Break Every Yoke

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 21 2013

Rough day

I drafted a lengthy, pensive yet optimistic, I-can’t-believe-it’s-already-the-end-of-May kind of blog entry during my prep today… and then period 6-7 happened.

It was, without a doubt, the most out-of-control 109 minutes I have experienced in my two years of teaching thus far. I had kids falling asleep, shouting at each other, refusing to sit in their assigned seats, throwing erasers across the room, stealing pencils, lying about stealing pencils, complaining about ClassDojo, and challenging me to breakdance / arm wrestle. At one point, VM even walked up to my computer—which has a touchscreen—and started moving stuff around in the SMART Notebook file. (Granted, this was during Trashball when it’s much harder to monitor who’s doing what, but still—in what universe is that okay?)

I eventually called an administrator, who came and removed the most egregious offender from the classroom (JT… more on him in a future post). But that only brought the misbehavior down to a marginally tolerable level—and then only with literally nonstop behavior narration. In the last ten minutes of class, I made the executive decision to stop the lesson, which wasn’t sticking anyway, and have a conversation about the mayhem we had all witnessed that class period. I won’t pretend the outcome of that conversation was transformational, because it wasn’t—not even close. It consisted of half the students complaining about how I’m always on their backs about doing work, and the other half complaining about how the first half always slows the class down. To be honest, I really just needed the break to regain some semblance of composure, and at least it succeeded in that regard.

In retrospect, while I am extremely disappointed that my freshmen demonstrated such a lack of professionalism today (especially after we had made some progress last week), I don’t think I could have handled the situation any better in the moment. I never lost my temper, I maintained a firm voice throughout, and in the end, half the class still defended my actions as a teacher. I also could not have planned the lesson much more effectively, given the time constraints of creating three lessons a day, and I certainly could not have expected this afternoon’s broken AC or extreme humidity. More than anything, I comfort myself with the knowledge that my other classes are going strong and are well on their way to meeting their big goals. I guess it just stings that after two years of experience, I can still have such a terrible period of teaching or be so helpless amidst chaos.

Must keep pressing on. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

One Response

  1. In my naïveté, I assumed teachers were coasting through the last few weeks of school. I am learning this is not the case, especially with parents trying to get grades up for failing students, End of Course Tests and Graduation stuff.

    Be encouraged. You’re almost there!

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