This week was a roller coaster of a week. I was both praised (by coworkers) and criticized by students, told I was loved and hated, and had and lost control of classrooms.
Let’s start with the negatives so we can end on a positive note.
The hate and criticism kind of went hand-in-hand and both came from students. After telling a student who had repeatedly stood up to mosey around and talk to sit down and shut her mouth, I was told by said student “Oh, so I see you think you’re a real teacher now.” Much to her ignorance, I had turned in my intern certificate the day before and my (perhaps slightly unprofessional) response was to let out a sarcastic “ha” followed by “yup” and then let the matter go. A few minutes later, a student blew up on me after being redirected multiple times.
The next day, the student who blew up, the 9th/10th grade principal, and I had a conversation about how to treat adults. The student’s solution to the problem of being redirected was that he wasn’t going to talk to me and I wasn’t going to talk to him because I’m only a student teacher and that would solve everything. Thankfully the principal was on my side and we both reminded the student multiple times during the conversation that that’s not the way school works–that I have to talk to him in order to teach him and that he needs to respect all adults. This whole lack of respect thing has actually frequently occurred with a few select students. More on that in a minute.
I can usually maintain control of my classroom but my mentor had been out for the second day in a row and my students blatantly refused to do work. It got to a point where a little more than half of the class was doing whatever they wanted, a quarter of the class was doing their work but also talking, and the final quarter of the class were just sitting there, not being disruptive but also not doing their work. I decided to work with the 3 students who were sitting quietly but not working because I knew the other 4 were able to complete the work on their own even while talking.
(Now on to the positives.)
Apparently, while I was working with 3 students in a small group setting, one of the higher up teachers in my building came in to get something from my absent mentor’s desk and saw me working. Upon her return, my mentor told me that this higher up teacher mentioned in front of the principals how well I controlled my class. This surprised me because on that day I felt like I had absolutely no control. However, upon reflecting on that day, I realized that I did eventually regain control–it just took about an hour for everyone to get on task and focus and thankfully that was when the higher up swung by. My mentor also told me that this higher up was considering having other teachers in the building come observe me.
Yes. Employed teachers coming to observe me teach.
I was in about as much shock as you probably are reading that. I still don’t believe it and probably won’t unless it actually happens.
Another plus is that I got to sub for a middle school class. Our building was short on subs and too many teachers were out so my mentor offered to cover for a block of Spanish. However, she had some copies to make and wanted to be with our Block C class so she asked me to cover for her cover. When I went down to pick up the 8th grade Spanish class from lunch, a teacher asked who I was in for. When I told her Spanish, she wished me good luck, saying that if I survived covering this class that I’d make it, because they were a tough group. I wasn’t mortified, mainly because they were middle schoolers, and I mean how terrible can 8th graders be?
Turns out I was right. They weren’t as awful as I was told they’d be. They wouldn’t be quiet, did absolutely no work, and one kid threw another onto a desk, but the situation was easily diffused. Our 8th graders thing their tough, but after pulling the kids off of each other and prompting the aggressee to sit down a few times, they chilled out. (That’s not to say they stopped talking and did their work, because they didn’t, but no one needed written up.)
Back to this lack of respect thing. I like to think I relate fairly well to my kids, probably because I’m closer in age to them than most of their other teachers are, but mainly because I have a similar upbringing. However, a lot of the time my age works against me. My kids refuse to follow directions I give them because “She’s only like 20. She’s not an adult” and “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not a real teacher.” Or the one that kills me the most “You’re just a student teacher, I don’t have to listen to you.” (No! I am an intern thank you very much! That’s why I can and do tell you what to do.)
So needless to say, I still need to find the balance between relating my students and having them see me as an actual adult authority figure who simultaneously cares about them personally but both wants and expects them to do their work (and do it to the level I know they’re capable of).
Another week down, a few more lessons learned. Progress.