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26 thoughts on “Crying”

  1. Wow Ben, I totally relate. Before considering teaching as a career, I subbed for about 4 years. Everyday was up and down. It was terrible. I can only imagine having rebellious kids for a whole school year. This is my first year as a full time teacher and I am blessed to have found this PLC. I just finished my fourth week of the school year and I have many gifted first year students who are already creating fun stories. I feel like the sky is the limit.

  2. Tears can be cleansing. Sometimes we need to tell ourselves how horrible it was. I once had a nightmare class, my second year in the lycée. It made me stronger because although I certainly didn’t turn any of those boys around, it made me see others differently. I learned the difference between a cocky kid testing the limits and a true hoodlum.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Teaching can affect us so deeply. People can be mean, whatever their ages.
    It’s also good to know that it’s not all about us or our ability to reach students. Some may not be willing to be reached. That doesn’t mean we aren’t doing a great job already or that if we only found the right thing, that kid would be happy in class the way we want. I’m preaching to myself here – I have an oppositional student who has been a part of this school year being more challenging than last year. Either he wasn’t so oppositional before, or my tightening up the Interpersonal Communication rubric has him hacked. He told me it’s “oppressive” to speak Chinese instead of blurting out random English comments in class. He’s got a D in that grade category. (Others don’t compare at all in level of dislike for me and/or expectations that students will engage interpersonally throughout class in Chinese.)

  4. This is only my second year of doing full-on CI but I think I had some trepidation right before the year started (besides the excitement of trying new things) because by the end of the year last year most of my classes were tired of what we were doing and so it became a drag. But I’ve noticed this year that while I’m not doing a whole lot new at this point there is just a fresh energy with the kids and they are again open and willing (for the most part – there is always that one class that is still kind of a drag with getting them to sit up straight, make eye contact, not have side conversations or blurt out).

    1. I think discipline is the source of burnout. I can keep up TCI/TPRS with motivated adults (no discipline problems) for 2 hours straight, no breaks, and not feel as tired as a 30 minute class of hyperactive + space cadet 3rd graders. For that age at least we need attention grabbing/resetting tricks. Like TPR call-and-responses (e.g. Teacher: “Danger,” Students: physically duck) and simple refrains (e.g. Teacher: “Eyes on me,” Students: “Eyes on you”). The younger grade classroom teachers use a lot of these, so talk with them and translate them for your FL class. And then practice, practice, practice them!
      I had an assistant of the 4th graders observe a 30 minute class on Friday and when the kids were lined up and ready to leave he gave them a quick lecture, telling them that my class can be so fun that they get overexcited and forget to behave like they do with their regular classroom teacher. So true.

      1. ….”group of 5 boys who were wild and shouldn’t have been scheduled in class together.”
        OMG I have this group too! 5 kids whom all the middle school teachers are saying “What are those kids all doing in the same class? At the middle school they would never have all been put together. ”
        STuff like that. So I know it is not just me. And I am not taking it personally. Seriously I am not. But I feel the pain of the other 80% of the class. Not to mention the extreme drain on my own energy. We have a policy to keep the kids in the room at all costs, but isn’t it unfair to the other kids who are genuinely interested and trying and super frustrated at me having to stop class like 25 times?
        My sense at this point is that 2 of them are like Diane describes “not wanting to be reached” at least right now. But it’s so hard to tell, me being new to the school / community. Since Spanish is not a required course I kind of feel like they would be better off trying next semester or next year. They are all in 9th grade.
        I was going to try giving them packets of worksheets and such, but they are Spanish 1 students and all of the textbook / workbook stuff is literally incomprehensible. I don’t think they could do any of it without direct instruction, which would defeat the purpose of putting them in separate spaces.
        So…any ideas of materials I can use? Assistant principal came in to observe to see if he could figure out who the ring leader is. I’m waiting for an email from him with observations and suggestions. I kind of know that this group probably just needs regular old school book work, but I am not convinced that would shut them up. And I hate to penalize the majority of the class because of a few bozos. I should not call them bozos. When I met with AP on Thursday he filled me in on some backgrounds. Basically there is a significant percentage of kids with no (or sketchy) adults in the home. To the point where he advised me to have a teacher or coach sign off on a homework assignment (reflection and goal setting related to the classroom rules). Sigh. So much pain.
        On a positive note, my other 2 groups are delightful and playing along beautifully. I am completely smitten with most of my students! <3 We have a very wacky study hall system, which I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago. In each block I teach, there are 3 kids in the back of the room in study hall. Weird. I know nobody studies in study hall, but it would be impossible in my room even if you wanted to study. Yesterday a colleague told me some kid was tweeting about me. He is a study hall student. Apparently he said "I've learned more Spanish sitting in study hall for the past 8 days than I did in my regular Spanish classes." Hee hee 🙂

        1. …I’ve learned more Spanish sitting in study hall for the past 8 days than I did in my regular Spanish classes….
          I have been waiting to hear you make a report like this for years jen. I knew it was coming and here it is. It sounds as if, those five boys aside, things are shaping up. I am so happy. Deal with those boys with a phone call a day if you have to. Hammer them with steady and strong kindness. Don’t let them slip one thing by you. This is the time. Too late later. Are they all sitting in the four corners of the room with the other one as far away as possible from the others? Don’t forget that little trick for starters.

      2. Eric, I think that is exactly right. It is helpful to articulate it like that. With my younger classes (I teach 4th-8th) I need to develop some of the things you mention.
        I can sympathize with your experience too. Just yesterday my 8th graders wanted to re-hear/act-out a story we did last year because they had so much fun with it. So we did it and it was so much fun – FOR ME too. I could have done that for a long time – even if I still had a call a few 8th graders to attention a few times or not to blurt out, etc.

  5. In our natural desire to be liked (it’s just a natural human thing) we forget the truth in what Diane has said here:
    …some may not be willing to be reached. That doesn’t mean we aren’t doing a great job already….
    Missing that point is really a bad thing to do.

    1. and that doesn’t mean that we aren’t reaching them anyway. We NEVER realize what is happening inside of a child’s heart, mind and soul. Often the child doesn’t realize what is happening either.
      Setting healthy personal and professional guidelines is modeling behavior that some students HAVE NEVER WITNESSED. So is loving students despite their attempts to be unlovable.
      We do not teach for results…..despite what we may think. If we do, we have set ourselves up for failure from day one. We teach in faith. We are a part of something bigger than our own actions….but our actions are more powerful than we ourselves can see or imagine.
      with love,

      1. Laurie said, “We do not teach for results”
        ahhhh…..but Laurie, some people HAVE to! The state of Maine is a couple of years behind this mandate, whereas some states/districts/poor teachers are already there. In two more years, our jobs AND are salaries will be based upon student growth — I know DPS is already there.
        SO….that makes us scared when the students are not “buying in” — because #1. we know that THEY (the troublemakers) are not “getting” anything; but, unfortunately, due to so many disruptions and distractions, like Jen said, the kids who WANT to learn aren’t learning.
        I have a student repeating Spanish 1 now in high school 9th grade because he feels he didn’t learn anything last year because of the unruly kids in the class. My district does have a great policy …..if a student is kicked out of the classroom more than 3x, then they are out of the class! I *JUST* heard this from another teacher and need to verify with my principal, but WOW! that is certainly a step in the right direction! But, it has to be, and it can be, since it is a requirement to have 2 years of Spanish.
        OH….and due to unruly kids (Funny – there has been a LOT of discussion about them this year for some reason!!!) I had my first back-to-school nightmare last night!!! 🙁

  6. This strikes a raw nerve.
    Teaching elementary, we see all the behaviors and emotions and cognitive/processing issues before they are identified and more formally dealt with via IEPs, pull-outs, 1-1 aides, behavior plans and the like.
    Right now I have a cute lil 1st grade boy – I taught all 3 older brothers over the years – and he is completely averse to any authority. (Parents are kinda proud of this – whack jobs?)
    He purposefully blurts, usurps others’ turns, grabs the props, lays down in the middle of the rug circle, insults me and others, and in any way he can, tries to derail the show with negativity. At first it was so infuriating to start this new group off w/this thorn in the room – I was pissed.
    But then I came home and thought about it – and of course concluded that this poor 6-year old kid is hurting and needy…and I must be part of the (school) solution.
    All the specialists (art, gym, music, Spanish) are going to meet with the 1st grade teacher, and last-year’s kindergarten teacher, to learn strategies that have worked w/this kid thus far. We will try to convey a consistent message to him. I don’t wanna be another tall denying meanie in his life, affirming the message that he’s just naughty.
    I want and need buy in, and I will work to get it.

  7. I believe that learning to maintain my own sense of equilibrium in the face of situations like the one described here is going to be the linchpin of my career. The first time, I had to quit the job before I lost my sanity. The second time, I had to take a medical leave. The third time, I had a couple skills built up. Now in the fourth cycle (we run on semesters), I have a couple more skills. Some of what has helped is advice like Ben’s recommendation above, to separate the disruptive students, call home, use administrative support if it’s there, etc. etc. Then there’s another level…it’s about the slow process of building relationship and building trust. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a week. Sometimes it doesn’t happen in a semester or in a year. If a kid is preventing me from teaching Spanish, then I move into teaching myself Sincerity, Patience, Firmness. Adulthood. Unconditional love. A willingness to try one thing and then try something else, ad infinitum. Look at one kid at a time. This one has leadership skills leaking out in destructive ways. How can I give him a truly useful position of leadership? One in which he can fail and try again? This one has accelerated output skills. When can I sit down with him and figure out a plan for enrichment work? This one has a parent in Afghanistan. What does she need? This one has been in several foster homes. What does she need? I may never hit upon it, I may never connect with them. That class will learn 25% less Spanish than the other classes that semester, and all because of four out of 24 students. Yep, that’s how it works. But maybe I will have spent that “lost” time practicing finding my center, finding my sense of humor again and again, and like Laurie said, modeling what a sincere, committed, loving adult looks like as she tries and fails and tries again to do her best work. At the same time, the students are learning from each other about their differences and needs. When I feel the frustration building I am going to try to stop, and breathe, and wait like so many of you have taught me to do. Wait for them, and use the time to heal myself and see if I can decide what to do next from a connected place in myself. And, if possible, enjoy it. I get paid either way. If I can get the distance, then it’s a fascinating and even sometimes a hilarious situation. I mean, who came up with the idea of “school” anyway? What a crazy experiment. These strategies have helped me to heal myself from the kind of war-zone mentality that was literally going to kill me. There is one student from those dark days who, when I see him in the hall, still causes a kind of horror that shudders in some young, frightened part of my soul. We teachers have our trauma and our pain, just like the students do. Yes, we are there to help them succeed, but I found that my first priority had to be my own healing and well being.

    1. Thank you Angie for this reminder: “Look at one kid at a time.”
      I found myself this weekend replaying various interactions with a couple of these kids. Brief moments of one to one interaction. There were, in fact, little cracks where I could see through the walls that each has had to build in order to survive. I may not have recognized this intellectually but energetically there is a little jolt when a kid you think, assume and/or “have pegged” as…indifferent, rude, unwilling, or any number of stories…asks you to repeat a sentence again during a dictation, or admits he doesn’t want to use the stop signal because he feels stupid in front of everyone. So yeah. I need to slow the hell down. Even more. On every level, not just my rate of speech in L2.
      Thank you for this reminder too: “…modeling what a sincere, committed, loving adult looks like as she tries and fails and tries again to do her best work.”
      And especially this: “…my first priority had to be my own healing and well being.” If the well is empty there is nothing to offer.
      So grateful for the honesty and vulnerability of everyone in this group.

    2. Angie said:
      …this one has leadership skills leaking out in destructive ways. How can I give him a truly useful position of leadership?….
      One thing you can do Angie is to get those kids up with you to help you – from the front of the room – run a game of Word Chunk Team Activity (WCT). When they are up there with you and you ask them which group raised their hand first, or if they did the group sign in a perfectly synchronized way (two separate jobs), and you look over to them and you ask them what their decision is, little sparks of goodness fly between you and the kid and you express your gratitude and go on. Then sometimes you see them change because you show them the respect that they probably never see during their days. I know that this flies in the face of making aggressive phone calls at the beginning of the year but each case as well know is different.

    3. Wowie:
      …who came up with the idea of “school” anyway? What a crazy experiment….
      It’s a crazy FAILED experiment. Failed as in – it didn’t/doesn’t work. It makes a few kids feel smart and lots of kids feel stupid, as if they don’t measure up in some way. What kind of self-concept is that to take into life at the most important juncture in it (high school)? If we take this as a starting point – that the system is inherently completely flawed – maybe we can then stop beating ourselves up because we are not teaching well enough, when it is the system that is not good enough? Yes, I know that we all have jobs because of the failed system, and I know that it is all we have right now and so there is no option, but what Angie says, in the light of the failed system, is MOST important. It doesn’t reflect the individual thoughts of a young teacher in the profession (of whom half leave the profession in the first five years) but rather unique and wide truths about how to be a teacher in general, in a practical and mature way.
      For those who have been on here for a few years, read these articles by and about a younger Angie BEFORE she came to the insights listed above:

  8. On the nightmare of an out-of-control classroom. We all fear this and we all know what it feels like to stand in front a room seemingly full of kids totally off task and not listening to anything you’re saying.
    I have come to a realization about this.
    It’s all about pride. My pride. I think I am this awesome teacher and this great person and think to myself, “O God, why are all these people laughing at me?” I have to remember I don’t get my worth from the behavior of a room full of teenagers.

    1. I realize that part of the chaos comes from me not insisting on complete choral responses.
      When I do a call-and-response, then I need to repeat it until everyone responds. When I ask a question, then I need to ask it again if not everyone responded the first time. If I say “applause” then I keep saying it until I see everyone clapping. If I want a gesture, then I repeat until everyone gestures. And you have to keep doing it like this ALL year.
      Once kids are outputting more, then asking a yes/no question often gets kids blurting out alternatives. E.g. “Did Bob go to the park?” Instead of responding “no” the kids are yelling out “school,” “Mars,” etc. I made it a clear rule today that you do not need to raise your hand to speak if you answer my yes/no, either/or, and one-correct-word questions, but if you want to suggest a detail, then you had to raise your hand. Now, if I enforce it, I hope it keeps more order in the classroom.
      And when students repeatedly break a rule, then they are distanced to an area in the room to “take a break.” From that spot they continue to observe, but they cannot participate. They come back when they want.

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