Thursday, December 06, 2007

trickle down

Today was this weird mix of good and ambivalent and stressful that has put me in a strange mood. Tired, emotionally drained, frustrated - the usual mess - but also calm, weirdly content, and resolved.

I was out yesterday on a sick day which was good for me even though it messed with the momentum of my week. This morning there was an outpouring of relief and appreciation from my students that I hadn't anticipated. I remember when I was in middle school, it was always good when my teacher was gone and we had a substitute. We hated our math teacher. He wasn't mean or overly harsh or unfair or any of that. We just loathed him for the sake of loathing. (Sorry, Mr. Gutfeld, but you were a tool.) Also, I was bored out of my mind and nearly failed 7th grade math because I thought the whole thing was just stupid. I knew it all but couldn't test into the advanced class. Stupid. Maybe there was a case of 90s grunge apathetic angst about the whole deal but I digress. The point was, my students couldn't stop talking about how they were glad to have me back instead of the sub (they all walk all over him and, well, he's not very good with kids yet - very authoritarian but has no authority). And of course, that meant that they couldn't stop talking, but it wasn't malicious just kid stuff, exacerbated by the fact that I got pulled from class after 45 minutes for a tech training and my homeroom all protested loudly about it.

It was a strange show of affection, but no less appreciated. My other classes were messed up for the day but ran smoothly nonetheless and it made me feel better about my whole situation.

Had a conversation with the middle school special ed coordinator regarding the kids in special ed and specifically about D. D, the root of many headaches, but also the one who needs saved the most. We are not sure if he will be coming back to school. He is abused, neglected, and unwanted. He can hardly read but a few sight words and his math is marginally better as long as he has someone to read the problems. All his academic deficiencies have been overshadowed by his behavior problems. He is out right now because his mother won't take him to get his shots so we can't let him back to school - though we fudged that rule for most of the school year because of his situation. The problem is that his mother won't take him to get his shots so that he can stay in school but she won't let him stay home during the day so he roams the neighborhood on his bike and fends for himself. What the fucking hell is wrong with this woman? The school is running out of options. He's already been in foster care and his mother is uncooperative. It's no wonder he has a serious problem with female authority figures when his mother beats him. What can we do? I'm just afraid that this kid is way too close to being permanently broken and all I can do is watch it happen.

Another of my students got suspended today and I'm really kind of depressed about it because I don't want him to lose out so close to the end of the quarter and I think that he can pass this quarter. I don't want to see him singled out excessively so that it hurts him, which is what it seems is happening and I can't do anything about that either. Going to try to get him his work through his sister for the week that he will be out so that he can prepare for the exam and get the credit he needs. I really hate that progress the kids may be showing in my class behavior-wise seems to get no credit outside my class and I don't know how to fix that. I know that part of the problem is that this kid has a personality clash with one of the other teachers and he fights back fast. I have noticed, for the most part, that over time my students have calmed as I've calmed down. They may not talk any less but things are less dramatic most of the time. Trying to save the yelling for the most harmful behaviors has worked even though it has taken a while to see small results. I had expectations set too high too fast, especially considering my inexperience. But my inexperience is what makes it difficult for me to make suggestions to a more experienced teacher about how they deal with their own classroom discipline. I don't like people butting into my classroom, so I can hardly go butting into theirs.

I am trying to at least point the kids in the direction of empathy, though I may never see the benefits of anything I try to teach in that capacity.

All this said and rambled, brings me to my evening at UNO and my talk with my cohort leader about the state of my own academics. I nearly had an anxiety attack just thinking about the whole mess but it will probably be fine in the end. I've got some extra time to make up the disaster which is not as much of a disaster as I had suspected. But she told me that she thought I had a good rapport with my kids, which I have rarely felt. Reminded me that kids don't show it well, but after all that happened today I can see some of the little things. It may not get them to learn how to factor, but that is probably not the most important life skill they will ever need. Maybe I am just the stepping stone and I might not see the payoff. And you know kids, they'll take everything you've got and more and never realize until much, much later (if ever) the ways we try to point them in the right direction. The ways we try to shape them into something good without smothering what's there already. I try not to let my first-year mistakes get in their way or stick.

It's too much to say, I've realized, that I want them to have everything. I don't care whether they grow up and go to Harvard and blame all their success in life on my 6th grade math class. I just want to know that they are going to be okay, have a decent life, and pass on the favor to their kids. For some of them, this is a lot to hope for but I hope for it anyway.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that today, yes, I have been crying. But it is only because I really do love the little fuckers.

1 comment:

Laurence Hunt said...

Your thinking seems on target to me.

You are focused on who they are and what you can offer them in their own context.

Keep doing it!