Friday, 29 August 2014, 135pm CST: I’ve sent the little shits on their way and they can kiss my ass. Okay, I’ve gotten that off my chest. It’s just that when I come up with a pretty darn interesting, or at least silly, lesson plan, and the seventh graders spend it whining and pawing each other, well, a person can get pretty down, for five minutes, anyway. Then I have to move on and plan the next lesson and hope that the next one is a little better. Thus concludes my first week as a teacher.
I teach Science to seventh, eighth, and ninth graders and English to seventh graders. The consensus among the volunteers, the majority of whom are in their second year here, is that the seventh graders, around age 11, are the most unruly kids in the school. The phrase “herding cats” has come to my mind more than once, even multiple times in a period. See, you have this group of cats and a few of them will chase the toy, but the rest are climbing on the scratching post, fighting over a dust bunny, or licking their butts. And when you show the latter group the laser toy it looks up for half a second and immediately forgets and resumes the climbing/fighting/butt washing.
Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration.
No, I’d say it’s about right, which is why I don’t take the long view but do this day by day. At least no one has died or even shed blood.
No one is sure why this class is…fill in the blank with appropriate descriptor…but it sounds as if this group has always been a little rebellious. In fifth grade (9 years old), instead of teaching their teacher the word for “beer,” the students taught him the vulgar word for “butt.” This teacher found out the truth the hard way. Supposedly the kids like me, so I could comfort myself that the cats could be worse. When I deserted them outside (it’s best to try to have lessons outside in the afternoon because the classrooms are so warm) because they wouldn’t stop arguing with me, they did follow me back to the classroom. I also get hugs from even the worst behaved ones. (Then why did you steal my pen and claim I had lent it to you?!) As for the title of this post, it is what I told one of my kids when he asked why I wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom despite the class being immediately after lunch and I have a pee before class rule. And, yes, at least one student has called me “mean.”
I’m certain that the readers who are current and retired teachers are nodding their heads and chuckling. Vee, who teaches eighth and ninth grade English, after the first day said she already had more admiration for her teachers, but there’s never a time I’ve not had admiration for them, at least the good ones, the ones who make an effort to interest their students and obviously care about them. I admire these teachers so much that I am skeptical I can walk in their shoes. Who I now have more sympathy for, however, are the defeated teachers. It’s gotta be so easy to turn that way. By the end of just this week, thinly veiled sarcasm was slipping out during my more frustrated moments. Sigh.
For now, the students who keep defeat and despair from consuming me are the eighth and ninth graders. While there is still chatter and boys socking each other, there is also note taking and kids answering questions and even asking me questions, some of which I know the answer to and others I have to look up at home. (What is the difference between silicon and silicone? Does lava have metal in it?) On Wednesday, when I wrote “Science!” on the board, the eighth graders cheered. I suspect that had more to do with the subject than my uneven teaching skills, but it still was gratifying to have a semi-willing audience. I have students, specifically two boys (my “geeky boys”), who deserve a more knowledgable Science teacher. In the right hands, they could go very far, as could many of my students. I keep thinking that these kids need better teachers than us mostly untrained, though dedicated, volunteers. The list of what these kids need and deserve is very long. Here’s to hoping that my own dedication is enough to get these kids into a good high school in San Pedro Sula.
I want to be more comfortable with failure. Rather than it being a gigantic, grayish white, much too thick and long-legged, possibly poisonous spider lurking above the kitchen doorway/behind the door/on the screen door that I have absolutely no interest in seeing, thank you for the offer, I would prefer it to be a pila water bucket shower — a little unpleasant, but each time I learn how to make that water last a little longer and rinse off more of the soap. I’ve failed here and there this week. I gave a science lesson that was rather confusing. I did not teach the English vocabulary words well at all and skipped the quiz. I’ve been unable to accommodate students who finish their in-class assignments early. I haven’t enforced the class rules consistently. I’ve hit a student in the face with an inflatable globe. But that’s how it goes, and I make note and try to do better the next time. I don’t dwell; there’s no time!
These are some highlights of the week:
- Using hard boiled eggs to demonstrate the earth’s structure (9th graders grossed out, 8th graders interested, 7th graders…I think they liked it.)
- Geeky boy comparing his zit to a volcano and the pus to magma.
- Student regarding the inner core: “This must be where the devil lives.”
- 7th graders creating colorful construction paper pictures of the earth’s structure.
- Comparing the inner core of the earth to a marshmallow. A lot of pressure on both of them makes them compact and hard.
- Challenging a geeky boy’s theory about why the dinosaurs disappeared in such a way that I’m pretty sure he’ll come back to me next week with an improved theory. This was a success because I was able to seem like A Well-informed Science Teacher Pushing Student Toward Growth and Research.
- Lending The Giver to one of my more ambitious (and frustrated at my lack of behavioral management skills) seventh graders.
I wouldn’t say I’m excited for next week, but I’m not dreading it. I know I’ll be excited and hopeful Sunday night as I fall asleep. In the meantime, it’s Saturday and a day filled with food buying, blog writing, lesson planning, meeting with parents and teachers at school to plan El Día del Niño, and an awkward volunteer barbecue at the Big House (see previous post re: alienation) await!
Perhaps next week will be a little better when they realize that you came back and that they didn’t chase you off. Illegitimi non carborundum!
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Your feelings are all what will make you a great teacher! There are always a grade of students that think of themselves as bad, just teach the good ones and they will come around. If you did not care you wound not worry, just don’t overthink yourself or it will eat you up. It is what it is and this too shall pass were sayings I lived by a lot! Just breathe!
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You sound so very present with all that you are learning and with your dedication. I’m so very glad to be able to hear and follow your thoughts. It’s very helpful to me.
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Patience.Patience and more patience. For years I taught Jr.high and high school. 7th thru 9th being the hardest. 37 years of experience now. Getting the majority to sit and a few to listen is a good day. I remember the days of desperation with those grades. I would need a nap when arrived home and my own children would need to wait half an hour for me to decompress. Try some incentives. Points for behaviour to trade for dances or field trips or movie session. Make actual dialogues and play theater with them to have them participate more. The more interesting the class with down to earth themes and real life situations with role playing always gets their attention and establishes useful and assured learning. Smile. Make funny remarks. Sometimes all we can do is pray for a good day. Take a big breath and enjoy the moment. Remembering most 7th and 8th graders they rather not be there. It is not you. But still try harder. Love always.
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