Sunday, December 31, 2006

Back From Christmas Vacation

I’m back from my Christmas retreat. I felt like I needed to not only leave the classroom, but escape the city that is home to the rage and torment that seethes in my students.

I wish I could say I’m incredibly recharged and ready to face the youths again. I spent a bunch of time talking with an experienced teacher of emotionally disturbed kids, and I really get the sense that the kids themselves aren’t my biggest problem, but the administration that doesn’t back me up.

Did I tell you? Starting on Tuesday, we have a new principal. I’m sure the transition will bode exceptionally well with the kiddies. Yeah right.

My biggest New Years resolution is to really buckle down and find creative ways to work with my students. (Over the past week I’ve had several dreams about them…I’m thinking I miss them.)

Tuesday I get to think up a new bulletin board, but for all to see: here’s what my class helped make for Christmas:

My students decorated their stockings with glitter and glue. And I promise you, I'll be finding glitter in my classroom until Easter. As a treat I bought all sorts of goodies from Costco to stuff in the stockings. The bad news was that plenty of kids didn't show up on the Friday before break.

Providence provides. I was coming up empty for lesson plans for Friday afternoon: you know, when most of the class has walked out, but you need to keep the last four students engaged enough so they don't stab eachother? So during a scuffle between two kids they ripped down the current board, seen here, and with a little fast thinking I had my students devote an entire 90 fuss-free minutes to cutting out a Christmas tree and making star-shapped decorations with the glittered initials of each student. It was brilliant and inspiring! We even sang Chistmas carols! So add "make more hands-on projects for students to work on" to my list of resolutions.

Monday, December 18, 2006

What do I expect for the Last Week Before Break?

I’m heading into school for the last week before Christmas break. It’s been painfully busy lately and last week started pretty rough (thrown garbage, getting cussed out) But Friday ended pretty well because I tossed the lesson plan aside and let the kids work on Christmas stockings and a Christmas bulletin board. From 1PM to 2:30PM there was peace and productivity in my classroom, I was able to catch my breath. I’ll try to take some pictures of the artistic effort today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sitting Next to My Principal on the Train

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but I am prepared to debate that it is instead despair that inspires downtrodden souls to make any attempt to better their situation.

Ok, I’m not quite downtrodden…Let’s say I’m down, but not out. Assessing the situation I notice I’ve made it in the teacher world for over three months, and have less than three weeks until X-mas break. Fabulous; at this rate I’ll be prematurely grey before I’m 25.

My principal sat next to me on the subway train after school today, and she’s new enough to not disdain chatting with a teacher while off the clock. “Ms. C, do you laugh enough?” she asked me. I pondered over the term “laugh” and wondered if bitter laughter counted. I obviously don’t, and I find very little funny about students who will spent the next 4 years in the 9th grade before dropping out, getting pregnant, getting high, getting shot.

I was having a big issue with a female student in my class: young, pretty, a great fighter and liar…and full of so much potential that I can’t help but take it personally that she’s failing. I get the sense that if this girl put an ounce of effort into actually staying in class and not promenading the halls scratching girls and taunting boys she’d be passing all her classes.

By the grace of god I got this chick alone for a minute in the hallway, and really set my mind to giving her a piece of my mind. I only had a minute because she was cutting class and her cronies were dragging her out of the school. I tried to impress upon her everything I was feeling; from taking her failure personally to my ENORMOUS faith in her inner strength and intelligence. I told her I wish I had her strength when I was her age, I told her nothing could make me happier than her success (and meant it); and all the while I received a blank-eyed stare.

“Miss, I’ll stay Thursday after school, I promise. Just let me GO!” I sighed, wished her a good afternoon and went into my classroom to collapse at my desk.

My principal’s reaction, when I came to the end of the story was very simple…To appreciate the moments when my classroom is peaceful and rest assured that eventually, over time, that sort of message will get through to the student. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

I felt, then, the true despair of youth; when you’re too new to fully know your limitations, and too inexperienced to appreciate tiny triumphs.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Mark Rides Again!

(This is regarding the same dangerous student from these previous posts)

Friday was another scary confrontation with Mark. For a while it was getting better, I’d write the student up when he came into my class and he was suspended a few times and came into my class less and less…sometimes only once a day. After my initial inquiries for an order of protection were shot down by administration, head of security as well as the union rep at the school I let it go; especially because Mark was being more of an annoyance than a threat.

Friday he became a threat, busting into my classroom and fighting with student on my desk. I shouted for security out my door, no longer trusting the phone, and Mark and the other student were removed from my class. (There were several dangerous fights on Friday, one including Isabelle fighting another girl and gouging her with a thumbtack.)

No even ten minutes later Mark was back and pounding on my door. The door was locked, and I smartly refused to open it, even after Mark started shouting and kicking at the door. After a few moments I attempted to teach my class again when one of my own students opened the door. Mark came raging in, throwing student work and dumping an entire can of garbage all over the two class computers. More violent behavior ensued, the throwing of desks, the kicking of random objects…The eyes of my students widened.

Mark was taken out, again. But returned to bang on my door and shout rather colorful threats.

I spoke again with the principal, and I may have gotten through, (a whole pile of anecdotals can’t be ignored forever) because Mark is being put into a vocational setting, only being in the school for the first two periods. And that’s fine with me, because Mark never showed up before 10ish.

It’s hard to feel warmth and compassion for the students who seem beyond my help. This kid (Kid? He’s a breath away from being an adult.) scares me, I feel guilty for thinking poor thoughts about him, but he’s out of control.

So while I’m hoping that he does well in vocational training…maybe working towards something productive will ease his anger, I look forward to not having him in my life.
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