The Real Deal

Week one has been grueling. Eight hours is a long time to be in school, for me and for the kids. Considering the amount of time it takes to set up, clean up, and meet with my team and administrators, my work days are 10 hours, mostly on my feet. That doesn’t include planning at home.

There have been a lot of good points, but these past couple of days haven’t been a particularly happy time. Our school operates by strict rules in order to keep the place from turning into the clown show some of the kids are used to. Right now, most of the kids hate it, especially since most of them have friends at comparatively lax traditional high schools. I’ve spent more of the first week putting down rebellions than instructing. It’s totally necessary, but not a lot of fun for anyone.

Generally, my students fall into 3 categories: the ringleaders, the followers, and the on-task kids. The ringleaders are probably about 10% of the population. They trying their best to establish the school culture they want, namely: partytime. The followers are about 75% of population. They are the kids who join in when they think it’s safe, because they know the ringleaders are the most likely to get in serious trouble. They take advantage of the situation. Because they’re such a big group and are so difficult to single out, they are the ones who ultimately bring lessons to a halt. Then there’s the remaining 15% of kids who have the discipline to stay above the fray.

I don’t enjoy repeatedly warning students, dealing out detentions, calling parents, and sending kids down to the office, but they are earning it themselves. I’ve already been on the receiving end of so many blow ups from students who simply don’t get that the reason I’m always picking on them is because they are the ones blatantly breaking the rules. Somewhere, some of these kids have gotten the idea that they are entitled to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and that they’re free to make a fuss whenever anyone tells them differently. That attitude is not going to fly at FAST or anywhere down the line.

What’s so frustrating is that right now, most of the kids just can’t comprehend what an opportunity it would be to attend a school like the one we are determined to create. All they want is fun and games all day, and they don’t make the connection between the great goals they have in life and what it takes to get there. So it’s basically my job to beat them into submission and then to drag them, kicking and screaming, to where they need to be until they understand why we do what we do and know how to do it themselves.

But that’s not all. Until recently, we haven’t had any real data on my students. It’s starting to come in, and quite frankly, it’s astounding. I teach heterogeneous classes comprise of kids ranging in math ability from first to eighth grade. If I’m going to be able to make class worthwhile for all of these kids simultaneously, I’ve got my work cut out of me. We don’t have time to spend addressing all the nonsense, but I definitely can’t afford not to.

I’m optimistic that we can make massive gains this year, but not until these cultural problems are addressed. The first step toward progress will be to continue to crack down on misbehavior. I might have to spend most of next week’s afternoons in detention, and maybe also the week after. I’d truly hate to lose any of my students, because they are, after all, just kids. But some of my major challenges are walking briskly right down the path out the door. Put simply, anything that derails progress will simply not be tolerated. But I sure am looking forward to actually being able to teach.

One thing I know I’ve got to start doing though is to spend more time concentrating on the positive things going on in my room. I’ll burn out at this rate.

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