All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Thursday, 2 February 2006

My Very Steep Learning Curve.

I would love to relate some bright, sunny teaching experiences but unfortunately, if today is anything to go by, these won’t be forthcoming in the near future.

I have had a horrendous day. During the first period, my Year 11 Citizenship class was moved to another room, to hand over the computers to some other students (also Yr 11) who really needed to use them.

My class was so “put out” by having to move that they decided to go around the room and take mice, keyboards, network connections etc out of the computers, so as to inconvenience the next group as much as possible and demonstrate their displeasure at being moved.

I have yet to meet a more spiteful bunch of little so and so’s.

I was so incensed by their selfishness that I am arranging to give all their future Citizenship lessons in a non-computer room, to impress upon them the fact that their “right” to use the computers is not automatic. I know that this probably means that I’m making life harder for myself, in terms of having to plan yet another lesson, but if I let this go by, what kind of message to give out?

If that wasn’t bad enough, I had a heated run-in with a Year 9 student during the next lesson. This child has learned zilch in my class since starting in September and today decided that instead of disrupting the class as per usual, he would sit quietly, totally disengaged from what was going on( in the lesson) and surf the net whilst wearing earphones and listening to music.

I picked him up on this, told him to switch his machine off and take the earphones out. He flipped and the shouting match that ensued, resulted in the headmaster getting involved;  this being excluded and my having a really interesting and productive lunch with the Head discussing teaching methods and how to deal with similar situations in the future. I only hope that I will one day I’ll  be able to handle a situation like this in the same professional and calm manner that he exhibited.

I’m still an NQT (newly qualified teacher) and sometimes, this lack of experience gets me into some serious trouble. The Head told me that he had intervened because he was concerned about my safety (it was a VERY heated argument!) whilst my main objective was to get this intelligent kid to stop messing around and actually come out of my class with some sort of computer knowledge and skills. At no time during the incident did I consider that I might be putting myself in harm’s way.

It’s been a horrible day but I suppose the silver lining to this very dark cloud is that I hope I’ve developed a greater understanding of how to handle - or more importantly, avoid - similar explosive situations in the future. If I don’t learn from this, I could end up getting hurt.

No job is worth ending up in hospital for.


Tense Teacher said...

Bless your heart (and I don't at all mean that in a condescending way)! I remember my first couple years of teaching and how I felt as if I had to "win" battles with difficult students. I sometimes look back and wonder how I didn't get hurt, too. (My 5'4" self pointing my finger in the face of a 6'4", 225 pound, irate boy comes to mind.) Handling confrontations will indeed get easier as you gain more experience...
Here's a hint, if you want to take it: try speaking so softly that your students have to strain to hear you, and just keep doing whatever you've planned for the day. This works quite well on my difficult classes, because I still hold them accountable for their work, and often their curiosity will get the better of them.
Hope you have a better Friday!

The Teacher said...

Thank you. I'll try your method, if only because I'm losing my voice by the end of most lessons!

Larrythelamb said...

Im getting VERY concerned dear neighbour.

It sounds like you have been placed at a corrections centre for maladjusted children and all the time I thought you were placed in a local school...............

Have they opened up a "borstal" close by here?


Pepperpot said...

Hello! The epithet 'that which does not kill you makes you stronger' is very true in teaching. They all eventually leave, and you get to start over with a new crop. Eventually, the 6ft Year 11s are simply expanded versions of the terrified Yr 7s you taught 4 years ago, and not stoppy teenagers who've been in the school three years longer than you have.

One thing that helped me, and still helps me, is to think of any class of being made up of three lots of kids:
- some kids who will be appalling whatever you do
- some kids who will be virtuous whatever you do
- the majority, who are up for grabs, and will move to one side or other of the 'line of good behaviour' in any given lesson depending on what happens in that lesson.

Think of your task as moving that line steadily towards the appalling kids. Count yourself as succeeding as one by one, kids move themselves to the right side of the line.

You will probably never get them all there permanently. And you will probably never lose them all irredeemably.

Good luck - you obviously care and you're obviously good at what you do!

The Teacher said...

Thank you everyone for your help and concern. It's been a difficult week but half term is but 5 school days away. I need the break!