The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What a difference a day makes.

Summertime, and the behaviour is plummeting ... yesterday I felt tired, overheated, worn out and demotivated. Huseyin had spent earlyMonday morning following me to school chanting 'lesbian' alternately with 'what? It wasn't me! You didn't see me say it, so you can't prove it', then looked more than alarmed when I insisted on walking with him the rest of the way.
Chezney talked all through my lesson, Charlie and Charlie threw pens, and when Huseyin deliberately hit me in the face with a pen, I'd simply had enough.

I walked out, instructing Chezney to follow me, walked to the calm, cool, and above all silent office to collect my thoughts.

Nobody should be standing there being hit by missiles while trying to teach, but at that precise moment, I knew I didn't have the wherewithal to react calmly. If I lose my temper, I lose the game. I needed space to respond.

A new idea: drop the teacher act. Speak as one tired over wrought person to a human who is capable of understanding.

I explained to Chezney that I was upset ("for real, Miss?"), that he'd been making things hard for me, and then something had happened that had upset me even more. I spoke to him in an adult tone, and suddenly there was rational response in his eyes, instead of the sing song defiance that characterises the London classroom.
I asked him to go back in the classroom and tell people to pack up in time for the bell for me.
"Was it me, Miss L? Was it me who upset you?"
No. It wasn't you.

Cue ten minutes solid of thirteen year old boys worried they'd gone too far.
A small thing, but at least one wrinkle in the sheeting shower of disillusionment.
One day later, and I'm ready for the fight to resume.

Chezney talks all lesson - I tell him he sounds like a subtitle track, and set him a minimum requirement of written work. He makes it. I make time to tick the work of kids who are actually doing what's been set, and pass out ceritificates to those who've done their utmost in the last week.

Huseyin starts throwing things, and he's out of the door clutching a pre-written letter home within four minutes. Charlie and Charlie throw pens around the room before, during and after being reprimanded for doing exactly that, so I write home about them, too. Consequently, the other students ignore the disruption, are careful not to add to the noise.
"Yeah, so what, you always do that! You always write home about me. See if I care."

And there it is. I always do that. I always provide consequences for poor behaviour. The one energising detail that tells me what I'm doing will work, some time, some lesson, some day.
Fight the good fight. I didn't win one battle, but I'm still fighting the war.