28 September 2008

The Story

I don’t know what I prefer: the rudeness that characterized last year’s eighth graders or the immaturity that so far describes the sixth graders. I wish there was a “none of the above” option. So much time is devoted to navigating ridiculousness:

“He took my pen!”
“No I didn’t! She took MY pen!”
“She touched my desk!”
“He touched my desk first!”
“He’s looking at me!”
“No I’m not! She’s mad ugly!”

And so on.

This is the sort of thing I have been dealing with since Day 2, and it came to a head on Friday, which was the most difficult day I’ve had all year. That’s an ominous thought after only nineteen or so days of school (I only know this fact because I had to talk to a student about her attendance, and point out that she’d already been absent for half the school year. She didn’t understand why I thought that was a problem.)

My morning was not terrible, though I was surprised at the number of kids who were absent. We were working on the second draft of a writing activity. I’d collected the first drafts from the kids who’d finished, and told the kids who did not finish in class to finish at home. After I returned the drafts, six kids complained that I hadn’t returned their drafts. I panicked, and went through all my other folders, went through my binder, everything. I didn’t find any additional drafts, and I got pretty upset. Organization is still something I struggle with, but I very seldom lose anything, which is a big reason why I have little motivation to change. I function well within my dysfunction.

The combination of my record of not losing things paired with what I already know about the specific kids who claimed that I had their work made me suspicious. So I sat down with those kids, one at a time (because, you know, I had nothing better to do) and made them go through all their stuff. All the kids but one found the drafts that “I” had. And the one whose work I didn’t find claimed that it was collected by another student, who is not one of my collection monitors. I assume he lost his. Do I need to say that I was furious? I’d felt so guilty about the possibility that I’d lost their work and I spent a lot of time going through all the work I had, and I had to spend a lot of time with each of those kids to find the work that they claimed I had. And of course none of them had made a dent in the assignment.

As frustrating as the morning was, the afternoon was much, much worse. I really don’t know why anyone has to teach on Friday afternoons. It’s so hard to accomplish anything. The time could be spent better on team-building activities or technology projects or…anything else. If I didn’t have a husband and child, I would be willing to allow the students to perform practice lobotomies on me. But that would really only get me through one Friday afternoon; the upside is that afterwards I really wouldn’t give a shit anymore, would I?

The class I have on Friday afternoon is my most talkative, and it also got most of the students from the dissolved class. I got tired of trying to talk over them to explain the activity, so I moved all the quiet kids into one corner, got them started, and went around and gave zeroes to the rest of the students. Once I’d issued the zeroes, they started working. Not the best approach, but I didn’t know what else to do. I refuse to raise my voice; I think less is more.

Naturally, a spat broke out between a boy and a girl, and it got physical. There were no punches thrown, but they were tussling back and forth. My AP walked in as it was happening and was obviously not amused. After the class I called both parents, plus the parents of two other students who are doing no work and causing disruptions. There are many more parents that I need to call, but I think I need to deal with just a couple at a time. It’s hard enough to confer with parents since they often show up when they can, as opposed to when we have preps. So I end up with one foot in the hallway and one foot in the classroom, and it’s not effective. Though I do think I need to bring up to administration that something has to be done about the way we meet with parents. The kids get really antsy when no adult is in the room, even when multiple adults are in earshot. As a result I often wonder what goes through the parents’ heads when they see these other kids and I wonder what they think about my ability and effectiveness.

I am not looking forward to tomorrow, not that this tidbit is surprising. I’ve been looking at websites on character education, and I think tomorrow I am going to backtrack and not do my usual lesson. Instead, I am going to see if I can put together an activity that focuses on respect for fellow students, because I think this is a huge part of my problem. The kids have no respect for each other; they have no respect for themselves, so they are not going to respect me or the learning that needs to happen.


Anonymous said...

I hope you are using these 2 days off to relax.

Would you please explain how your school meets with parents? Do you do it during class time? If so, not a good idea.

Many of the teachers in my school met with parents at 8am. This would give us a chance to discuss the matter in about 15 minutes so we wouldn't have to give up our preps to do it. Since most of us were in school by 8am, it wasn't a problem and since we had to start work at 8:20, we were able to wrap up the conference quickly.

For security purposes, we were no longer allowed to bring them up to our rooms that early in the morning, so many of us used a first floor classroom or the waiting room of the nurses office.
Some teachers met parents on the bench in front of the main office if other rooms were being used.

I would leave any thing I needed for that meeting in my mailbox if I knew I wouldn't get to school before 8.

I hated the idea at first, but it really worked out. Many parents had to go to work themselves so they appreciated the early conference. I did have one nutty mom who wrote asking if we could meet on a Saturday. Hell NO!!


MsMalarkey said...

We meet with parents whenever they show up. It's not uncommon at all to have a parent show up at the door while I'm teaching.

Yesterday, at least, a parent showed up during my prep, though the meeting ate up all but 15 minutes of my lunch as well.

I really do need to bring this up to my principal- as you pointed out, it is a safety issue besides the fact that it takes away from the rest of the kids. I think we do things like this to accomodate the parents, and I do understand that they have jobs, etc, but it's really not effective. I get to school an hour early and I'd prefer to meet with parents then.

Every so often this issue does come up, but after a few weeks we sort of fall back into the old way.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like there is no school policy on meeting with parents and it should be included in the Safety Plan that a parent must have an appointment and that they cannot just come up to the classroom whenever they please. Your CC should be made aware of the risks.

If a parent shows up, just say sorry we don't have an appointment but you will be happy to meet with him or her on (and give them 2 choices).
Let them understand that their visit cannot infringe on your time with the students. You can send home a letter to that effect saying that if they would like to meet with you, please let you know in writing and you will set up an appointment.

In cases where parents just show up, unless your admin finds you temporary coverage, let the office know you cannot meet with the parent now because you are in the middle of a lesson. If they insist, tell them you need someone to cover the class. You may want to tell your principal how having parents come to you while in the middle of a lesson is disruptive to the class as well as a safety issue, or you may want your CC to take this issue up at the next policy meeting. I would suggest you give it to your CC first and still write a friendly letter explaining your appointment policy
and how you are willing to set up 8AM appointments so that class time is not interrupted. I wouldn't set up an appointment that's too early. Stick with 8am so it's kept short.


avoiceinthewilderness said...

People really have no idea what it's really like in our classrooms. I like your idea about character education.
I think a huge part of the problem is that we work in an organization that has such a disrespect at its core that it trickles down.
Of course, there are so many other factors at work, but when human beings are treated with disrespect from the highest level, it has to filter down.