The English Teacher

180 degrees
March 21, 2008, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Reflection

” “It is dreadful to be unkind: one keep remembering it.””–Post Captain, Patrick O’Brian

Even though I’m not naturally affectionate or friendly, I don’t think of myself as a particularly mean person.  I will admit, however, that my manner of speaking and my natural expression can be off-putting and may even be construed as stern.  I am not perky, optimistic, or a cheerleader.  Thus, it is unfair for me to be reprimanded for not being bright and happy-looking when I teach.  I try the best that I can, but I think it is unjust that I need to get in trouble for acting the way I normally do.  If I behave like my sister, who is naturally more open and affectionate, or like some of the other teachers, then I am being false and I would feel horribly awkward.  Rather, isn’t it good enough that I stay true to myself while I teach in the manner that best befits my personality?

My personality is something I’ve been reflecting on recently.  I wonder if I’m being too hard on my students.  But considering that most of my classes are doing pretty well and that I get along with most of my students, I don’t think there is much of a problem.  Of course, this is a very subjective viewpoint and that I may be mistaken.  While I think my students and I get along well, they may just be humoring me.  Last semester was a constant battle with one class and I will candidly admit that I am glad to be shot of the whole lot of them.  It’s somewhat unfortunate for another teacher that, with the change in semesters, I ended up getting most of her well-behaved students while she ended up with my “bad” ones.  I just hope, for her sake, that the class composition has changed enough that they don’t present as many problems as they did with me.

On the whole, my students this semester have all settled down and they’re lovely.  Even on the day before spring break, when all students (and teachers) get a little antsy, my students behaved beautifully.  They did as they were asked and they were very, very good.  I was a bit surprised because I was expecting a good amount of fidgeting and excitement.  Instead, they almost seemed….tired.  Strange.  Perhaps this was why my last class was so disappointing.

In this class, I have a student whose behavior has changed drastically.  Last semester, he was a great kid.  Sure, he was no Einstein, but he was bright and friendly.  However, I was a bit concerned at the beginning of this semester because he had stopped doing his homework and had become increasingly truculent.  He is turning everything into a constant battle in the classroom and the worse part of this is that the other kids are getting drawn into it.  I’ve tried everything, calling mom, calling his coach, but to no avail.  I know his mom is troubled by this, too, because we discuss possible strategies that may help and I know she talks to him about his behavior.  When I contacted his coach, the student immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was trying to sabotage his position on the team, which is just ludicrous.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that he has been switched to a class from the middle of the day to the end of the day that is causing him to behave like this, but I don’t like it.  After battling for half this semester, he has developed this attitude that he is going to get in trouble in class and then he acts on it.  In short, he acts out on a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Like I said earlier, I’m not an optimistic person, but I was taught to treat every day like a new day and go in with the assumption that everything will be fine. 

Frankly, I’m just incredibly confused and lost about what to do with this student.  I don’t want him to switch classes this late in the semester, especially into an Honors class, which is what he wants, but I’m at the point where I just want to be rid of him.  This is a real shame because he was such a great kid last semester.  Very bright, eager, and friendly.  This semester, it’s almost as if an evil twin appeared.

I’m also troubled because this student has the tendency to twist words around in order to fit his interpretation of how he is being treated.   Any comment I make, he turns it into an attack.  Unfortunately, there have been a couple of occasions when I snapped at him because he was playing on my very last nerve.  I always replay these incidents again and again and I wonder if I’ve lost him for good.  I always hope I haven’t, but I know, that a little more of the relationship that we had built up last semester has eroded away and that he’s getting further and further out of reach. 

This last part may seem selfish because it makes me look bad, and that is certainly a part of the issue–I don’t know who he is talking to when he is in this mood.  However, I am largely concerned with his self-esteem.  According to his mom, part of his problem this semester is that he feels that he is in more of a “special ed.” class than last semester.  I can guess what that means and I’m a little angry at him.  He is paranoid and evidently suffers from low self-esteem while, at the same time, he is very egotistical.  His ego is big enough that he thinks that he is better than some of the other students in this class.  He is constantly making remarks like he doesn’t need to learn something because he already knows it or that he doesn’t need any extra help, unlike others.  This is ironic because he will certainly take advantage of his accomodations.  On the other hand, he also has trouble digesting objective comments regarding his behavior and he will take it as a personal affront to his intelligence.  The other day, when I said something to another student, he thought I was talking to him.  Even after I corrected him, he would not stop complaining.  Finally, I just went up to his desk and, in a private conference, said, “You know, you need to stop being self-centered.  Everything I say does not always concern you.  The world does not revolve around you.  There are other people who are here, as well.” 

Perhaps not the most diplomatic thing to say, but his eyes began to tear and his nose and cheeks reddened with the effort of holding back the tears while he tried to save face by making a snotty comment.  This is what I don’t understand about him.  He thinks he is better than others while, at the same time, he’ll start tearing up when he is upset.

I’d like to say that this is because he is a typical adolescent boy: annoying, hormonal, and confused, but, with a few exceptions, the majority of my adolescent boys do not act like this.  In fact, two of my biggest behavior problems from last semester, who also happen to be in this class, have changed for the better.  Well, one is still working on it, but at least he is making some progress, which, unfortunately, is more than I can say for the other one.


Three Minutes
March 3, 2008, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Daily Life

It’s hard to believe how the quickly the tempo of a class can change and what can cause that change.  It was an uneventful class period.  The students were working pretty well in their groups on an activity.  Two of my problem students were actually present, but one was actually working and the other was sitting quietly, albeit unproductively.  When it was soon time for the bell to ring, I told the students to hand in their assignments and pack up.  I also had them fix their rows and sit in their seats until the bell actually rang.  Most of them did, except for the two problem students.  When I reminded them again, they caused a big scene, complaining about how mean I am and how pointless it is for them to sit down when they only had thirty seconds left in class (apparently, they need to retake math and learn how to tell time).  I simply told them that this was a matter of respect and discipline.  Frankly, I was surprised by this outburst since I wasn’t asking them to do anything difficult.  I didn’t even mind the students talking to one another since they, for the most part, had worked hard the entire period to finish their group assignments.  However, being told to have a seat and wait for the bell was too much to ask.  Of course, when the other two began their outburst, the rest of the class thought it was hilarious and started laughing and goofing around, too.  With the class’ attention as their reward, the two started acting out more, and one of them even said that I couldn’t tell him what to do because I wasn’t his fucking father.  Internally, I thought, “Well, I’m glad I’m not your father because I would have abandoned you a long time ago.”  Harsh, yes, but this is a student who bullies his own parents so they can’t even stand up to him.  Even when I told them to stay after class, they both left.  However, one of the students came back and I really laid into him.  I told him that I left him alone for most of the period because I could tell he was upset.  He acknowledged that he had had a bad day, but he also admitted that he was in the wrong for letting his frustrations out on me.  I didn’t want to let him off easily so I practically yelled at him and told him that he was smart, very smart and he was wasting his potential by acting like this.  The saddest part is that this was all true.  This kid is very bright and, even though he hasn’t turned in any homework assignments, he is still managing to pass this class based solely on his quiz grades.  He looked like he was thinking over my words, but I don’t know if he was just putting on an act or if he was sincere.  I’d like to be optimistic and say it was the latter, but I’ve given variations of the this speech before, with the same reaction, only to have the same behaviors repeated.

Three minutes can ruin an entire day.

Things I wish I can say-a new series
January 10, 2008, 3:33 pm
Filed under: Daily Life

Stop fucking micromanaging your kid!  That’s probably the reason why she keeps skipping class and lying about it!

Quarter 1
November 13, 2007, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Daily Life

Do you know how you can tell the grading period is about to end?  Look at your calendar and tally up all the parent meetings you have.  It increases exponentially towards the end.  I’ve had a couple of meetings last week and a couple more this week.  Plus, I’ve received several emails requesting meetings, but those will have to wait until the beginning of the next quarter because I’m already booked this week.  I understand that parents are concerned about their children’s welfare, but these are just grades.  It doesn’t matter if the child is getting a C the first quarter.  If he still continues to get C’s every quarter after that, then I’d be more concerned.  But considering that I have freshmen who are still trying to get used to high school, I don’t think a C is something to be overly concerned about.  On the other side, I was a pretty neurotic student who always sought the A’s so I really have no right to say anything like that.  I guess I’m just getting tired of dealing with micromanaging parents.

The end of the rope
October 12, 2007, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Reflection

I often wondered what that phrase meant.  Even though I’m still not clear about the etymology of the phrase, I’m inclined to believe that at the end of the rope, is a noose. 

It’s only October, but I’m already tired.  I don’t mean physically tired, though staying up late to grade papers hasn’t really helped, but I’ve been feeling emotionally and spiritually tired lately. 

This year has definitely been pretty disappointing.  I thought that things would get better since I was moving from a school in a lower SES area to a school in a higher SES area.  It’s not an understatement to say that that was a stupid assumption. 

Last year was not easy for me.  It had its share of trials, but I think I had some freedoms, as well.  This year, I feel so trapped.  I have classes of entitled kids who obviously have never heard the word, “No,” and who feel the need to argue about everything.  I’m seriously inclined to let them fail their classes.  The unfortunate consequence that I would have to face is the onslaught of phone calls and emails from parents demanding to know how it is possible their precious children could fail.  In my ideal world, I would be able to tell them that their kids are stupid assholes who should be put out to work because there’s no chance in hell they would get into college.   I would also tell the parents to grow up and start acting like parents.  They need to stop letting their kids get away with stupid shit.  They need to teach their kids to respect authority, not fight it.

If it was only the kids, then that would be an infinitesimally understandable issue.  However, I’ve been having difficulties with an adult classroom aide and now, I’m having some issues with a co-teacher.  I think my problems with the former actually stems from the fact that he was an ignorant jackass–I’m actually being kind.  My issues with my co-teacher, though, arises from the fact that I feel as if I’m doing all of the work for the class.  Even though I’m the lead teacher, it was my understanding that the duties were suppposed to be shared between the two of us.  And yet, I am the one who is doing all of the lesson planning, teaching, grading, and creating of quizzes and tests.  When I ask her to help me out, she almost looks affronted.  I understand that she is very busy with her students and with her family, but do your damn job already. 

I need a break; otherwise, I’m going to be the one to break up.

Just breathe
October 4, 2007, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Daily Life

Before the beginning of geat brilliance, there must be chaos.

I Ching

September 24, 2007, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Damn it!, Future

I got an email today informing me that an aide in one of my classes requested to be removed because he felt “uncomfortable” working with me.  That was indeed a surprise to me; however, I shouldn’t have been so shocked since it was pretty inevitable.  I have been having trouble with this aide since he showed up to class.  Basically, he didn’t really do anything and when he did, he either gave students the wrong answers or got them in trouble.  Even worse, he would lie about what he did and try to cover it up by saying that it was all a part of his “method.”

Frankly, I thought we were working better since the meeting we had last week.  We actually met with an adminstrator as an objective mediator and I believed that we had worked out our problems.  Apparently, I was mistaken.  I believe that the aide became offended when I asked him to stop giving answers to the students.  For some reason, he became incredibly offended by that and stormed off.  It’s all very ridiculous, really.  However, I stand by my request.  I normally don’t give my students the answers to problems.  Instead, I teach them how they can get to the answers on their own.  It’s like the story about the man and the fish:  You give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  You teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.  What really annoyed me about the aide is that there are two distinct instances when he gave students the wrong answers.  One time I tried to cover up for him because I didn’t want him to look foolish in front of the students.  The second time, he felt the need to tell a student that she had chosen the wrong answer on a QUIZ.  As a student with specific accomodations, this is a student who isn’t particularly confident in her abilities so she, understandably, became flustered.  She changed her answers and ended up getting two wrong (the second one was connected to the first one so if the first one was wrong, then the second one was, as well).  When she got the quiz back, she was a bit upset because she had been right the first time but she changed it because of what he had said.  I looked over her quiz and it was apparent that she was telling the truth.  First of all, I don’t understand why he was walking around and telling the students what was wrong and what was right on a QUIZ.  Secondly, it was a simple vocabulary quiz.  An aide in an English class ought to have some basic knowledge of vocabulary.  If you don’t, you don’t go around telling students to change their answers.

The good thing about all of this is that I’m getting a new aide in the classroom and I’ve heard that the new one is quite good.  I do feel bad for whoever gets stuck with my old one.  However, I am worried about how this is going to reflect on me.  I know this is purely selfish, but I feel as if I’m gaining a pretty bad reputation as someone who has trouble with her students and colleagues.  While I do feel perfectly justified in this matter, what matters is how my supervisors perceive it.  I don’t want to be called in at the end of the year and told to look for another position for the following year.