Harsh Times

Don’t put yourself up on a cross. Your blood won’t help no one….Plus it’s already been done”
-Errol Duncan, brilliant English scholar and teacher

Today was a pretty brutal day at school. My first class went reasonably well, but my second class was “off the hook”, as they say here. Class lasts 110 minutes, and I couldn’t get them to be quiet long enough to even finish the warm-up. By no means is that acceptable.

When class goes that badly, I feel like I’m backed against the wall in a lot of ways. Often times, it’s tough to single out a kid when about a dozen of them are the root of the problem. I don’t want to issue detentions, because I know half of them won’t come, and then I’ll have to follow up with their parents, and what was a one-period issue becomes a two-day process I have to stay on top off. I can throw kids out, but at some point, I feel guilty dumping 10 students in one period. I can issue referrals, but it only makes me look bad when I send a kid out because I can’t get them to shut up.

Lately, I’m bemoaning the fact that I lack the apparent ability to get under kids’ skin. I know a lot of teachers that can put the fear of God into a child, but I haven’t yet developed that talent, and consequently I can’t control my students. Today, I was taking it pretty hard, especially because my grad school supervisor is so insistent that I be insistent on complete silence as I teach. So far, that’s been impossible to achieve.

I felt particularly powerless at the end of the day when as I was holding kids after to finish their work, one of my students physically pushed me out of the doorway, allowing the rest of the students to flood out, Ten Commandments-style.

Fortunately, Mr. Duncan, our language arts teacher, gave me one heck of a pep talk at the end of the day, reassuring me that it’s not all my fault. He says that I cannot allow my ego to take the kind of beating it’s taking listening to all the talking heads, because it’s not built withstand the abuse.

Part of the problem, he says, is that I’m perceiving what may be a very real mismatch between the pedagogy TFA and my school push, along with the rigor and pacing of my curriculum, and the reality in my room. I’ve been taking it pretty personally that I’m having a great deal of trouble implementing it and controlling my room. But much of what I’m facing is the futility of trying to simultaneously teach kids scattered across 8 grade levels of academic ability and with vastly varying levels of social adaptability.

So I’m going to try to stop beating myself up over my faults, and start doing the best I can to play the cards I’m dealt. But that’s going to be put to the test, with my two toughest classes coming up tomorrow.

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