The Learning Curve

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 16 2011

Out the box

During the summer, when Institute was eating my life, I was worried about my ability to keep up with regular postings. I really want to regularly post here, not just to update my friends on how and what I am doing, but also because writing helps me to de-stress. Looks like I’ve got nothing to worry about for the time being; it seems this little project has turned into quite the procrastinator’s tool. I cannot wait til this weekend when (get ready for some teacher-nerdiness… you were warned!) I get to spend a good amount of time in my classroom re-evaluating and taking care of the endless “little things” that seem to pile up. Like labeling the students’ cubbies, or actually re-arranging their seating charts to be more effective. It’ll be such a relief and time saver to not have to take care of 2 or 3 of those things in the morning while I am preparing to teach! I can also plan ahead for the week so that my weeknights have some semblance of normalcy. Right now, in the midst of our ever changing enrichment and intervention schedules, as well as being added to, rotated on, and removed from the duty schedule at seemingly every new hour of the day, I haven’t had time to even consider what an average day should look like — it has literally always been different from one day to the next. I’m excited that we have started to get things nailed down. I think feeling like the school as a whole has a handle on the minutiae will help me to do the same in my class.

That being said, I desperately need to regain some control and start over tomorrow with a better foot forward. My students were out the box today. For those of you not from the South, the ‘hood, or living/working in some sort of representative cross-section of the two, “out the box” easily translates to “out of their damn minds.” My students are so precious and so smart but unfortunately I spent a big part of my day handing out consequences.

Part of the problem is that I have yet to come up with an individualized behavior management system for some of my students with exceptionalities, and at this point in the early part of our school year, some of our students see them act out with certain behaviors and think it’s alright for them to do that, too. Usually they redirect after a verbal warning (first consequence), but today, consequences seemed to be water off their backs. They couldn’t have cared less if they’d been paid for their indifference.

One of the students, a girl whom I suspect actually might have an un-analyzed anger management issue in a very legit sense, literally just got up and walked out during class – she wasn’t even being reprimanded, she just decided she was over it for the day, I guess. Obviously I followed, and she was just in the hallway, hanging out and rolling her eyes, but it was the most frightening feeling I’ve had so far. I was so upset! I was able to keep myself in check but honestly, I don’t know how. I’ve reiterated our rule about staying in your seat, in the classroom, unless given permission to get up a million times and stressed to them that it’s about their safety, but it didn’t seem to matter to her. I talked to her outside of class and brought her back in. The unfortunate thing about it is that this girl has a history at this school for misbehaving, and it shows by how people react to her outbursts. I really think she needs to be talked to, in order to find out if there’s a form of school counseling that will help her or a method that would enable her to control her impulses when she is upset. But so many people are used to this behavior from her that they literally are just like, “That’s her. Be careful, it gets worse.” I don’t need to hear stories about the things she’s done in the past. I need to find a way to get this girl the skills she needs to be able to deal with her setbacks. She goes from 0 to 60 at the smallest (or nonexistent) provocations and it’s almost scary how quickly her language denigrates into some of the most disrespectful tirades that I’ve ever heard from anybody, ever. There was a phrase that she’d said to another teacher a couple of years ago that is literally so graphic, I refuse to type it. I can’t imagine how I’d react if a grown woman said those words to me, let alone an 8-year-old student.

I fear for her future if she is not helped; this behavior snowballs easily, and those who do not gain the skills at a young age do not suddenly stumble upon them as young adults. Instead, it becomes an even more heinous display of anger and hostility; these are the people that grow up literally knowing no other language than one of settling scores. I want so much more from her, because she’s entirely too smart to waste it, but it’s hard in a room full of kids to enough wits about you to have a serious conversation about the appropriate expression of feeling, especially when you’ve got lessons to teach and other children to manage. I’m going to try and ask around after our school social worker and talk to her mom about her recommendations, but I do hope we find something that works for everyone before the year really is in full sway.

On a happier note: anyone teaching elementary aged children should have an “Enemy Pie” read aloud. It is one of my favorite children’s books and I brought it to school to read to my class and they LOVED it. I let a 1st grade teacher borrow it and her class when bananas for it, too. It’s definitely a good read!

No Responses Yet

    Post a comment