Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Day From Hell

Ugh. Woke up feeling lousy. Made it to school, did not get nearly enough work done during my free periods.

The 6th grade presentations were okay - not great, but definitely not terrible. After each group went, I had them sit down and asked the class for two positive comments and two suggestions for improvement. The groups listened attentively to their classmates' responses; maybe this immediate feedback will translate into better presentations the next time around. Anyway, we finish the presentations tomorrow.

By afternoon, I had the beginning of a headache (which has been following me around for a week now). It was my last period class of 7th graders that pushed the day over the edge of the great abyss. If I had been feeling good, it wouldn't have been a big deal, but today I was just not equipped to deal with it. Here's a summary:

First, they do not quiet down during their warm-up. Every goof-off is at his or her most goofy (except one, who greatly deserves some praise and will get it tomorrow). Then, one of our vocabulary sentences is "Some people like to keep a reserve of Halloween candy to eat later." I start to tell them briefly about my sister's Halloween candy hoarding tendencies (she still had candy at Easter one year!), but they all start shouting out. So I stop myself mid-sentence and tell them that I can't include little personal stories in my lessons if they're going to respond so poorly. Everyone looks around accusingly at their neighbors. Muttering. As we go over the homework, I stop constantly to regain the attention of one or two students who have obviously found other things to think about. Then, we get the laptops out so they can finish working. As they get their laptops, someone reports that a boy is crying. This boy has a history of depression - both personal and in his family - and has been really out of it lately. I take him aside to talk, but he won't say anything, so I send him to the bathroom to wash his face. Still, I'm worried about him, so I try to call the office to see if the principal can intersect him and address the situation one-on-one. No one answers, and when I hang up the phone, two boys are grappling with each other like wrestlers, and the noise level in the room rivals a heavy-metal concert. I call the two boys to my desk, ask them what on Earth they are doing, and then make them sit out for the rest of the period. I ask the class to quiet down... they do, for ten seconds. Another teacher stops by, accompanied by the boy who had been crying. Apparently the boy was not willing to talk to him, either. I think I'll call my principal tonight and tell her how worried about this boy I am... he was always an odd kid, and this year, he's really out of it, even compared to last year. I finish talking to the other teacher, look up, and see a boy lifting a chair at full-height above his head, walking across the room. At this point, my head pounding, I lose my cool. "Have you lost your mind???" I call him up to my desk, ask him if he understands why I'm angry - because of the possible injury to himself, another student, or damage to a laptop - and then make him sit out for the rest of the period. A few minutes later, it is time to clean up. They are not really ready for their presentations tomorrow, but that's just how it has to be. More than enough is more than enough. We spend the next FIFTEEN MINUTES packing up, putting chairs up, and quieting down (most of the time is spent quieting down). My homeroom class is waiting outside to get their coats, so after I realize the seventh graders are just going to keep talking unless I get loud, I decide to teach them a lesson. I let the sixth graders get their coats and just wait. Several minutes later, they are all quiet, and I point out that they are the last class getting dismissed, they still need to go to their lockers, and already five minutes have passed since they were supposed to get out of school. Waiting a class out is a questionable teaching strategy; definitely better than yelling, but something to use very, very rarely.

I get a ride home with a colleague. She pointed out that this class has a homeroom teacher who provides very little structure (okay, none), and that classes often take on the personality of their homeroom teacher. This class has been getting more and more difficult since the beginning of the year (still easier than classes in my previous school, but difficult compared to other classes in my new school). She gets them after this other teacher several times a week, and reports that they are much harder to handle when they come from his class than from any other class. Interesting. What to do about it?

Still, today would have gone better if I had just had more energy and patience; I'm not trying to blame someone else.


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