Monday, April 14, 2008

Tough times behind

My day started with the longest paper cut ever (courtesy of a stubborn sentence strip)...and it ended with my lowest moment as a teacher.

I have a second grader whom I suspect might be on some kind of medication, because some weeks he is quiet and calm and gets all his work done in a timely fashion, albeit with a vaguely vacant look in his eyes, and some weeks he is inexcusably disruptive. This week it was the latter. He made clicking noises at the meeting area. He interrupted to say rude things. He laughed inappropriately.

I think I handled the situation badly. His class, who always gives me trouble, is by far my least favorite to teach. I go in there anticipating a battle, and it shows. And the kids maintain the attitude that they're not obligated to behave, since I'm not their regular teacher.

So things with Mr. Personality quickly spiraled out of control. He started to run around the classroom, jumping over tables and knocking over chairs. He yelled and beat his fists against his chest. He rolled around on the floor, kicking his legs up into the air and sucking his thumb.

The rest of the class seemed virtually unfazed. After a while, I brought them back to the meeting area and read them a book while Mr. Personality continued his wild spiral around the classroom. If I had hoped that ignoring him might wear him out, I was out of luck.

Eventually it was time for us to head downstairs, at which point, naturally, my friend sprawled himself out on the floor and refused to move. When I headed over to the phone to call the guidance counselor (who didn't answer), he jumped up to shove a few kids against the door and rolled right back down to the floor, all the while making some disturbing shouting noises. I finally got the class out the door, with my friend holding my hand, when he came to a dead stop on the stairs.

I was getting a little frantic. Here I had 25 kids on the stairs, with one of them sitting on the floor and yelling. I was deciding whether or not I should send a few kids to the office for reinforcements or just try to tough it out when my friend, who still refused to stand up, slid himself down the rest of the stairs on his butt.

Bottom line? He feels like he doesn't have to behave when his classroom teacher isn't in the room, because he doesn't give a hoot what I think of him, because whatever consequences he might suffer for the one hour a week he spends with me are worth it. At this point in the year, I'm extremely frustrated by my inability to get some of my more challenging students to respect me and obey me, especially since a lot of these kids I'm yelling at have difficult home lives and might be going through a tough time, which I don't know about since I only see them for an hour a week. At the beginning of the year, I was probably too nice, and it got me nowhere. Now, I've turned into this mean ogre whom I intensely dislike.

I did a bad job today. Instead of reacting with sternness, I reacted with anger. Instead of defusing the situation, I only made it worse. I didn't act like the teacher I've been striving to be, and I am not proud.


Sarah said...

Don't worry--we ALL have these moments! Remind yourself that you are doing your best with what you have and consider this a learning experience! I wonder if the students would behave better if you collaborate with their classroom teacher and get his/her support in enforcing consequences once you leave? If you present a united front with their classroom teacher, it might help. You might try starting the class with a reminder of their classroom rules and the consequences if they are not followed. May be worth a shot... Good luck!

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Betty said...

I have had days like that as a teacher and as a parent. Regardless of how much I try, occasionally things just don't work out as planned. I just try to learn from my experiences and think of ways to do better the next time. Working with students who frequently go out of control is a tough job. Hang in there.