Saturday, May 23, 2009

Herding feral cats in heat

Never before in my life have I had to deal with more blatantly disrespectful, nasty, mean comments than as a teacher of middle and high school kids. It is as if these children have no upbringing or have never been held accountable for the horrible things they say. And I don't want to say "well, maybe I'm just taking this all to personally", because is it really acceptable to tell someone to their face (a person who should be a person of respect, haha) that they are "being dumb"? Is it okay to tell a teacher (a teacher of an elective course that these kids are in purely by choice) that "no one cares"? Is it acceptable to constantly interrupt someone who is speaking to you or simply turn your back on them and start having a social conversation? Is it acceptable to blurt out "This class sucks cock"? That one warranted a call home and contact with the office, and things have straightened out, because at least there is some parental support in this instance. Throughout all of these stupid instances and more there have been messages home, contact with superiors, and searches for help and support, but little has helped. Some days I am left after my last class just shaking my head. One very nice student I have said one day, "You know, they are like they are because of how they've been raised". I was tempted to add, "No, it's how they haven't been raised at all." Most of the kids in my classes are like wild animals who just do what they want. A stark minority of them have parents who are really there for them, teaching them things and holding them accountable for their actions. Those ones are great kids, good students, and an absolute pleasure to teach. Teaching the rest of them is like herding feral cats in heat.

And the thing that makes my blood boil is that I know my class isn't lame. As a language nerd, I have been in a number of extremely lame, boring language classes, where you don't do any communicative activities, any projects, anything hands-on. I have all glowing reviews from my three bosses who have been in observing me this year. These kids in my classes are constantly doing projects and hands-on stuff, games, stories, and still they bitch and complain. Probably because they are being forced to think and do something. I was tempted a number of times to go in this year and say, "Well, if you don't like how I'm teaching you, let me show you for a week how I was taught German in school." I could have pursed my lips and turned red every time a kid talked out of turn, sent them to the office for any minor infraction, and had them doing book work and worksheets the whole hour with a strict no talking policy. They would've loved it.

1 comment:

K said...

How terrible. I'm so sorry that you have to go through this. They are so lucky that you do innovative things in the classroom. Try to take comfort in the fact that there's quieter kids in the room that are really learning and will always appreciate that you tried to make the class as interesting as possible.

Some thoughts that I have as a former educator that may or may not be helpful in your situation: (1) Do you think it might help if you met privately with each student in a "conference"? Maybe if you talked it out with each kid, how they think they're doing in class substantively, issues with behavior, what they think could improve about the class, etc., and explained why the disrespect bothers you, etc., they might view you as a person with feelings who is worthy of respect and deference? (2) Another option could be to give a detention when there is disrespect, requiring the student to sit in your classroom and write a paper explaining why they said/did what they did and why it is inappropriate to behave in that manner. Then make them take it home for the parent's signature. (3) I actually think that it is fine and appropriate for you to assign a disrespectful student to "book work" while the rest of the class does fun activities. After having to sit in the corner reading the book and working on written assignments, while the rest of the class has fun....well, that could really send a message.

Good luck.