Blue Suede Shoes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 06 2011

The Roller Coaster Day…

It’s amazing how one’s mood can fluctuate within a single school day. One student in my second geometry class actually apologized to me for his behavior last quarter and vowed to do better this final quarter. I was definitely taken by surprise, as I had not done anything to prompt this apology – no phone call home, no individual conference with him, no negative comment on his report card, as far as I can remember. And even if a parent had made him apologize, it’s not like he actually had to follow through. Needless to say, I was impressed, and now, of course I am expecting A+ behavior from him. He’s a super-bright kid, so the only thing really holding him back is his inability to keep his mouth closed. This is a student who was a thorn in my side for a while, but I think the killing with kindness really worked with him. I find that it works a lot better with my upperclassmen in geometry than it does with my freshmen in algebra.

It’s difficult to find the kindness within me on a day like today that started off well and was bookended by some of my most disruptive and disrespectful students’ staying during after-school tutoring but reached new lows in between. There is so much anger in some of my students, and I don’t know how to help them. Emotionally, so many of them are still immature, stuck somewhere between elementary school tantrum-throwing and middle/high school posturing to be liked, or cool, or gangster.

The last batch of new corps members found out yesterday about admissions decisions. After school today, my initial reaction was, “Run.” I thought, for the first time all year, “You can’t pay me enough to deal with this.” Not in, “I want to quit,” but in, “There is no amount of money that should entitle certain students to treat me the way they do.” But as I thought about my students, and those involved in recent fights, more, I realized how great their need is for role models, high expectations, and structure. Maybe everyone’s let them get away with their acting out in the past, and maybe they actually do believe that it’s okay to act the way they do in class and in the hallways. Who will teach them it’s not?

Don’t run, new corps members, don’t run. Even on the hardest days, there are bright spots, and there is fulfillment. Remember: your children need you. They are waiting.

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