Friday, December 10, 2010

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know already that I have a long list of complaints about my students: laziness, whining, extreme aggression toward other name it, I've probably bemoaned it.

One of the most disappointing things I've encountered in my teaching career is when students show such an enormous lack of respect for classroom materials and supplies.  At the beginning of my first year in the classroom, I bought colorful caddies to sit on each table and filled them to the brim with brand new supplies: pencils, pens, erasers and pencil sharpeners.  Not more than a week later, everything was broken, missing, or defaced.  My fellow second grade teachers and I made a mutual decision to stop giving our students post-its to jot on, because inevitably we would find post-its scattered all over the floor, ripped up into pieces, inscribed with inappropriate language or being made into flip books.  Some of my students used markers to draw on pencils, on our desk caddies, on the floor. 

This isn't, of course, a universal problem.  A great many of my students treat their supplies exactly the way I remember treating mine in school, with the utmost care -- each pencil and eraser tucked lovingly into their pristine pencil case.  (I hate to generalize here, but let's face it: Most of them are girls.)  But every time I turn around, I inevitably catch someone scribbling doodles on a post-it and then ripping it into pieces that end up on the carpet, or someone else drawing on his notebook with a dry erase marker, or someone else using a scissors to whittle a pencil.  (Why do you even have a dry erase marker?  How did the scissors end up on your desk instead of in the scissors bin where they belong?)  One of our students routinely snaps pencils in half when he gets angry.  (Are you tempted to suggest that we give him a squishy ball instead?  Been there, done that, our students managed to break the squishy balls.)  My friend Edward managed to color all over the bottom halves of his sneakers with red marker (which then bled onto the floor, leaving red streaks.)  Several of our students have managed to use their pencils to bore holes through the protective covering over their nametags, scribbling over their names until they were little more than black streaks.

How do you teach your students to respect their supplies?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why can't we just get along?

One of my students hates me, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Sure, I've had students express anger and even rage at me before.  I've had students glare at me and grumble at me and gripe at me.  I've even had students yell at me.  But having never team-taught before, I've never experienced a situation where a student is so freaking rude to me alone -- not my co-teacher, but only me.

Edward registered on my radar at the beginning of the year as a slightly spacey, soft-spoken kid who appeared to be in his own world most of the time but occasionally contributed really insightful comments during read aloud.  His mother wrote us thoughtful notes about how she was working with Edward on his maturity.

Then, a few months into the school year, Mom got a new job.  Edward started coming to school wearing dirty clothes, or clothes that were inside-out and backwards, or, most bizarrely, his karate uniform.  He started putting his head down and falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon, and complaining that he was hungry and hadn't eaten dinner or breakfast.  He stopped doing work altogether in class, stopped participating in African dance, and started antagonizing his classmates (one of whom I overheard exclaiming with exasperation, "Why is Edward so hard to work with?!"). 

And he started a significant crusade against me.  When I said in a casual, friendly voice, "Hey, Edward, what's in your lunch bag there?" he snapped, "None of your business!"  When I try to talk to him, about anything, he frequently puts his hands over his ears or a book in front of his face and says, "Blah blah blah!"  He's asked me never to speak to him again, he's expressed a desire to petition the principal to have me fired and, most oddly, he's told me I smell like carrots (I diplomatically replied that I would take that as a compliment). 

He can't explain -- or has chosen not to explain -- why he has such a huge problem with me, but no problem with my co-teacher.  (Not that his interactions with her are a bed of roses, but he will at least follow her directions, whereas he has actually run away from me on numerous occasions.)  The only reason we've ever been able to eke out of him is that I'm "mean."  But I make every effort to speak to him in a polite, civilized tone of voice, and still our classroom interactions play out like this:

(Edward is rolling around on the carpet taking up spots that should belong to other kids.)
Miss Brave: "Edward, please sit up."
(No response from Edward. Ms. Halpert comes over.)
Ms. Halpert: "Edward, sit up NOW!"
(Edward sits up.)

A-ha, you might be thinking, it sounds like Edward is one of those kids who responds better to stern voices!  Except when I do the stern voice, Edward claims I am "screaming" at him.  I can assure you: In our classroom, it is Ms. Halpert who does most of the screaming.

I honestly didn't think it would bother me this much -- after all, as I said, I've had kids dislike me before -- but when every day he is insufferably rude to me and then responds to Ms. Halpert, I can't help taking it personally.  Edward has decided I don't have to listen to anything Miss Brave says, because she is mean.  So we're locked in this vicious cycle where I try to ignore his behavior, only to have him amp it up to the point where he's literally throwing it in my face (watch me misbehave! ha ha!), so I feel compelled to address it, and then I get: You're mean. Yesterday I informed him that he would not be participating in choice time, and he responded with, "That's what you say."  In the end he spent choice time sitting next to Ms. Halpert wearing the angriest of angry faces, but didn't talk back to her the way he always talks back to me.

We're working to get counseling added to Edward's services, so I'm hoping this is something the counselor might be able to address with him.  But in the meantime, I dread my interactions with him, which is a shame because I am, you know, his teacher.  Julio's behavior last year was much more out of control, but at least Julio believed that I was, at least some of the time, on his side.