Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This morning during breakfast I was watching the door to the cafeteria to make sure that no more than one girl and one boy went out to the bathroom at the same time. Some kids grumbled, but grudgingly either waited their turn or decided they didn't actually need to go (probably none of them actually NEED to go that soon in the day anyway).

But this one seventh grade girl blatantly refused to wait, even after I explicitly told her she had to. She walked right by me and started sauntering down the hall to the bathroom, merry as could be, even as I followed her telling her to come back. I finally physically blocked her from walking, and she STILL wasn't listening to me, so I lost it and started screaming. Second time in the two days I've screamed at work this week, albeit each time with a different kid.

And what did she do? Laughed in my face, of course. She thought it was just so funny, getting an adult to yell at her like that. Until a parent who was bringing their elementary school kid to school late walked by -- and started scolding ME! "You shouldn't scream at the students," she said angrily. "You're a teacher. You're supposed to set an example."

Of course, now that she knew she had another adult on her side, the kid I had screamed at put on a hurt look, as if she was sooooo traumatized, the poor defenseless waif, and said primly. "Yeah, why you yellin'? You're supposed to set an example!"

"And you're supposed to listen when I tell you to do something!" I shot back. I was so angry. And who should magically appear but the social worker, of course, just in time to witness all this, as she did with the kid I screamed at on Monday. She probably thinks I'm more in need of counseling than the students at this point.

So an hour later the special ed director (my boss) asked to meet with me, because that parent, "as well as others" (the social worker, I assume), had gone to her with concerns. She told me, in a nice way, that we shouldn't scream at the children. And she's right, and I felt guilty. Not that I think that girl was traumatized in ANY way...but we are supposed to be the example. The longer the school year goes on, though, the harder I'm finding it to take all the abuse and disrespect yet continue to "turn the other cheek" and be a good example.

"You don't seem that happy here," my boss said.

"Um, is anybody?" I asked. No, I didn't really, but that's exactly what I was thinking. Instead I said, "It's just frustrating, because the only consequences we have are suspension, which is only for extreme cases like fighting, or calling their parents. And if we've called the parents before and it hasn't really helped, there's nothing we can do."

Her advice was to stay calm and not to get into a back-and-forth with the student ("Don't go the bathroom!" "I'm going." "You can't!" "I will!"). Just give them a choice and a clear consequence: "There's someone in the bathroom right now, so you need to wait your turn. If you don't, understand that I'll have to call your parents. It's your choice." And, she said, "There's always the option of silent indoor lunch with Juan."

I was like, what!? We have de facto in-school detention??? I knew Juan sometimes detained kids during lunch, but I thought that was only at his discretion.

"I didn't know that was even an option for us," I said. "I avoid giving kids silent indoor recess because I watchsixth grade's indoor recess during that time, so I wouldn't be able to keep any kids silent on punishment with the sixth graders running around."

"Yes, you can either keep them with you when you eat lunch and have a silent lunch with them then," she said (yeah, like I want to give up my 20 minute lunch period -- it's short enough as it is), "or you can arrange for them to go to Juan for a silent lunch and recess."

Isn't that interesting? Here we have this great new discipline tool that was NEVER communicated to or shared with us at all. How was I supposed to know that was even a choice?

But I do have to stop screaming. Both because it's the morally right thing to do, and because I can't afford to get fired. Of course, I wouldn't mind if they just don't renew my contract for next schoolyear if it means I'll qualify for unemployment, since there's no way I'm coming back next year anyway. But I have to get my stress level under control. Right now I feel like I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand and my stomach muscles are as sore as if I'd done 1,000 sit-ups, even though I haven't done anything over the past week except work three days and spend the rest of my time sitting around the hospital keeping my dad company. I don't usually feel stress physically like this, but I don't know what else it could be. I literally feel like I've been beaten up!

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