A day in the life

So, so far, my entries have been more about my mindstate than what actually happens here, so I thought I’d write about my day last Friday. We’ve got a student, let’s call him Jim. Jim is extremely bright and usually a sweet kid, but has some serious behavior issues. On Friday, he was a nightmare.

The way summer school works is that 4 TFA teachers are assigned to work in a single classroom, and we take turns teaching. Two of the rest of us are in workshops at any given time, and the last teacher is free to hang around the classroom or handle business elsewhere. Last week, I taught the last period.

I came up to the classroom from workshops to observe 3rd period, having no idea what had gone on 1st and 2nd period, and as I approached the door, our SMT was in the process of literally screaming at Jim for being extremely disrespectful all day long and kicking him out of class. I wouldn’t find out until after exactly what happened.

So later on, while monitoring the students during an assessment, I thought I could hear music, but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Then I saw. Without me noticing, Jim had somehow made it back into the room, plopped himself in front row, put on his headphones, and pumped his music up loud enough that the whole room could here.

I walked over to his desk and told him to put the music player away. He pretended not to hear me.

Me: “Jim, if you don’t take those headphones off, we’re going right back down to the office”

Jim: “Huh, what?”

Me: “Put the headphones away Jim”

Jim: “I already turned the music off”

Me: “Put the headphones away Jim”

Jim: “Man, back up off me”

Me: “Jim, I need you to get started on this assessment”

Jim: “I’m not getting started on nothing”

Me: “I’m going to leave this on your desk and walk away. Everyone needs to take it. Get started”

I begin walking away only to hear him mutter something about me being a bitch under his breath.

Me: “What did you say, Jim”

Jim: “Nothing, I wasn’t talking to you”

Me: “It doesn’t matter. I heard what you said. And either way, everyone else is taking an assessment, so there can’t be any talking. I’m going to need to talk to you out in the hall”

Jim: “I’m not going out into the hall”

Me: “Look, either you can walk with me out into the hall, or I can call security, and they can come up and bring you back down to the office”

….

Needless to say, this whole encounter continues for the next 10 minutes, with Jim being resistant to every instruction I give him, right up until the consequences begin to escalate, and then he wants to comply in the least compliant way possible. I eventually end up having to bring him back down to the office after he starts making wild accusations at one of my co-teachers.

I found out later that the reason he had ended up in the office earlier was because he had been continually disrespectful all day long to the first two teachers, and the warnings and classroom consequences had had no effect on reining him in. Eventually, my mentor had had enough and chewed him out, old-school style.

The sad thing is, Jim is a nice kid. He’s the sort of kid I could get along with fine. It just breaks down when you have to exert authority over him. He just struggles to control himself. He also seems to have major issues taking personal responsibility for his behavior. Everything always comes down to the world vs. him. He can’t seem to grasp the fact that his actions disrupt the learning experience for everyone else, let alone himself.

We had hoped he would come back this past Monday with a better attitude, but not so much. He ended up getting sent down to the office again, and suspended for Tuesday. We talked to his youth worker Monday afternoon, but I’m not sure what effect that had, or really even what a “youth worker” is, exactly. Since he’s returned, it’s been a balancing act. We want him there in class, but it’s so difficult to manage him without triggering him. So far, it’s going alright, but he’s still far from a model student. We’ll see how it goes…

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