Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rough 2nd Week!

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.


Anonymous NYC Educator said...

I think your instincts are good. As as new teacher, I tried to be friendly and positive, with much the same results.

I think you need to show who's in charge, in no uncertain terms, and that you will not accept nonsense or let it go by without consequences. If you can manage that, then you can be as nice as you wish to the many students who merit your favor.

You're actually doing kids a favor by compelling acceptable behavior.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 8:23:00 AM  
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Sunday, September 17, 2006 2:52:00 PM  
Blogger Basem said...

Your experience reminds me of a few weeks I spent as a substitute teacher for the ninth grade in a "regular" school near Baltimore. My hope was that the kids would respect my "coolness" and behave - stupid of me. One class was going out of control one day and in a louder voice than normal I said "I'd appreciate it if you guys would calm down!" The class broke out laughing. One girl retorted "Is that all you're going to do?" A little later I sent one girl to the principal's office. Looking back, I didn't have it in me to yell. Even though I was frustrated, I wasn't angry enough. In retrospect though, I think what was needed was a bit of good acting - a mean face, a very stern voice, and threats. I know it might sound counterproductive, but my strategy of being Mr. Cool and Nice was a complete disaster. Soon after this incident, I was hired as a long term substitute at a special needs school where the kids suffered from severe physical and mental disabilities. Needless to say, the behavior of these children was different from "normal" ones. But even in that situation, there was definitely a necessity to gain respect and authority from the kids. Even there, I couldn't be Mr. Nice Guy. I put my foot down and I was stern. That said, I think my second experience was a lot easier than your current one. Anyway, best of luck. I hope the number of students in your class becomes more stable, and that the students will settle down after getting to know you. I admire your courage.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 12:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk a lot on Tuesday. We should grab dinner one week!

How have things gone for you so far this week?

Thursday, September 21, 2006 5:08:00 PM  

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