Homeroom Blues

Friday was a crazy day. One of my homeroom kids managed to get suspended for a week within the first 30 minutes of class. We lead the students between their classes as a group, to prevent the hallway chaos that is prevalent at many Baltimore high schools. While I was outside the room watching the students, one of my students apparently decided to pitch a fit and start throwing papers and booklets on the ground in the back of my classroom. I don’t know if he was doing it as an attack on me or what, but the teacher next door overheard the ruckus and confronted the student. He refused to clean up the mess, so she brought him down the the principal and he was suspended for 5 school days.

I never saw what happened in the room because I was leading the rest of the students to their next class. I was expecting I’d be spending the first part of my planning period cleaning up the mess. But when I got back to my room, I was shocked to see that two of my students had stayed behind and cleaned up the mess, and actually had organized things better than they had been before. It is probably the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a while. I made sure to call both students’ houses to tell their parents about their good deed.

Sometimes it’s hard to see past the continuous behavior problems to realize who I’m getting through to. I don’t much care who likes me or not. You can’t care, or it would break your heart. But it’s nice to see that some of my kids have a lot of respect for me.

My homeroom is pretty much a zoo, but I refuse to be that teacher who yells at the class or becomes hostile toward individual students. Some of my students actually blame me in class for not being able to control my class. I feel their frustration, but what they don’t realize is that it’s the individuals in the class that choose whether or not to be in control all I can do is provide incentives and disincentives. One of my students, genuinely perplexed, asked me, “Mr. Johnson, why are you so nice to us?”

I told him it’s because I treat people how I’d like to be treated. I don’t know, but I think I got through to him, at least for that moment. For that class, that’s probably how it’s going to be. I’ll just have to weather out the chaos and cherry pick my breakthrough moments with individual students. I guess the bright light at the end of the tunnel is that if I succeed, I will have turned some of these kids’ lives around, because right now, I’ve got about 8 or so students who I really feel are making choices little by little that are going to take them out of this school, on to the streets, and either to prison, death, or lifelong struggle. The stakes are extremely high.

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