Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recess and enrichment. Ugh.

The kids have come up with a couple of new "games" during recess. Game #1: They slap each other until one or more of them falls down. They claim it's not "real" slapping and doesn't hurt ("We're just playing! Why you gotta take away our fun?"), but it looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Game #2: They tie things like scarves around each other's necks and drag each other around. During our staff meeting after school on Friday, we were coming up with ideas for how to put a stop to this, like making kids caught playing these "games" sit out for the rest of the recess period -- a 'recess detention' of sorts. Then Juan made this weird speech about how, when he was at the mic at the end of breakfast shushing kids and telling them to line up for class, someone from the public high school we share the building with came up to him and asked, "Do you feel alone?"

"I don't feel alone," Juan said. "I saw that teachers were going around getting the students' attention and helping me get them lined up. But that was his perception, and no one can do this by themselves." Then he made some soccer analogy about how when he played soccer, he would watch the action and his dad would tell him he had to get into the game, and he said he sees a lot of watching but we teachers have to intervene.

Then he got a phone call on his cell and left. The room was silent for a minute, until another teacher said, "Um, so does he like the recess detention idea or not?" And I thought angrily, what was the point of that little passive-aggressive speech? That he feels like we teachers are not doing anything to help? I wanted to say that I *DO* intervene -- on Thursday I must have gone into the fray five times during the 25-minute recess to try to make the kids stop slapping each other. But when I walked away, they were back at it within minutes. Maybe, I wanted to add, we're watching more and doing less because when we try to stop the kids from touching, slapping, and hitting each other, and they REACH AROUND US to continue doing it, it's a bit discouraging, not to mention dangerous. We already have one teacher still out with a badly hurt ankle because a kid, oblivious to the fact that we were trying to get them to stop playing basketball and line up, ran into her and squished her foot. We don't need that to happen to anyone else.

Oh, and Mitchell told us the principal told him we're blowing through our budget for substitute teachers, and if we keep hiring subs every time teachers are out, we could get to January, have half the staff out with the flu, and have no money left for subs. So now when a teacher is absent, the rest of us are going to have to cover his or her classes during our free periods, though Mitchell said he would balance it so we would still have at least one prep period a day. One of the teachers who was there last year told me afterwards, "That's really weird. We had a teacher quit on the second day of school last year, and another teacher who quit during the second week, and throughout the whole schoolyear we still never had any problem paying for subs." I thought it was strange, too -- I mean, aren't we SAVING a lot of money not having to pay salary and benefits to the English teacher who quit?

Enrichment started last week. Teachers came up with interesting, cool classes that are different from what the kids usually take during the school day, things like drumming, arts and literary magazine, community service, etc., the kids picked their top three choices, and we slotted them into a class. It takes place during the last period of the day, two days a week. I decided to offer Playwriting. I walked into the first day of Playwriting class on Tuesday, all excited, thinking, Great, it's only half a dozen kids and playwriting was their first choice -- they'll be really into it! It'll be a lot of fun!

Wrong. It was a disaster. We had literally been in the room two minutes when one girl asked another, "Why did you sign up for this?"

Looking totally bored, she said, her voice dripping with contempt, "I thought it would be cool, but I guess not." She had been in the room FOR TWO MINUTES -- she hadn't even given it a chance. I had to send one girl out to Mitchell's office because she was so disruptive. And Wednesday was even worse. Five of the six kids were blatantly rude, disrespectful, and out-and-out mean to me. They were getting personal, when I was nothing but nice to them. I was shocked. I ended up raising my voice -- I didn't say shut up or get personal back with them or anything, but I did raise my voice -- which I know I shouldn't have done. But there's only so much time I can be attacked before I get angry, no matter how young my attackers are. I've decided to give it another try for four more class periods, maybe start each period with a play in front of us and get into reading it right away, with each kid taking a role, and then moving into the writing portion of the class. And if they're still horrible, I'm going to ask Mitchell if I can disband the class, reassign each of them to a different enrichment, and just help out another teacher who has a larger enrichment class. I don't get paid enough to be verbally abused. No one does.

The ironic thing is, we took all the seventh graders to the Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, and it went really well. The kids behaved pretty well, and they were going around filling out the answers on the scavenger hunt sheet the history and science teachers had given them. So they know how to behave like normal young adults; when they're in school they just choose not to, I guess.


  1. Oh no! I heard a story on NPR about how some schools have had to hire "playground coaches", because kids are growing up literally not knowing how to play at recess. Too bad your school can't hire one, since you don't even have money for substitutes. That seems really weird - why is it your problem that they didn't budget enough? It doesn't seem fair to ask you to do more work because of that.

  2. Wow -- sad that it has to come to that, but I wish we could hire one of those playground coaches! I was remembering back to middle school, and I realized that I didn't even have recess after 6th grade. Maybe my school should consider that. :/

  3. Yes, but think of how crazed they'd be if they didn't have a chance to run around at recess!!

    If it's any consolation, my bosses have essentially told us they have no money for after school interpreting. This means the kids can still participate in whatever activities they want; they just won't understand what's goijng on.