Friday, September 28, 2007

Frantic, frenetic, unfabulous Fridays

"Shhh! The teacher's here!"

This is (along with "CanIgotothebathroomcanIgotothebathroom?!") probably my least favorite thing to hear from my students. That's because "the teacher" they're referring to is not me, but their classroom teacher. And what it says, in a nutshell is, "We don't respect or listen to Miss Brave because she has no power over us, but shhh! The real teacher's back!" And that's the worst feeling in the world, because it means I've failed in the basic, primary objective of beginning teachers: Behavior management.

Management is not, shall we say, my "thing." I'm too soft, too willing to get bogged down listening to everyone's sob story ("He took my pencil!" "No I didn't, it's my pencil and then she hit me with it!"), and too easily distracted by other problems cropping up in the room ("OK, one of you needs to be the bigger person here and -- JAMES WHY ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR SEAT SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW"). In my first grade class today, I spent literally almost the entire period dealing with the issue of whose turn it was to use the bathroom. Let me tell you something: I once ran a marathon, and it took me five hours. And I think I would rather run a 5-hour marathon every day of my life than spend another 30 minutes having the following conversation with first graders:

Child #1: "I gotta use the bathroom."
Miss Brave: "Someone is in there right now; you need to wait. And you need to stop calling out and use the bathroom signal. So last week, we were talking about --"
Child #2: "I gotta go bad, it's an emergency!"
Miss Brave: "As soon as that person comes out, you may go. You don't need to tell me out loud, you need to use your bathroom signal. Right now you need to wait.
Last week we learned that good writers -- "
Child #3: "Me too, Miss Brave, I can't wait!"
Child #4 exiting the bathroom with bloody hands: "Miss Brave, my tooth fell out!"
[Room erupts into chaos]

Behaviorally, this afternoon was a disaster. All three of my classes ended with their class stoplights on red (translation: Your behavior is atrocious and you get no stickers; when this happens I tell them how sad and disappointed I am that they won't earn a special reward from me, but actually, the fewer special rewards I have to dole out, the less expensive teaching will be), and two of those classes ended up in trouble with their classroom teachers for misbehaving with me, which makes me feel absolutely awful. It shouldn't be the classroom teacher's responsibility to discipline students for their misbehavior in my class; it should be mine. But I'm running off to another class and I don't have time and the students know it, which is why they misbehave in the first place. One of those classes gives their classroom teacher a lot of trouble, too; but the other one is much more respectful of their classroom teacher, and I'm just the crummy writing teacher everybody hates who comes in to ruin Friday afternoons.

It was Pajama Day at school today, but I'm glad I didn't wear my pajamas. If I had been wearing pajamas while A.J. and Joseph wrestled on the floor right in the middle of my lesson or while Carlo flicked pencils, point-first, across the table, or while second graders made armpit-farting noises solely to piss me off, I think I would have lost it completely.

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