Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Two small victories

I'm hoping they will be at least a little significant. At the very least, they were entertaining.
Both were in my middle class. You know, I have the big, bad class (say, Class A), and the small, pretty good class (Class C). Then the other one (Class B) is still pretty rowdy, but a little smaller and not as tough as the first one.

This class features a few talkers, lots of distracted/distracting kids. One in particular is really bad. He literally can't sit still, can't keep his hands off other people's things, desks, and bodies. He bugs me and everyone around him. I have him in the most front-and-center desk and table, but that doesn't really prevent anything; I just can see him do everything. He totally doesn't do anything, and is really a huge distraction. What can I call him? Hm, I'll go with Big Distraction.

So. We were doing something, I was doing my bitch routine and instructing. (The bitch becomes a teacher when instructing, don't worry; I don't want to alienate the kids so much they don't participate.) And Big D throws out, "This class sucks."

So I replied, "What if I said that YOU suck?" And the class crowed at that, some actually applauded.

When I got back to the front of the room, I heard some kid say, "Now he said that you suck."

Having cut my teaching teeth in the urban ghetto of Baltimore, I knew exactly what to say. I retorted, "If I were one of you, I would be talking about his MAMA."

The room ERUPTED. Hoots, cheers, shouts for a solid two minutes. I tried, pretty unsuccessfully, to hide my grin. Big D was all nodding, saying, "I can't beat that, you got me." And the other kids were all, "Ooh, you got PLAYED!"

It was pretty awesome.

A bit earlier, I had begun to implement the Reader's Workshop. Since I'm such a newbie and feel clueless, I'm starting my skill lessons on the Seven Habits of Efficient Readers. First and easiest, activating schema. (If you've ever taken a psych class, you know that that means your network of prior knowledge networks.)

So I talked about the Three Little Pigs and then a Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood. I did my Read Aloud with the latter, called Lon Po Po. (By the way, that was actually a no-no; I had never cracked the book, it was all impulse. Thank god it worked. I will plan next time.) Some of the kids had heard of it, and it was actually pretty interesting. Quite different from our version, so it was perfect.

There's never enough time for anything, and I happened to get to a page with a suspenseful end bit. Something like, "The wolf didn't answer." And I Thought Aloud, "Oh, I wonder what he's thinking? We'll have to find out tomorrow." And the whole class chorused, "Noooo!"

They can be reached! I really hope that today was a benchmark in the Forming-Norming-Storming-Performing thing. After Monday's low point, and getting my class structure going, I feel so much better about everything.

So now I have to actually start teaching. Eek! The students are expected to produce a report of information by the end of ten weeks (this is week four!). Oh, AND a narrative account (fictional or autobiographical). Perhaps once I get them started with the report stuff (which will take a couple weeks, I imagine. Most of these kids don't know how to write a paragraph.), I can do the autobio/fiction in class. God, this is going to be tough.

Ms F, my teacher center savior, helped me today after school, coming up with lesson ideas for the rest of the week. Phew.

Then came the bad part of the day. The YMCA comes to our school to do an on-site after school program. One group of them is in my room starting at 3.00. Since time is so crunched during the day, and I only get about twenty minutes before school, I've been trying to stay after school and work on organizing things, or decorating, or making charts or whatever. And now they're having a cow.

The after school teacher (who never erases the blackboard! Hello, common courtesy?! Grr) muttered something like, "We've gotta get a new room" when I came in today, after meeting with Ms F. Of course I ignored it, but I was a little irritated. So she went and chatted with the YMCA guy, who "tattled" to the YMCA people downstairs. I'm sorry, I know that's childish and inflammatory, but really, that's what it felt like. Because then this lady came in to the room and tapped me on the shoulder, and asked if she could have a word with me outside. Of course, I agreed to, pleasantly.

When we got to the hallway, this lady said that they have been assigned this room for the program and that I'm disturbing the class, and something something. I said, "well, this is my classroom." I wasn't sure if she thought I was some kind of wanderer. But I guess she knew that. I told her, look, I'm a brand new teacher, I'm still putting my room together. There's no time during the day, and I get here before 7.30 every day. She still was all, "But Mr Principal." I said, "I understand you have to use the room. But I do, too. I would love to sit and talk with everyone and maybe work out a compromise." The lady said, like I was an errant fucking child, "well, I'll talk to Mrs So and So, and she'll have to tell Mr Principal about it." Like they were going to tattle on me for doing something wrong and inappropriate. That really irritated me, but I just said, "Okay, sure."

So I walked out of the building at 4.00, nearly two hours after school was over, worn out and all riled up and defensive. I certainly don't want to insist on someone not getting the room or anything, I know that they need it to help the kids. That's cool. But for fuck's sake, IT'S MY CLASSROOM! Are they going to kick me out of my own room once it hits 3pm? How will I decorate my room? Work on my library? Do ANYTHING AT ALL? And then I realized they'll probably be there on Saturdays, too. I'd hoped to go in for a couple hours on Saturdays, just chill out, and work on my room and lesson stuff. All of my supplies are there, for chart making, all the books that I should be using for lessons, everything. I carry lesson books home, but that's about it. There's no way I'm going to cart paper, markers, decorations around on buses and trains. That's just ridiculous.

I'm still all irritated. I've barely even met the principal, so now the YMCA people are going to make me look like an intrusive pushy stupid new teacher. Who will advocate for me? There's no way I'm going to back down about this. I certainly don't expect to stay so late every day, and maybe eventually, I won't need to really stay after at all. But I can't plan ahead to what I might need to do, or how long it will take. Oh, or WHERE it might take place. The lady tried to suggest limiting my activities to the back of the room.
I think it's just stupid to think of limiting my extra time in my own fucking classroom. If a meeting should take place, which I would totally welcome, I would of course be polite and courteous and professional. I can discuss this calmly, we can figure some way to mutually understand each other, so everyone's needs get met.

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