Thursday, November 5, 2009

EXPLOSIVE Unprofessionalism

There was an explosion in my class on Monday. Had I been a cartoon, my head would have been cherry-red and the top would have blown off, whistling like a steam engine. I yelled at my first-period class so loud that the para-educators’ and every students’ eyes went white and wide. As these were the students who were even more used to uncontrolled, raging adults than my other classes- this was the lowest-tracked class, the one arguably with the most difficult home situations and certainly the one with the worst behavior problems- the surprise soon turned to giggling.

It wasn’t a single action that set me off. I’ve been sick for the past week and a half and the amount of chatter has been steadily increasing lately. Those things, together with the SSR (silent, sustained reading) I’ve been trying to cram down their throats has left my students very unsettled on the days I’ve asked them to get quiet for twenty minutes to read non-fiction trade books (short, flimsy, concise readings on a large variety of things pertaining to my current unit).

So I was standing at the head of the class after one of these “reading” sessions that went particularly awry, stewing over the fact that this class was about to mutiny over reading (little did I know that the other two classes would do something similar the same day) and the students were simply not getting quiet when I asked. It was the first time this year that they just wouldn’t do it.

BOOM. I lost it. The discomfort the students felt turned into laughter, which of course was even more irritating. From there I did an about-face and sent them to work immediately copying something off a slide whole I collected myself. Most of them did that and I was able to talk to a few individuals one on one. Luckily the main instigator of the near-insurrection and walked out of the class to tell the dean she was having major problems in my class- not because of me, mind you, but because she wanted to beat the hell out of a ninth grader that I taught last year. She failed to mention that when I pulled her aside in class to ask what was going on.

This explosion was unacceptable. It did absolutely nothing positive. I even wrote a post just a couple weeks ago talking about getting very angry in class in which I talked about how destructive to the educational process it is.

Sometimes we need to step outside of the classroom- really take our mind out of the game and think about what it is we do. For many of my students I'm the closest thing they've got to a full-time male role model. The last thing I should be doing is getting angry at unruly fourteen year-olds and having a blow out in class over something like students not listening.

This situation is not irreversible. Things can be mended with this class. It'll take some time and it'll take even-tempered instruction and careful fielding of discipline problems for a while. I'll need to reach out to a few more students in this class, something I should have been doing already, as they are the lowest achieving of all my classes.

I'm not sure what else I can say about this topic. Clearly things like this don't just happen in the first year, but it's important to point out that last year by this time I'd completely lost it with a class at least a dozen times at school. This is improvement by any standard. While still not the way teachers should act in the classroom (of course, my students shouldn't be acting as they do either), it's good to know that things are getting better in the long run in spite of this weeks set-backs. According to reports from veteran teachers, the fact that the year started off well will generally allow me to re-establish a more orderly classroom in spite of a bad week.

Today's Wine: Barocco Primitivo Puglia. I couldn't tell from the label that this is was a zinfandel, nor could I tell from drinking it. I had a glass of this after a glass from another bottle and I've been under the weather lately, so I can't really comment on how good this one actually is. It is the first wine I've had from this region of Italy (Apulia: The Heel of the Boot).

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