01 October 2008

Was there a full moon last night?

  1. My previous post about the brilliance of my students is only half of the story.
  2. I don't know which I prefer, or which is worse: first class in the morning, when we're all still somewhat asleep but they're quiet, or later on in the day when they're all awake but also more likely to be bouncing off the walls.
  3. I also don't know who's worse sometimes: girls or boys. They've got different things going on.
During my last lesson today (a group of 6th graders), they were so impossible to keep together that I finally got to the point of writing in the class grade book. When the teacher so much as touches the gradebook, the kids tend to freak out, because they know something bad is coming. It got so bad that finally I was like, "fine, I've got time, we can all be here po škole -- after school." I was quite angry, whereas usually I'm super easygoing about things. I've been so ridiculously relaxed since I've been here, it's not at all like my American version of self, which tended towards the tightly-wound.

The thing is, I told them they'd be there po škole (I can't even use the phrase detention) and then I had no idea what exactly to do because I'd never done it before. It took two other teachers to adequately communicate to them what was happening -- only the group (half of the class) that was with me was going to be staying -- and their homeroom teacher was kind enough to write something relatively threatening about bad behavior resulting in lower grades that they had to copy and then have their parents sign. Yes. It was that bad. At that point, I came back into the room and sat with them for their po škole.

The first issue was that they needed to know what time it was. I said, "You'll know what time it is when the bell rings."

Then the glares started. And the tears. I couldn't believe it. Like they were angry at me for the way they had acted. I explained to them that if one of them (even though all of them were problematic today) was not behaving, they would all stay after school together. At this point, I might include a short excerpt of an e-mail from my mom about this:
Did the entire class have to be kept? or were you able to leave a couple of kids who never cause problems go? (I am a little sensitive to this because when I was in first grade my dear teacher, Mrs. Duncan, left the room for a minute. When she returned there had been talking, etc., so she lined ALL of us up and paddled all of us -- even teacher pleaser's like me! haha Maybe that's where my strong sense of injustice first appeared! )
They all stayed, except one girl who lives so far away that she would have had to wait until after 3PM for the next bus to her village. But the rest of the group stayed, because 1) they were all being problematic to some extent, and I hope it encourages some sort of self-policing farther down the line. But I know some of them were thinking that I had committed a gross miscarriage of justice, and I do feel bad about that -- hopefully this action creates a nascent anti-authoritarian young radical somewhere down the line. On the other hand, TS -- they know to behave better than they did and I don't understand why they couldn't. It was relatively important to come down on them like a ton of bricks. By the time I got back into the classroom, two other teachers had also severely scolded them, so it was pretty intense.

More glares. Then the whispering started. Which then caused me to further firmly, uhm, admonish them. And then they asked, "but what are we doing?" because they were just sitting there. And I know, because I was 11 once too, that for them, just sitting there was really horrible. And I had no idea what time it was either, because I don't wear a watch (though I probably will at school once I get some batteries replaced, it would be useful). Even more glares.

Then, blowing of noses (due to the tears) and "But pani učitelka (Ms. Teacher -- this is the way teachers are addressed -- Ms./Mrs./Mr. Teacher Surname), wasn't the other group yesterday bad?" And I said, "The group yesterday doesn't matter, I just care about you, today, the other group doesn't matter." The irony is that quite possibly the worst, most notorious kid in the school is in the other group -- and they and I both knew it. The situation was grave enough that I even spoke to them in Slovak a bit.

Finally, the 45-minute period was over. Three of them asked to leave about 5 minutes to catch a bus, and I let them (2 girls, one boy) go, at which point one of the kids tells me that the boy usually catches a later bus on Wednesdays because that's when the boys have gym, and it wouldn't be that much longer of a wait for him. Since he was one of the worst, I called him back into the room, and I was really annoyed at the way he tried to slip one past me.

So the conflict here is that on one hand, I hate sounding and acting so much like an adult! and on the other hand, it's so annoying when they either lie, make excuses, and/or think I was born yesterday. I know this will spread like wildfire through the kindermafia channels of communication -- because it definitely spread like wildfire in the zborovňa and to the principal's office -- and hopefully this crew will be an example for the rest of them. Another potential issue is that this is really not the way I want to be managing the classroom -- it's so uncivilized to use what are ultimately scare tactics like this. On the other hand, hopefully this encourages them to take responsibility for their actions. It's excellent that I've got such support from my colleagues and boss.

I was exhausted by the end of the day, because I had four classes, po škole, and a kružok without a break. The one beer (nearly the only one I have) that I truly enjoy every week is the one I have Wednesday evening when I get back to Prešov, and this week was no exception. I did have one great triumph today, but this whole ordeal kind of overshadowed it.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that when the bell rang and they were all leaving, every one of them thanked me as they were leaving. I'm not making this up.

No comments: