19 September 2006

Atypical Day (I Hope)

It's easy for teachers to make their classes look like one long version of Dead Poets' Society or some other inspiring movie. We can pretend that the bell always rings at the moment we make our best point, or we can point to the two or three projects we do each semester that really set off light bulbs over out students' heads.

I'm going to be real with you, however. I have a 9th-grade English class that is just incredible. It is simply one of the most immature group of teenagers I've ever taught (and I'm in my 10th year of teaching).

Last Friday was the worst. I was writing detentions right and left, and I had a vice principal come and remove one kid. After school was out, I sat down and unwound by writing a detailed letter to a kid's mom. I'm going to share this letter with you, my dear readers, just to let you profit a little from my 90-minutes of misery.

I don't think there is a lot of lingo. ISS stands for in-school suspension, which is a day-long time-out for disruptive kids.



[Student] has been back from ISS for a few days, but his behavior has reverted to prior levels. I am extremely disappointed in his performance, especially now that I have seen the natural talent that he has as a writer. I really want to develop that—instead of constantly having to get on to him for misbehaving in class.

Let me describe his performance in class today. [Student] is often a spectator in my classroom. He isn’t learning. Instead, he is slouched sideways in his desk, looking at all the other kids in the class, waiting for someone to do something inappropriate. When no one is disruptive, he is.

For example, at one point of the class today, he lifted up one leg and excreted a loud fart that I could hear halfway across the room. I sent him out of the class at one point, because while all the other kids had books out, Chip’s desk was clear: no book, no paper, no pencil, nothing. At other times he will blow into his pen to make whistling sounds or he will loudly criticize other students who try to make points in class. At the end of class he was given an assignment to do. He took this opportunity to walk around the room and bump into another student on his way. I ordered him back to his seat, and I gave him a detention when he talked back to me.

This was all during one day’s 90-minute block.

Frankly, I feel like I am his babysitter, not his teacher.

James Dittes
Station Camp High School


Norman McNulty said...

Somehow I know your personality and demeanor is much better suited to deal with kids like that than mine would be. Sometimes it just takes one kid to ruin a classroom. I'm sure you're up to the challenge though.

Amanda said...

I feel your pain, J.D. I spent more of my after-school time writing e-mails like that to parents last year than I care to recall. A lot of the reason I had to put forth so much effort was poor administrative support, however. When you know calling on a principal's backup will get you very little support or results, you have to do it yourself.

Thank goodness that little angel and, more to the point, his PARENTS are someone else's problem this year. Thus far this year my classroom has been a monster-free zone. Long may it continue.