So after being in the classroom for about 8 weeks (holy cow, it’s been 8 weeks!!) I’ve finally run into my first absolutely true struggle with students.
A class of seniors, second track students who are by no means incapable or unintelligent–in fact they are some of the most intelligent young people I’ve met so far! Not that that is a long time, but it’s long enough! 🙂 Actually! It’s my counterpart seniors to the fourth period class I talked about in my previous post! And, in fact, the day this all began was actually the same day I described in my last post!
This day was the starting point of what I foresee to be the rest of a very rough semester for both the students and me.
Frenchie was out of the room at the curriculum planning meeting we had both been in all morning, and an email went out to teachers with prep during 6th period to find coverage for her. In this email there was news:
“The student teacher will run the class. You just need to be there as a presence.”
…oh…okay…that wasn’t MY plan, but why not? At least that way both senior classes would be in the same place for the next class period. Sure.
So off I went, without Frenchie to be the commanding presence in the room. My first real time on my own with the students.
Piece of cake. These students know me, they recognize that I’m one of the teachers in the room, so this should be no problem; it’ll be just like any other day.
Wow. I could not have misjudged them much more than I did…
With Frenchie out of the room, the students decided to take advantage…as if I was a substitute teacher and unfamiliar to them! I had to fight against students talking, I had to swallow my frustrations and the urge to scream. Trying to maintain the great relationships I had already begun building with many of the students in the classroom, I tried to stay calm and collected, not putting anyone on the spot or making anything feel forced. I let them read in small groups, for heaven’s sake! The same activity that had gone amazingly with fourth period was deteriorating and chaos for sixth period.
I ended up having to yell more than I really like to, making eye contact with those students who I hold to higher expectations and pointedly asking them, “Are ya kidding right now?”
Somehow I managed to get through the whole lesson, like walking across a scalding hot and rocky beach barefoot, but we got through it.
The next day, Frenchie ran into some of the students from that class who, unprompted, expressed their astonishment and amazement at their classmates’ rudeness and disrespect. That made me feel okay, because at least I knew that it wasn’t just me that felt floored by their behavior.
What did I learn from this situation? Well, I’m still learning from it. A week later. I’m learning that I cannot take the misbehavior of students personally.
I learned that they don’t take me seriously because they recognize that I’m, really, not much older than they are. In fact, one student turned to me and made a point to say, “my siblings are older than you.”
I learned that I need to start being stricter…meaner…less lenient with them.
So far, one of the most important lessons I’m learning as a student teacher: where my line is drawn.