Just to Get By

I realized today that I've been falling prey to a sort of Catch 22. The more I've struggled the more I've been trying to just get by. But, things only get harder when you don't plan for every scenario and try to plan out the smallest minutia of your day. So by just doing enough to get by, I was making it that much harder to do so. I'm not gonna turn into a super-organized, super-prepared teacher overnight, but realizing the dividends it will pay is a pretty good incentive to move in that direction.

Meanwhile, today was the first day without ALP in my classroom. It was still hard, but better overall. I saw him twice today and he grinned a horrible grin. How did I let a 10 year-old get into my head so badly? He might be the devil. What's really bothering me is a comment he made Friday that hit a little too close to home. "Why can't you handle anything yourself? You're always trying to get [the parent coordinator, the guidance counselor and other teachers] involved, because you can't handle anything yourself." I'm afraid he might be right. And if he is, even having him removed from my classroom won't fix the bigger problem: me.


yooooo.. my man.. i think you hit it right there. i think you are letting loose and becoming vulnerable. i think that is exactly what teaching is (needs to be). Forget all the pretense and tip-toeing.. what it comes down to, is that you are a human being. just like your students. you have feelings, you are a real person- heck- you have a pregnant sister and that is dope! i think the more you open up to your students (and visa versa), the more respect will be granted. and with respect, comes peace.. and teaching.. good teaching. my suggestion (not knowing if you are looking for suggestions- forgive me if you're not) is to step into that place where you are a person- a beautiful person, a complex person, a person who is teaching to be an agent in change..

do what you gotta do, homie..

by the way, i like the kweli drop.. one of my favorite joints..

Hugh O'Donnell said…
NYC nailed it totally. Be humble, be vulnerable (while maintaining that critical social distance). Part of connecting with kids.

A thought about the nightmare child: once, twice, or maybe three times in a career, you'll encounter a kid like that. You're not obligated to agonize over whatever redeeming qualities you might wish they had or want to invent for them. They're toxic for you, plain and simple. Forget them, don't engage them, and move on. They don't have your best interests at heart (an understatement) and it would give them great pleasure to see you in great pain. Is that Good? Nope, it's the absence of Good, and that is something else.

Hugh aka Repairman
asdfuiop said…
ALP does what he does because some basic needs aren't being for him - it's really disconcerting when kids hit on our weaknesses, but what he most wants is attention, to get a reaction. It's really important to not let them goad you into responding in kind! I mean look at what he said - getting others involved in the problem was actually the exact right thing to do. That's what the parent coordinator, etc. are there for - a school is a community, we need each other. But that's one of the things he can't bring himself to do, ask for help, so he turns it into a weakness. It's not! (but it's amazing how intuitive even the most difficult students can be)

And it isn't your fault, or any shortcoming on your part that he was removed from the class. He needs to be in a different environment, and the rest of your class needs a break so they can have a better chance at learning what you teach. Hopefully everyone will come out ahead.

Overplanning is a very good idea - always have more planned for the class than can be done in a day and you won't have that horrible downtime when everything can fall apart so quickly. Planning in a period of "free time" at the end of the day can also be used as an incentive given only to students who met expectations that day.

You are staying with them and providing as much stability as possible, and that is GOOD! Try to get to know them each as individuals as much as possible, meet their parents/guardians if you haven't already. Letting parents know what their children need to work on can help (and yes, of course give them positive feedback, too!).

as nyc teaching fellow said, I don't know if you are looking for suggestions like these, and hope you'll take them in the best possible way - coming from an empathetic teacher who hopes she can help!
Ms. George said…
You've had some good advice already, so I won't repeat it except to say that teaching is hard work and takes courage. You have what many teachers lack: the ability to look critically at your teaching and see where you can improve. Just don't succumb to the negativism (I know this is hard). Working with ALP (and kids like him) is what will make you a better teacher in the end, but sometimes, there are kids that we can't help. By that I mean that some kids need a different setting to achieve and it sounds like ALP may have found that.
The kids need to see that we are human, imperfect, but willing to learn with them. The best teachers are willing to learn as much as they teach.
Keep at it!
ms. george is right on point with this one!! some kids we really, really can't reach, and that is sad, but oh so real... and this is a learning process and a journey for us all- whether a seasoned teacher or a rookie..

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