September 10, 2008

Acting Out in Writing Class

Last weekend, I started (and never finished) a post about how much I like my night school. People ask me how in the world I can make it through the day by going there and teaching two periods a night with everything else in life. Well, I have a whole list of reasons, including I like the kids.

Only, sometimes I don't like the kids. Like last night. And it wasn't so much that I didn't like the kids as it was that I didn't like the kids who were acting out because the task I was asking them to do was hard.

The first class I have has 8 students enrolled, and only 6 of them ever show up. The small class forces each one to participate rather than sit in the back of the class, hoping to ignored. I try to make them feel at ease and joke with them, but they will not talk to me. Seriously, even if pointedly ask one of them a question, all I get is some vague mumbling. I know a few of them are shy, but not all. One of the boys I had in class last year, and when he actually came to class, he talked A LOT! There is another girl who will talk to me a little, but her baby is due in any minute. She's my best hope of showing the rest of them that communicating with the teacher isn't so bad.

The last class I have has 20 students, which is a typical sized class. I know that is small class by most standards, but I seem to have some supreme talkers and clowns in that class. Okay, it's actually normal situation for that school. The students like me, so they don't maliciously disrupt--I've had years like that--but they're just blowing off whatever doesn't entertain them.

So, I blew my top with them last night. Third week in and I am already frustrated. A few days ago I was super cool. Patient. With these kids, I have to talk rough, keep it real. I reprimanded them for falling about so quickly and accused them of acting out because they felt a little stupid for not knowing what to do, how to fix their weak sentences. That is just no way to tackle a problem! I had given them different strategies for improving their sentences, but in revising, nothing is cut and dried. I can't tell them if it's right or wrong, I can only tell them if something is better, and that's something they know when they rework it enough, too.

Writing is hard and frustrating. I told them how I feel that pain a few times a week as I write here on my blog. I explained that I discover errors I've made days after my writing goes out to the public to read, and how sometimes my sentences sound like a 3rd grader wrote them. Of course, I choose to write because I enjoy it--even if it is hard.

I know it was harsh for calling them out on their actions. That's the knowledge we as teachers keep to ourselves sometimes. Students act out a lot to cover up their insecurities. We deal with it accordingly. Like I said, sometimes I have to talk rough with my students. That's how they receive messages. That's how they know I'm being real. It shows I care. It's crazy.

In the quad and in the parking lot. a few of them sheepishly approached me:

"Miss, are you going to be mad at us tomorrow?"
"Are you going to try hard tomorrow?"
"I was trying."
"You were were goofing around with those around you."
"No, I wasn't."
Insert Teacher-Eyebrow look here.
"Really? That's not what I saw."
"Uhmmmm. Okay. I'll try."


"Miss, I'll see you tomorrow. I'll be better. I promise."
"I need for you to be a leader in class."
"Miss, I'm a leader?"
"Yes, you are. Use it for good, not evil. You're one of the best students."
"Really, Miss? I'll try."

I hope so. That's all I'm asking for...

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