Tuesday, March 5, 2013

First year failure...

Last year was my first year teaching.... I made plenty of rookie mistakes but overall I think I did a good job. I still enjoyed my job, I learned from my mistakes, and I came back as a better teacher my second year.

However, I failed.  There was one specific student that will always stand out in my mind.  I remember meeting him for the first time at open house.  With him he brought his mother, grandmother, and two other adults.  His mother told me he was awful but they were determined for all of us to work together to make this year a good one.  I left determined to make a difference for this kid.  His mother said he was AWFUL...right in front of him....how horrible.  I decided he just needed someone to believe in him and work with him patiently, and was excited to be that teacher for him.

In school I learned that you should comment on positive behaviors...emphasize those things...and the bad behaviors will lesson.  However, every time I called his mom just to say he had a good day... he ended up thanking me with an awful week.  I felt like we would take one step forward and three steps back.  His grades were failing but only because of a lack of effort- he was plenty capable.  I stayed after school countless hours with him working on math and constantly tried to show him that hard work resulted in positive things.  Waiting for his ride in afternoons we had the best conversations.  One on one, he was awesome. The kid was dealing with some really tough things...things I can't imagine...and I would listen to anything he would share.  He would be polite, and tell me thank you for helping, and thank you for listening and on and on.

The next day in class....he was right back to the disruptive, disrespectful student he was the day before.  He yelled out women's names in the middle of my teaching....made animal noises....walked around....yelled....bullied other students...threw a desk....called me names...  Who was this kid?  And every time.... I let him get the best of me.  I yelled back.  I made empty threats.  I called my AP.  I lost.

This happened all year.  He didn't do these things for his other teachers...he did it because it got the reaction he wanted.  On days he was absent, I could see my entire class relax when he didn't walk in the door...because they knew I was a better teacher without him there.  (That is awful and embarrassing, but sadly true).  I tried everything I could think of...and never made progress with this student.  He knew I didn't know what to do....and he got sent out far too often.

I will never forget him...I failed him...but I learned so much about myself from him too.

Year 2....lesson learned.  They will not see me react.  Third week of school a female student decided she did not want to participate in the group activity.  I told her that was fine...she could pick up her things and move to my individual desk and work on an alternate assignment.  She didn't move.  I knelt down by her and again quietly said, "You need to pick up your belongings, stand up, and move to that desk"... again she just stares at me.  I put my hands on her binder to pick it up and move it and she jerks it from my hands and slams it down.... At this point, I'm mad.

My instinct from last year: 1. Yell....2. Call my principal to come get her (which communicates, obviously I can't handle you...I need help)....3. Write a referral.
What I did instead:  Took a couple deep breaths and asked everyone at her table to move and join other groups and explained they were doing so because she chose not to participate.  I ignored her and my students ignored her too.  She tried to talk to them and joke and laugh with them....and they would all look at me and then go back to their work.  She made noises and tried to get my attention...I smiled, ignored her, and turned my attention to the other students.  After about 30 minutes, she came to me, apologized, and asked if she could join a group.  This student has impressed me throughout the year now.  We have a mutual understanding and she always does what she is asked...or usually at least :)

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