Guest Post: Sending Out an SOS

Help a blog buddy out, would you?  I think we’ve all felt like this at one point or another; how do YOU get through the impossible classes with little or no outside help?

*Note; I’ve changed some of the identifying details, but the rest is as my friend wrote it to me*

I can’t blog about this, as some of my co-workers read my blog, and I have to tell someone, so I figured who better than someone 2,000 miles away who  doesn’t even know where I work?!

I left work early yesterday.  I concocted this story about feeling a migraine coming on.  It was during my second class of the day, a senior class, so I had three classes of juniors remaining.  Here’s the thing, I wasn’t starting to see halos, I just had to get out of there.

Backstory: I hate my 5th period juniors.  I hate them with every fiber of my being.  Walking into the class makes me bristle and turns me into a completely different person.  The problem is this; in a class of 34 I have, depending on the day, 7-10 boys who are hellbent on making my class awful.  They’re rude, disrespectful, and generally awful.  They make me feel like I’m 16, that I’m stupid, that I have no control over my class.  I’ve NEVER in my 8 years of teaching felt like that.  From day one I’ve been (OK, I’m going to sound like a real fucking asshole here) a great teacher.  I’ve had control and respect and it’s seemed as thought I was born to do this.  But these boys make me question everything about my job and my competency to do it.

So yesterday, sitting in first period, I started having a panic attack about having to see my 5th period.  I just couldn’t handle it.  So I made up the story, got a sub, and left.

Am I a completely terrible person?  Am I going to some sort of teacher hell?  And an even bigger question, how the fuck do I make it through the next 17 weeks of my life without a) murdering someone, or b) killing myself.  Any thoughts?

I wrote back and asked her if she could go to anyone for support, or if she could implement any structures that would help.  Here’s what she replied:

I’ve tried everything.  I’ve sat down with individuals, pointed out their behavior issues, and asked them to be class leaders.  I’ve kicked kids out.  I’ve instituted bathroom passes because they asked to go every day (I’ve NEVER had bathroom passes before because I believe by 16 you should be able to be responsible for your own bodily functions).  I’ve taken away behavior points.  I’ve written kids up.  I called security once.  I’ve talked to everyone can I think of, counselors, my dept chair, my co-workers, basically everyone says the same thing “suck it up”.  I’ve tried having a good attitude, which is harder than anything else.  Nothing seems to work.

I thought that maybe it was just me, but several co-workers have subbed for me (I leave early on one afternoon about once a month for a workshop) and they all agree that if they had that class, they’d murder them.  

I keep a bright pink feather boa in my classroom.  I bought it when one of my co-workers from another dept, who I’m particularly close with, was voted grand marshal for the homecoming parade.  Now I keep it around for when I or my co-workers have bad days.  I wore it yesterday morning.  :)

So, my beloved teacher-blog community; what kind of aid can you offer?

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9 Comments

Filed under colleagues, compassion and cooperation, concerns, failure, frustrations, I've got this kid...., really?!, student chutzpah, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

9 responses to “Guest Post: Sending Out an SOS

  1. This post made me cry. I’m still teary. I had a year like this and spent time in therapy because of it. How sad that there is not administrative support. “Suck it up” is not proactive advice.

  2. Rowan

    It is NOT you! It IS them. I agree with Kwizgiver. I have seen this happen and until the power is removed from their hands it will continue in everything they do.
    Are the parents willing to come in and sit with their children?
    Can they be suspended from the class?
    How about spreading the out (separating them) each in a different class?
    What does Ed Code say? What about the other parents…are they aware of the behavior these brats are inflicting on their children? Perhaps they can demand that the brats be removed from the class and stopped from stealing the education of their children.
    My heart reaches out…it sounds too much like what is happening at too many schools.

  3. Darci

    2 years ago I took over a pair of 8th grade classes that was this exact scenario. I hated my job and hated those kids. I used to check off the days as if I was in prison waiting for my parole. When a week was taken off the school year due to budget cuts I skipped down the halls signing a tune of freedom.

    To survive I would develop out of class lessons for the evilest of students and greet them at the door with a packet and a text, sending them to a classroom for the period.

    This year I have a sister of one of the thugs, she says that he simply says it was a rough year. I have labeled it the year from Hell.

  4. Anna

    First of all, I send you my deepest sympathies. Nothing ruins my week like a crappy class, much less having to face the same evil crew day after day.
    Here is my suggestion: Get them to solve the problem. You could hand out a sheet that asks for their feedback on your class and how it might be improved (since it is the halfway point in the year). Make it anonymous and remind them to be constructive. Do not make it too open ended but give them specific prompts, such as “I really enjoy this class when…” and “One topic that would be cool to study is…” . Now you have the opportunity to make up some new, off-the-wall activity that capitalizes on their interests and helps you to renew goodwill. And if you don’t get any useful suggestions, it doesn’t matter since they don’t know what was on the feedback sheets – just make something up that is creative and hilarious! I am thinking of the story of Frank McCourt, when he had his students write excuse letters (http://www.neatorama.com/2009/07/26/how-frank-mccourt-turned-faked-excuses-into-creative-writing-assignments/) and it started something wonderful. It sounds like it is time to laugh and to relax as a class before getting back to work.

  5. I totally feel your pain. I had sophomores like that not too long ago. I love, love, love my job, but these kids made me cry. I truly felt like every day was groundhog day… They were awful, they were able to get me to fight with them like I was a teenager and not the responsible, professional adult that I am. They set a desk on fire. They threw things. They stole stuff…. eventually I had to cajole an administrator to sit in on my class regularly. He was not pleased. I felt like a failure, (and not to toot my own horn, but I am a fabulous teacher). I was finally able to determine which of these kids was the bad apple, the one that when he was absent everything ran more smoothly. I sent him to the library with independent work every day. I had to put my foot down and tell my principal that I would not have him back in my class. He was toxic, and the rest of the children became posionous when he was with them.
    I had to set up a rigorous schedule so that each moment of class time was spent on work, and there was no room for discussion or creative thought. It became a “read-this-and-answer-these-questions-and-shut-the-hell-up” kind of class, which is sad, but was necessary.
    I hope you know that you are not alone. Good luck and keep your chin up.

    • Molly, did they LITERALLY set the desk on fire?!

      Sadly, I think it DOES come down to determining who’s energy is behind the disturbance. If you can proverbially cut the head off of the beast, you have a better chance of regaining control.

  6. Mike

    Are they involved in sports? Sometimes coaches have influence we only dream about.

  7. Man oh man do I feel your pain–but, of course, I don’t have any easy solutions for you. When I’ve faced similar toxic classes–or, anyway, when I’ve faced classes I don’t particularly like–I’ve ultimately realized that while I have no power over others’ attitudes, I certainly have power over my own. Kids can read a teacher’s feelings quite well–they know when you don’t like them, when you dread their class, and this feeds their misbehavior. So I go out of my way to FAKE it–to be in a good mood during class, to say hello by name to each student as he/she enters, to laugh and praise and show them somehow that you KNOW they’re good, smart, engaged students. You probably have had one-on-one talks with those who have set the negative tone—you know exactly who those kids are–and I’m sure the talks were positive and not punative–simply getting to know these kids can help. Over time, day after day, with your own attitude adjustment, you might see some change. True, they’ll probably never be a beloved class, but at least you won’t want to fake a migraine rather than face them.

    I realize I’m commenting a month after your post–perhaps you’ve already found a way to improve the atmosphere of this particular class…. How’s it going mid-Feb?–would love to hear an update.

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