Sunday, November 13, 2011

There are lots of firsts...

I meant to write this on Thursday, however as with everything, time keeps slipping away.

This past Thursday I had two firsts, one kind of traumatizing and bad, and the second overwhelmingly great, a feeling of appreciation and belonging in a very tiny gesture.

For the first time, I was left to lead class with the upper level seventh grade class at my school. While I have worked with them since the first day of school, I will admit that I am not as close to this class as I am to my other two classes, likely because they do not really need very much assistance or at least as much assistance as the other two classes. My lead teacher had to go to an IEP meeting for one of our eighth grade students and so I said sure I can finish going over the benchmark test with this class. No problem.

Boom, wrong.

I would also like to note that this is the only class that ever has less than three adults in the room with them.

So there I was alone. With the most intelligent kids in the school. And they could not get it together. We made it through about one half of a page, I tried several times to get them back on track, and then I did the only thing I knew how to do. I walked across the hall and asked for help from the math teacher. He wasn't there so I came back over and told the students that since we could not handle working through the benchmark together, they would be reading silently the rest of the class period and that they would have to do the benchmark tomorrow. This only kind of worked, so I went for help again. He was there and I asked him to come over and sit with me and the class.

The room was silent when he and I came back in. They were being angels, terrified angels. Looking at their pages then looking at us. He did a once around the room and then came back over to me. We had a little talk about how to clarify rules and expectations with students, we decided that when he left I would announce to them that the next student who talked or was off task would go to his room and they would get an afterschool detention. He then told me that sometimes I have to sacrifice a student and that it is okay to do so, especially if they probably really deserve it anyways. He left and I made this announcement.

This worked for a short while. I let some students who did not have silent reading books go back to the library and get one. I had a girl go get a book and then return to her desk and start mumbling about how much she hates the book. I left this to slide, and then once I walked back around the room she was still mumbling and was now drawing in her notebook. I reminded her that everyone needs to be on task and the task was reading. She told me she didn't care and I told her then she can make the choice to go to the math teacher's room. She said can I bring this with me, and I said sure. She said fine, I'm leaving, I don't care. The girl next to her said "No, don't, you know that's an afterschool detention." She said I don't care and left. I propped the door open on her way out.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, the class read their books silently, and listened to the math teacher give the student a piece of his mind as she tried to blame things on me and then eventually relinquished and accepted the decision as her own and accepted her faults. I had my own diatribe with the class based on the fact that I have never done anything to disrespect them as individuals, people, or as students and I had done nothing to merit the total lack of respect they had shown me today. I also told them that they gave me no reason today to believe that it was worth designing lessons for their class if they could not respect me in the slightest. Then my co-teacher returned and returned with a fury as soon as she realized what had happened. She then gave them her own lecture and prepared them for a miserable Friday.

The student who had left then returned. She returned by slamming the door and slamming her books down. My lead teacher then told her to go wait calmly by the door for her to let her in after she dismissed the class. She did not, she left and went to her next class, with her books still all over our floor. This became a referral to the assistant principal.

This was the first afterschool detention I issued. This was the first referral I was involved in issuing.

This was also the first day I got a key to a classroom. My first key to my first classroom.

In the afternoon we had an articulation of Digital Harbor High School where a woman came and gave a presentation on the school for the seventh and eighth graders. At the end of it, my lead teacher came over and said "Well you know since all your stuff is in there, I don't want you to feel dependent on me to get in and out. And what if something ever happened and I couldn't get to school, then what would you do?" and handed me a key to the room, a shiny gold, made just for me key. I honestly had not felt that accepted and welcomed and appreciated until this moment. Such a trifle. And it made me feel like I knew we really were going to be a great team by the end of the year and that yes, despite my shortcomings, my fears, and my inability to arrive to school prior to 7:32 with consistency, she wants me to be there.

I guess really everyday of this year is a first of some form. These were a few really worth remembering.

1 comment:

  1. A couple of suggestions as you continue to work with this group of students...while giving a good "heart to heart lecture" might seem like a reasonable response to an unruly group of students, these sermons typically fall on deaf ears, or do not create a lasting change in behavior. You might want to try an approach where you ask the students, "what are you doing?" - honestly ask the question without a disproving tone. Probe them to actually describe their behavior...then ask them what it is they have been asked to do....then ask what classroom rule they might be violating...then ask the consequence for violating the classroom rule...then ask them to make a choice about their behavior so they can successfully complete the task or follow the rule. This places the attention on the behavior and allows the students to think about what they are doing and allows them the opportunity to make a change. This may not work every time, but it allows you to focus on the behaviors that are getting in the way of learning.