Facing La Frontera

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 11 2011

Just Terrible


Today started off, in the unassuming Friday way, as a supposedly good, speedy Friday. I taught for half of class, and then the kids tested for the 2nd half. Everything went smoothly until lunch.

Then, I started hearing stories of how my kiddos were behaving in front of the 3 subs they had today (science, math, spanish).

During my conference, the counselor came over my intercom to ask me to please remove a student from a class because he was causing issues and there weren’t any admins available to deal with him. So I go to that class, put on my meanest face and voice, threaten them with writing consequences, and whisk him away.

This is the student who was suspended for 3 days this week for bringing a knife to school. Now, he’s one of my secret favorites because although he blurts out ALL the time, he is crazy smart, and super helpful if he isn’t grandstanding for his classmates. So I rarely actually get mad at him.

But as we walked, I quietly stated – I don’t even want you to answer, I just want you to think. They’re having a meeting -today- to determine whether you get to stay in this school today, and you decide to disrupt class? What are you thinking?

Luckily, the counselor quickly showed up to take him away, and I was left shaking my head.

Then, during TAKS class, I again had to be the “mean” enforcer to the math class because they were all over the place and not in the right rooms. My TAKS class was boisterous as well, and it’s partly my fault b/c I still haven’t gotten around to making seating charts, but it was just bleh.

4th, again, started off calmly. They were crazy in the hall, so I warned them all about talking. I had to give one student, a chronic offender, a demerit before she walked in because she was talking.

Then, she raises her hand to say she has an emergency and she has to use the restroom. I say no, class continues.

She asks again, this time without permission.

While the class is getting folders out, I kneel by her desk and tell her – We’re not supposed to let you leave at all, and the last time you had an emergency and I let you leave, you were gone for 10 minutes and then I saw your handwriting in the bathroom. (note: we have a huge Sharpie issue in the girls’ restroom)

If I had known what was going to happen next I wouldn’t have said anything. Even though it’s true….it just slipped out because we had never reported what I and another teacher saw in her handwriting. ¬†Actually, I would’ve probably let her go to the bathroom if I had known.

As I’m walking away, she screams out that she didn’t do that and that it isn’t right how we accuse her of everything and always assume it’s her fault.

Then she gets quiet. Refuses to work. Starts to cry.

I ask her several times to get to work. I bring her a kleenex and I inform her she will receive a consequence if she doesn’t start working.

All of a sudden, she gets up and tearily announces to the class – I’m going to the principal.

And she walks out of my class.

And continues walking, even when I go outside and call her name.

After a few seconds of panic, I get the class started on their quiz and send one of my best students to inform the office.

10 minutes later no one knows where she is.

I happen to see my principal walking down the hall, and I inform him about what has happened. He says he’ll take care of it.

10 minutes later, student walks back in. Sits there. Assuming she has already talked with someone and been sent back in, I ask her to move to a different chair to finish her quiz that everyone else has finished.

She refuses. and refuses. and refuses.

And then walks out a 2nd time.

I kid you not. Luckily, this time, the principal was walking down the hall again, this time in search of her. He takes her with him after she shouts – she’s accusing me of writing graffiti in the bathroom!

At the end of class, she comes back. I have no idea of what has been discussed, and she refuses to talk to me or take my quiz.

Then, we file all the students into one classroom, where 2 rookie teachers (aka myself and another teacher) unsuccessfully try to command them. Except that I’m nearly in tears already and almost hiding in the back, supposedly trying to keep the kids in the back from goofing off.

As we do our attention getting gesture, I’m calling out specific students who aren’t responding. One happens to be the girl who has decided I’m her worst enemy. Instead of responding, she yells out – WHAT.

Resulting in an eruption of laughter from her peers, none of whom need another reason to lose more respect for me.

At this point, I can feel the tears forming, although they haven’t spilled or anything, and I’m just walking around praying that my face doesn’t turn red.

FINALLY, they dismiss them all. And I go to my room and cry and cry until 2 teachers stop by to chat and hear me out slash share their battle scars.

I confided in them how terrified I am that these girls who have decided I am their enemy are going to bleed their emotions onto other students and that it’s going to make these last 2 weeks before TAKS unproductive and terrible.

They gave me some fantastic suggestions, and through my tears, I was again reminded of how blessed I am to have awesome co-workers who are willing to honestly delve into some of their less pleasant memories and work with me to find improvements.

I already emailed my principal to ask to talk with him about how his talk with the student went. I am going to talk to my team lead, who I think is amazing, and ask to speak with her about the other student concerns I have to try to find a solution before one of those students blows up at me, or vice-versa.

Terrible ending to the Friday, no lie.

but, the silver lining:

I graded one classes quizzes, and all but 2 students passed. I am so excited by this news. Since I created it, I don’t think it’s the most rigorous quiz ever, but it is directly aligned to the objectives we’ve been working on, so I at least know that they’re getting it.

One step at a time.

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