One Down, Thirty-three To Go

old classroom (Mie Prefectural Normal School)
Image by shuichiro via Flickr

I’m still struggling with my 8th grade class.

I’ve written about them before, and I’d like to be able to say the situation has gotten better and I guess it has to some degree. I have about ten higher performing students who actually try to do the work and tell the others to be quiet so they can. It works for about five minutes.

I have some of the middle level kids dropping into my Read 180 room in odd moments and after school just to hang out and chat. This is very important to me. It tells me they’re trying to get to know me and also show me that they’re not like the real troublemakers.

One of the boys who dropped in last evening was the one who I had to drag out of the classroom by his collar to stop him from banging another boy’s head on a desk. He did not resist and when he came to my room I told him it was not my intent to embarrass him but that “I could not have that shit going on in my class.”

I almost never curse.

Spending my early years working in radio cured me of using what was already a very minor part of my vocabulary.

Many of my students curse all the time. They need jobs in radio.

Anyway, the boy was stunned by what I said and while his mouth was still agape I offered him my hand to shake. He took it, smiled, shook his head and said,

“Man, you are so different from what I expected.”

I didn’t ask what he meant by that. I’m not sure I want to know

Today that same boy dropped by my R180 room as I was getting ready to leave at 3:15. Yesterday I stayed until 5:00 so he seemed surprised and disappointed that I was on my way out. I explained I had an appointment with the doctor for my knee. He wished me luck.

I smiled going down the elevator. I’d already had my luck for the day.

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7 Responses to One Down, Thirty-three To Go

  1. Vera Rulon says:

    Sounds to me that you are an excellent teacher… students need to be treated as humans, individuals, adults….

  2. Kate Olson says:

    You never fail to warm my heart and inspire me……..even when the going is extremely tough and I shake my head and wonder why I went into teaching. Thank you :-)

    • Deven Black says:

      I don’t think a day has gone by when I haven’t wondered why I became a teacher. And there hasn’t been a day yet when I haven’t thought that I’d do it again if given the chance. Does that make me bipolar?

  3. linda704 says:

    What Kate said. =D

  4. Bev DeVore says:

    I like your way of thinking! Just when I think I am in the wrong avocation, a student who has given me problems, turns around and says thank you in oh so many different ways! When asked “when are your going to retire? or aren’t you getting close to retirement?” I can’t think of anything else I would rather do! Oh maybe sleep and stress less about those other 62 students. . . maybe only four preps, but then I know they make a difference in my life!

  5. [...] A teacher watches a former student suffer through a Henry Louis Gates-moment. [...]

  6. What your student appreciated was your realness. Too often, as Vera alluded to, we forget that kids are people, too.

    Your experience sounds very similar to one I had today with a student who kept ‘slap-boxing’ the kid next to him, ignoring my 3-4 directions to stop. I finally let my lungs loose at him and he did not respond well. I immediately took my voice down 10 notches and explained calmly that apparently only by yelling could I get his attention. He walked out of the room and reappeared a few minutes later a lot calmer.

    We proceeded to have a quiet, civil conversation about the incident and he sat quietly and did the rest of his work in peace.

    I had to stop myself and remember that I was yelling at a child, at a human being with emotions who obviously was not going to just sit there and take it. By taking it down a notch and addressing him with respect, we were able to amend the situation.

    I am one of the few teachers this student actually listens to because I’ve learned how to talk to him.

    Sounds like you’ve made a good connection with your student because you spoke to him the way few teachers probably ever have.

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