September 12th, 2018
Third week of school, and finally teachers and kids are settling into the routine: get up, go to school, go home, go to sleep, repeat for 180 days. This year I have 3 preps, which are actually 6 classes; 3 of them are academic language development sections, and the other 2 are the English and Social Studies I've been teaching for years. Only this year, those 2 classes are different. Very different.
I have this class of mostly boys this year - it's the kind of class where you might linger in the hallway a few more seconds than usual just to avoid going in because you know the chaos that is in store. The kind of class where on the FIRST day, you threaten to call home, and on the second day, you do it. By the second week they have permanent assigned seats. And the kind of class where you have already heard unexpected words and expressions, such as "Mr.Testicles" and "vagina", and where sometimes all that is heard are fart noises by way of the armpit or raspberries on the arm, and all manner of animal noises all the time. The kinds of class where you spot one kid switching from raspberries on the arm to kissing his own arm, and where if you turn your back for one nanosecond, things happen. The kind of class where, when I took out puppets for a conversation activity, one student had the Ernie from Bert and Ernie thrusting his hips forward, "dancing". It's the class where you have to write instructions on the board, act them out, read them aloud in 2 languages about 7 times, and show them through interpretive dance. And where, on day 2 of school, one student lets out a full 10 seconds of actual fart and doesn't bat an eye.
The day I had them for 3 hours in a row in 85 degree weather inside the classroom and 93 outside was the day I wanted to cry, and began to seriously question if I should keep teaching.
Luckily, it's also the kind of class where, in the first 2 days they have already called you "Mami" and "Titi" by mistake several times because they feel comfortable. And where they tumble in, all over each other, because they are happy to be there. It's the kind of class where, when the bell rings for the next class, they want to stay with you. They call you "Missy" affectionately and are fascinated by animal fights, dinosaurs, and volcanoes. They have random facts in their background knowledge which they love to share. They love reading out loud to each other in their beginners' English. They still respond to threats of phone calls, texts, and emails home. They love games and are playful, and raise their hands all the time to answer - when they remember to raise their hands and not shout out answers. At least they're engaged, and not tuned out.
This is the kind of class that makes you, as a teacher, step up your game. You have to be 100% prepared for every class, no winging it here. No down time or spare time at the end of class. I have had to rethink everything I was going to teach, and instead look for highly engaging material and activities that are also at their level. After the first day I learned I had to plan breaks, insert games, walk outside, and make sure they have transition time. Slowly, we are making progress. The animal noises and raspberries on the arm continue, but I am learning to ignore them. Focus on the bigger behaviors and ignore the small ones. I'm trying out my PBIS skills by praising whenever possible ("Excellent use of your eraser!").
I know there will be lower points than the 85 degree in the classroom day, just because, well, that is how it always works. With teaching, you feel like you are making great progress, and then something happens to make you feel like you are the worst teacher ever. I'm holding on to other days, though, the ones where you see your students happy and engaged, and know they are learning, and you know you went into the right profession.
To all those teachers who have classes like this, hang in there. We need you! There will always be bad days, but hang on tightly to those good ones.