Mississippi Teacher Corps

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Anatomy of a terrible day

I called in sick today. My official reasons for doing so (all of which are true) are that my stomach has been upset for a few days, my allergies are acting up, and I had some pretty bad insomnia two nights ago, so I'm feeling pretty run down. All of these symptoms are things that I'd normally grin and bear, but in light of everything else that happened during school yesterday, I just didn't think that I could handle teaching today, so I took my first sick day. During training, we did lots of scenarios and discussions about crisis situations at school, very few of which had actually happened to me until yesterday, when for some reason all hell broke loose over the course of the day. Here are the highlights:
Homeroom: One of my students, Timmy, has been wanting to make me bang my head against a wall for the past 2 weeks. Timmy won't keep his mouth shut during class, questions me over stupid things, tries to get other students in trouble with me, and is generally just a jerk to the other kids in my class. I met his mom last Friday, and talking to her sort of made me realize why Timmy acts the way he does; I was trying to express my concern about Timmy's behavior, but all his mom wanted to talk about was how some girl hit Timmy. At any rate, during homeroom, Timmy grabbed another kid, pushed him agains the wall, and held him there. I came over and actually yelled at Timmy to back off, which didn't work, so I ended up physically pulling the boys apart. Being a female teacher, I always thought that if a fight broke out, I'd run to get the nearest male teacher, but when this incident actually happened, my protective instincts kicked in and I just had to intervene as quickly as I could. After I broke the boys apart, I was still panicking, so I made one boy come out in the hall with me and asked Mr. Sosa, the big football coach who teaches across the hall from me, to come into the hall. I told him what happened, and he pulled the other boy, Calvin, into the hall. Calvin is a big trouble-maker, but I still really like the kid. Calvin started saying that he wasn't fighting and that Timmy had grabbed him, and from what I'd observed, he might have been telling the truth. Mr. Sosa paddled both of them while I watched. I hate paddling, and I hate watching it. Calvin started crying after he was paddled, and I ended up talking to him for a little while to calm him down, helping him clean himself up, and escorting him to his first period class. I really hated myself after that happened, and I wanted to cry.
Immediately after that: I wrote up a report about the fight, which I gave to my principal. She asked why Mr. Sosa had paddled the boys, because he wasn't supposed to. She said that the punishment for fighting was suspension, and since he'd paddled the boys, the school wasn't supposed to punish students twice for the same offense. She wasn't upset with me, but said that Mr. Sosa should have known better.
Second period: Mr. Sosa comes in my room while students are working and tells me, "Next time I paddle kids, don't tell the principal. I paddled them to give them an easy way out so that they wouldn't have to miss school, and now they'll both get sent away for five days." I didn't want to discuss this in front of my students, so I just said, "OK." The fact that Mr. Sosa said this in front of students made three people (him, me, and the principal) look like idiots. Wow.
Fourth period: Two of my male students make sexually inappropriate comments about me. They repeatedly ask me if I have a boyfriend, to which I keep on answering, "that's personal." One tells me that he likes me, and I say, "Good. I like all of my students," prompting him to clarify, "I like you as a girlfriend," which I tell him is inappropriate. They keep on asking me for my phone number and home address (which of course I don't give them), and one tells me that he will come by and visit me after school, then mutters half under his breath, "'cause Ms. Long Skirt Blue Jacket and I can do whatever we want behind closed doors and it stays behind closed doors." He makes several other inappropriate comments over the course of class, and keeps winking at me, to which I respond, "Do you have something in your eye?"
Seventh period: I have my homeroom class back again. They are being rowdy and are annoyed at me for cracking down on them. All of a sudden, I look up and Calvin and another student, Peter, are grabbing each other and pushing. Someone tells me that Peter and Timmy are cousins, so Peter is standing up for Timmy. Again, I physically intervene. It's five minutes before dismissal, and I make everyone just sit in their seats without getting up or talking, and give them my two cents on what it means to respect the other students in the class. At the end of the day, I report this incident (and all the other events of the day) to my principal.
I talked to several other teachers at the end of the day, and one teacher even suggested to me that I take a day or two off (at that point, I'd already pretty much decided not to come the next day). She also told me that since I'm a small person, and some of my male students are large, I should be careful and stay in my classroom with the door closed during my planning period and not let anyone come in the room. I think this is overly reactive, but I'm kind of freaked out after hearing someone say that.
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen- Born to Run


  • At 5:42 PM, Blogger Steel Magnolia said…

    I bent down to get something off the bottom of my overhead cart one day (I thought I did it very politely) and a kid in the class muttered to the kid next to him, "Oh yeah baby, flash that bush" When I told my mentor teacher, her reaction was that it was stupid and even if somehow I had done something innappropriate (which I don't think I did, because the skirt was pretty long and I'm pretty careful about that stuff) I did have on underwear...I think it's some kind of image they're expected to project as teenage boys in their culture...I have been thinking of talking to him about respect, though, because he's said a couple other questionable things. I don't want to draw attention to him, though. I think that could make it worse.

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger David Langley said…

    Paddling may not be pleasant to watch, but sometimes it is needed.

  • At 9:31 AM, Blogger Long skirt, blue jacket said…

    Langley- I haven't really elaborated in my blog about my views on paddling, but I'm opposed to it for a lot of reasons. One of them is that I think it's just straight out ineffective- a kid gets paddled, experiences pain for a few seconds, is maybe scared into behaving for the rest of class (then again, maybe not because some of them just laugh about it), and goes back to goofing off the next day. A kid gets a few days of in-school detention or suspension and that kid will have a long time to reflect on his/her behavior. That day, when the second fight happened, the kids were asking to be paddled instead of going to the office. To me, that's pretty telling that paddling isn't having the desired effect and is viewed as the easy way out.
    Steel Magnolia- A few days after I wrote this blog, the same kid made another series of inappropriate comments, and I ended up arranging to have a meeting in the office with this student and the principal (mostly because I needed a witness in case this gets more serious) to talk to him about how his behavior made me feel uncomfortable. I can tell you the whole crazy story about this meeting (the principal said some crazy things) e-mail me if you want details. I'm glad that I met with him, though, and I think that having to discuss it made him feel uncomfortable to the point that he won't give me problems again. As far as drawing attention to the kid goes, I made sure to have this whole conference away from the class and to pull the kid out in such a way that the rest of the class didn't know what we were talking about. I've been having some problems with a few of my other male students saying inappropriate things, too, and I've been addressing it. In my humble opinion, you should talk to the student that's been making comments to you.


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