Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Unmitigated Disaster

Today I: got hit in the back of the head with a book, as a result of one of the several book fights that occurred in my classroom; had four separate teachers (one of whom was a dean) come in on four separate occasions to help me manage my classes; got called a "bitch" by one of the students; and got my iPhone stolen (and returned within an hour).

My growing opinion is that schools that are dubbed "educational complexes" (such as the school in which I did part of my student teaching, and the school at which I subbed today) have unilaterally rougher students. In the case of today's school, the students are called "scholars" and they are required to wear a uniform, but that didn't stop them from chucking books at each other, using language I can't imagine having gotten away with in middle school, and mock-fighting as a form of entertainment. I couldn't get their attention in any way, not by speaking in a normal tone of voice, not by speaking loudly, not by any other way I could think of.  I simply could not maintain any semblance of organization at any point throughout the day. What didn't help was the teacher not having left any lesson plans; apparently he broke his leg and has been out of school for a month, but I question why he still wouldn't be responsible for providing a lesson plan or the school not arranging for extended coverage, if this were the case. 

And then I realized my cell phone was missing, and I couldn't find it. The immediacy in which the entire class did an about-face to help was actually surprising; I don't know if it was a change in tone of voice or an expression on my face, but one of the ringleaders heard me say that I needed the class' attention and she shut them up for me. When I voiced my concern that I couldn't find my iPhone, but that I wasn't blaming anyone, the entire class interrupted with "We don't do that!" and several students asking if they could/should run out to get the dean or another teacher  (and actually they run out before I could even agree). One student went through the teacher's desk; and the class was as a whole was pretty upset on my behalf, which was rather nice and made me begin to change my mind about them. The dean arrived, I told her the situation, she asked the students if they had any ideas - and one student immediately volunteered another student from a previous class. This turned out to be a correct assertion, as the student was picked up almost immediately by the dean and one of the school's police officers (and dare I say, an actual police officer, who apparently works in the school full time). Apparently the student initially lied about taking my iPhone, but then confessed, and I didn't press charges on the agreement that the dean would call his parents and take appropriate in-school disciplinary action. The students were supportive enough when I got back to class, wanted to know the outcome, of course, and were a bit easier to handle, but were still pretty rambunctious, and the dean's presence was still required to make them chill out.

Today was just mostly an unmitigated disaster, and I can see how other subs are scared off teaching and get weeded out. I know I haven't had that much experience subbing yet, but I know that subbing isn't representative of having one's own permanent classroom. It was a hard day largely because I couldn't maintain any control (and with the iPhone being stolen) that was miserable. I know the up and down of a classroom and a day and the short term bursts of student hyperactivity, but it was still difficult while it lasted.

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