Thursday, February 18, 2010

Packing My Angry Eyes
Yesterday was another sub day. I had doctor appointments out of town so I left my lesson plans, something easy, and prepped my frequent fliers to behave for the sub, whoever it might be. I left Scholastic Math magazines to read in all my math classes, thinking this was fun, easy and something my students do not normally do. I naively thought it was foolproof, and things would go smoothly.
Her note was curt and to the point: Student Z and "never innocent" had caused havoc for her last hour. "Never Innocent" had taken another student's calculator and smashed it to smitherines. But of course, that little misdeed was not enough. The two of them were 'very disruptive' the entire hour and then to add whipped cream to the mess, they raced out of class before the bell even rang.
Part of me is angry, part is disappointed, and part just wants to smash them to smitherines. It is not like they do not know the rules. It is not like they haven't had private conversations with me in the past. It is not like I haven't called home repeatedly on both of them. But the consequences I can dole out are miniscule compared to their persistent and consistent behaviors.
Do I want them suspended? Maybe... But in reality, I know that will make no difference, and at least for Student Z , the time out of school would be a chance to laze around all day, snoozing, watching TV, playing video games. I am not sure what would happen at home for "Never Innocent" but likely, with his parents at work, he would also get a free pass for the day. Neither can afford to be gone academically, or would be likely to make up work missed.
What do I want done then? I have no idea. It is infuriating to me that public education is forced to try and find solutions to these problems. Isn't it enough we are testing kids to death, and blaming teachers for 'failing' them? Why can't law makers see that the problems aren't always as cut and dried as they want to make them?
I know I sound disgruntled and disillusioned, but honestly, I am. I work hard to give kids another chance, and another chance, and another chance.... I try to build those relationships and treat my students fairly and with respect. I try to talk to them one on one, working out the why's for their behaviors, and helping them grow from their mistakes. But sometimes, I need parents to step up to plate and be parents. I need them to carry out consequences for their children's actions. I need them to be the enforcers/reinforcers for what we are doing at school.
Until our societal parameters circle back to respect for adults and authority, until school is valued as the child's JOB at this point in his/her life, until we stop trying to make a one size fit all approach to educating children work, we are doomed.
I started out my day with angry eyes, but they are turning to sad, hopeless ones in a hurry.


Masquerading Mom said...

Hmmmm...the moments that strike fear into an aspiring teacher's heart...

What is it about a change in routine that gives characteristically mischevious individuals free reign? I wonder if they only respect a consistent authority in their lives. The students may never have to face that sub again, so why bother to please them? I know that instant gratification/reward/consequences plays into this somehow, but to what extent?

I know this isn't helpful, but your post made me stop to think: what will I do when the same thing happens with my future kids?

-Di Di

takefive said...

Everyone has had this happen. From my viewpoint, it isn't what you left for them to do. Although I will tell you many subs I've seen struggle with knowing enough math to help students answer some of those Scholastic Math questions.

Kids are kids. They misbehave when we are away for precisely the reasons you mentioned. They have no relationship with the sub and they don't think far enough in the future to realize that you will find out about it and then you will be on them.

When I've been in your situation, I land on the class with both feet when I return. Talk a bunch about respecting yourself to do the right thing even when you think you can get away with behaving badly. I make an example of the person named in the sub note...they come in for lunch detentions (which is a much worse consequence than a suspension in most kids' eyes)...they write a note to their parents explaining what they did and I require a signature comes back.

I know that lunch detentions are just a much a punishment of us as for them...but it makes an impressions on my little guys. And now whenever I am leave, I have a screencast reminder of my voice going over the expectations...reminding them of my expectations and the consequences.

Sort of dorky, but it works.