A new level of scary
Today, ah today. A Thursday that began so inauspiciously with me swearing at my alarm clock, just like every day. I brushed my teeth, ate a cupcake, and went to school, just as usual. And yet, somehow, this normal day eventually became a terrible freakshow.
First block was fine. I observed a different teacher, who was pretty good. He did a stations lesson, so I just sat at one of the stations and watched pieces of video about ancient Egypt. The kids were well-behaved and seemed to be productive. I think the day first started going downhill in advisory, probably when a kid actually answered a cell phone call he was getting. When my teacher tried to talk to him, he laughed and was incredibly disrespectful. He couldn't even look her in the eye. He has been disruptful in every context I have ever seen him in. My teachers want him to move to another advisory. I think it's unfair; after all, they've never, ever told him what's wrong with how he is behaving or how he is supposed to behave.
Another problem in advisory was the kids who refused to silently read, and insisted upon sleeping. My teacher could do nothing about this, as there are no consequences to anything.
But really it was second block when I knew it was not going to be a blessed day. The period started out with a kid, who was late, standing at the door talking to his friend, who was outside the classroom. I went up to the kid and told him to sit down. He turned to me and said, "Excuse me, I'm talking to my friend. We have some business." I was just opening my mouth to express utter indignation and shock when my teacher called him in, and he complied.
Unfortunately, the entire class today was "student-centered." Please read "none of the kids had any idea what was going on." We were reading various documents about colonists continual insistence upon taking Native American land after the American Revolution. The problem is that most of the kids still do not really know what the American Revolution was or who was even fighting in it, because they were never actually told what it was, explicity. That would have been wrong...I guess they were supposed to "construct" the two sides of the conflict from various bits and pieces of information thrown their way.
If you don't believe me that 11th graders don't know anything about the American Revolution, here are some student guesses I received today as to who fought who: 1) The colonists were fighting the Indians. 2) The British were fighting the English. 3) The whites were fighting the British. 4) The whites were fighting the English. And we can't forget 5) The Indians were fighting the Native Americans.
As if this were not depressing enough, the kids' behavior in second period is getting out of control. They throw balls of paper. They swear at each other across the room. They hit one another. They rap. They yell. They do anything but the work. When the teacher talks, there are eight other conversations going on at the same volume level. My teacher refuses to do anything about this. Refuses. In fact, she thinks that "the class is going really well!" Whereas I would put it more like, "the class is an unmitigated disaster!" Today, another teacher who works with us suggested that we do something to stop them from throwing paper at each other, since it is completely ridiculous. When we see them do it, all we can do is tell them not to. They laugh it off. But she has tied our hands because she never set any limits or any consequences for acting like a total idiot. She said that their paper throwing didn't bother her. She doesn't want to be "authoritarian" with them. She doesn't want to say "oh no, you can't do that." Because somehow, that is wrong. The other teacher said, well, it's your call. But another thing is that oftentimes you're talking, and they're all talking over you. You respect them so much, and you should demand it back from them. She responded, "in my five years of experience, this type of thing gets better as time goes on and they come to know and respect me more." On the contrary. At the beginning of the year, their behavior ranged up and down the scale from "ok" down to "the worst behavior ever." Now it starts at "the worst behavior ever" and goes downhill from there.
Here's one example of what happens when there are no boundaries. Today this one kid kept playing with a yoyo. (No, 11th grade). I told him to put it away a couple times. Finally I said, if I see it again, I'm taking it. He put it in his pocket and I didn't see it for awhile. But juuuust as the period was coming to a close, he takes it out. I went over. I said, "ok, you made your choice, you need to give me the yoyo." He replied that it wasn't school time anymore, even though the period had not ended and, in fact, he was still in school. I asked for it again. He continued to play with it. I was not going to lose this one. I had stated a consequence earlier and, if I didn't go through with it, I would lose any credibility I had ever had (which was and is not much). So I caught the yoyo end as he was throwing it about. But the string was still tied around his finger. I asked him to take it off, several times. He refused. Other kids told him just to do it. He wouldn't. We sat there as the bell rang, me holding the yoyo, him with the string tied around his finger. "Are you going to stay for next block?" I asked. It seemed as though he would. He certainly was not moving. So I asked another kid for some scissors and cut the damn yoyo string, leaving him with a small piece tied around his finger. I took the yoyo back to the desk and put it away. I told him he could get it back at the end of the day. I was satisfied.
He was angry. He tried to tell my teacher on me. She had no idea what he was talking about and shuffled him out the door. I told her what happened and she just kind of laughed it off, even though he was obviously really mad. As the next period was starting, he actually came back into the room and tried to talk to her about it again. Later she saw him outside at lunch and, as befits her friendly/nonconfrontational style, tried to joke with him about it. From the limited amount she said, I gathered that he began saying very nasty things about me. I'm sure she didn't even reprimand him.
The kid was not mad because of the yoyo. He was mad because he is not used to not getting his way in school. Everyone just indulges everyone else. The fact that I broke the mold with him was jarring. I mean, really I had no real right to do what I did, because I'm supposed to follow the lead of my cooperating teacher. But seriously, sometimes I just can't take the outright disrespect and childishness that goes on in there. How is this kid ever going to exist in the real world? He wouldn't put away a yoyo when asked. No one is telling him how he is expected to act, so he acts like a big baby.
Ok, so at this point I took some Advil, and went on with the next block, which went much more peacefully. HOWEVER. After lunch I was working on a project in the same room as my other cooperating teacher's fourth block class. He has a slightly different style, but generally kind of lets things slide. Toward the end of the period, these two girls got in a slight tiff, which quickly, very quickly escalated to a screaming match, then to both of them getting up in each other's faces, and one girl trying to strike the other. The special ed teacher, who was in the room, had to physically get between them and kind of muscle the one girl outside. It was insane.
After that, the class was all a-titter. The teacher couldn't get them to stop talking, which had been a problem all period. Finally, he screams at the top of his lungs, "SHUT THE HELL UP!" They quiet down but still aren't really listening. The two girls get a talking-to by the Principal. When I saw the teacher later, he didn't really think it was a big deal. He should have. It was his lack of classroom management and his inattention to small infractions of discipline that directly led to those two girls fighting. He set up a classroom environment that would allow it. Yet he was totally unconcerned.
Finally, school was over. Tomorrow I am teaching a lesson and being observed by someone from my school. I had been working all day on getting everything set for it. We were wrapping things up when one of my cooperating teachers says, "you know what, let's hold off on that until next week. I know something we can do tomorrow: a book jacket!" So out comes this whole other lesson plan, seemingly from nowhere, although I think it might have been from hell. I was stunned. It had happened so quickly. And this kind of thing happens all the time. They wouldn't even allow me to make up my own lesson plan for the new topic. I had to stay while we cobbled together something crappy. I was so depressed at that point that I just had nothing to say. I still don't, really. What do you say after a day like that?