking that if I could just find a way to reach them…they would realize how important the work is. I would attempt to engage the class with interesting hands-on work, so they didn’t just have to sit and glaze over. Chaos, with no productivity.
I had a student throw a book at a dean’s head. I got elbowed in the mouth when a student went to punch another student. I had everything swept off my desk, my trashcan kicked over, two students desks upended and a textbook thrown into a full sink of water by a guy who wasn’t even my student…just ran into my class and started threatening “the new teacher.”
After the first hit to the face I not only refuse to attempt to break up fights, I call security and head pretty far from the action. I got cursed out by a fighting student because I “didn’t pull the other nigga offa him.” I had to try really hard not to laugh out loud at that one. The things I bought, thinking it’d be good to have nice things for students…and electric pencils sharpener, and some nice bath and bodywork soap…destroyed, down the drain and filled with gum.
I’ve been bitched out, cursed at, insulted, defied and ignored this week. My administration has not backed me up in the least. I ask for a window in my door, so I can see whose trying to get into my door before I open it. Nope. I asked the assistant principal to say a few words about removing do-rags and hats when in the classroom, to which she walked into my classroom and told my students it’s ok as long as they don’t wear them in the hall.
So, two weeks in and I’m feeling a little bitchy. I’m not thinking twice before putting zeros in my book for students unwilling to hand in work. I have started inviting students wanting to learn into the back corner of my classroom at a big round table, and teaching them there, while the rest of the class goes nuts. What hurts the most is that I have students who truly want to learn, who want to get out of special ed, and into inclusive classrooms. And I can teach them! However, the students with the worst behavioral issues do their best to insure that those students become as distracted as possible.
My goal for the upcoming week is to harden myself a little more, realizing more that I can teach these kids, but I’m not expected to save them. And maybe rely a little more on my inner bitch.