Don’t mean no disrespec’

December 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

Oh me, oh my. I guess I should have been expecting this, but last Friday I lost my temper with my students for the first time.

It was over something silly and fairly insignificant. There was a workshop that period led by some outside speakers and two girls flat out refused to go. They said it was “stupid,” a “waste of their time,” etc. I told them it wasn’t optional. They said, “whatever, we’re not going” and didn’t move. I was frustrated. I didn’t know what to do to get them to obey… scratch that… I might have figured out a way, or at least had the wisdom not to make this bigger than it had to be, but I was tired and I gave up and started to yell.

I took the weekend to blow off steam, relax, and come back fresh. I started okay today, and was fine all the way until the end of the day when I almost lost it again.

It was study hall, last period of the day. Twenty minutes left. Four girls in my class. Next thing I know, they are all standing around a computer. A boy from a different class is standing with them. They are looking at myspace. I go over and nudge them to get back on task. Then I switch from nudging to telling. And they just talk over me, as if I weren’t even there. To be completely honest, I’m not sure they even noticed I was there. Either that or they are incredible actors. I waved my hand in front of their faces – visually disrupting their conversation – but they didn’t even bat an eyelash. I heard my voice starting to rise… and I was nearly on the vergy of yelling when I stopped myself and walked away. I let them socialize for the rest of the day.

When I yelled, I felt terrible. It was a terrible failure, a loss of control. When I stopped myself from yelling and gave up on trying to control the situation, I felt like a terrible failure. Lose, lose. I know there are techniques out there to get kids to listen. One of the teachers I work with is a master. But when you’re tired, stressed, and feel as though you’ve suffered enough abuse for one day, it’s almost impossible to rise above the situation and employ all those tricky little strategies. Instead it’s, I’M TIRED AND YOU KIDS ARE BRATS SO SHUT THE HECK UP AND DO AS I SAY. And even though I don’t say those words exactly, the kids respond by saying, “How dare you talk to us like that? Screw you, man. I ain’t listening to another goddamn thing you say today.”

Why do I keep reaching my breaking point? It’s the disrespect.

In an average life, people are treated with a standard level of respect from their coworkers, friends, aquaintences, hairdressers, postal workers, fast food employees, etc. I would venture a guess that close relatives are the only ones that ever get away with less-than-cordial interactions.

When you’re teaching a school full of turbulent teenagers, you get exposed to kinds of rudeness you wouldn’t experience in everday life. Most people do not get maliciously ignored on a regular basis. Or treated in any of the other degrading, contemptuous ways that these kids treat their teachers. It’s a shock to the system, or at least it was for me.

Of all the pitfalls of the teaching profession, this is one I really didn’t internalize until now.

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