Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life after William

It's possible I may be suffering from PWSD: Post-William Stress Disorder.

As I mentioned ever so briefly in my last post, William has departed from us, to a special education classroom at another school. If I could say one thing to his new teachers, I would say, Please help him succeed where our school failed him for three years. If I could say two things, I would say, Please help him succeed where our school failed him for three years, and also, no backsies.

So here's the deal with my class minus William (who, by the way, had perfect attendance while he was in my class): It's like a whole new class. On the plus side, it's like a whole new class, but on the minus side...it's like a whole new class. It's like September 9 all over again. It's like I turned around to find 26 other children sitting in front of me to whom I had not been able to devote a single iota of my attention because I was too busy chasing William around the classroom and trying to get him to give up my stapler (which he enjoyed using as a machine gun).

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about this development, but I am a little surprised by it. Even though I knew that William was holding our class hostage and making our days agonizing, I'm still startled by how much calmer everything feels without him. And part of that is my own personal fault, not William's or my students' -- for a while there, I let him control my emotions and my reactions, and of course that trickled down to my class. I was tense and, quite frankly, on the verge of panic when he was in the room (What am I going to do if he doesn't stop throwing that ball at the wall? How am I going to get him to quit the name-calling?), and that vibe oozed around the classroom like poison.

But on the other hand, our class was defined by William and his behavior for so long that it's almost a challenge to adjust to life without him. (Well, for me, at least -- other than Julio, who of course terribly misses his partner in crime, all of the other kids have adjusted well to bidding him adieu.) Last week, we took our first field trip, and all I kept thinking the whole time was: Oh my God, we never could have done this with William. When we got back, my kids were surprisingly mellow as they ate their lunches ("This is the best sandwich ever!" one of them enthused dreamily), and then something miraculous happened: One of the first kids to be done eating asked if she could read a book from our collection of Read Alouds. I agreed. Then another kid asked, and another kid. Before I knew it, my entire class was gathered in small clusters at the meeting area, sharing books. Some of them were reading aloud to each other. Some of them were obviously practicing their own "teacher" persona. Some of them had their heads bent close together, giggling as they pointed at the pictures.

Nobody was fighting, nobody was grabbing, nobody was shouting, nobody was using hurtful language. I had been planning to gather the class together to discuss the trip, but I hadn't counted on this beautiful, wondrous thing happening. I literally just sat back and watched them -- I even snapped a picture -- and before I knew it, it was time to go home.

It was the first time my classroom felt like a community. And slowly we will rebuild, and hopefully it will feel that way again.


mrs_daisy said...

Enjoy the peace! I endured a similar situation at the beginning of the year, except my wild child just got moved to another teacher's room because his mom thought I just couldn't handle him (he is still being a holy terror, unfortunately). What I found, though, was that once he was gone some other personalities started to come out of the woodwork. It was as if there was a job posting up for his role as class-turmoil-creator and there were several interested candidates. It's funny how classroom dynamics work!

Capt. Schmoe said...

I am a coward. I am a coward and I lack educational creativity. I fail to see the benefit to the classroom by keeping William in a mainstream learning environment.

Kids like William are why I sent my kids to private school. It's not that kids like William are evil or they don't deserve a chance at an education, it's just that it shouldn't be at my, or anyone's kids expense.

It's hard enough for my kids to learn, the chaos of one or two Williams certainly does not help.

I am glad you now have a refreshing environment in which to focus on the other kids education. I just hope that William can find whatever help he needs.

I truly enjoy your blog.

mcaitlin said...

i hope things continue to go smoothly and you have more moments like the impromptu reading :)