Battle Fatigue

What a day it was today! And where shall I start?

The boy who has been to court sits next to me a whole period. He is upset.  On a good day, I can only get through ten math problems with him in a period.  He is upset.  Today is not a good day.
“I’m to the point that I don’t care,” he says.

“Well, I care,” I say. “Let’s get through this math and you will feel better.”

“I hate this school. This school is dumb. I’m gonna change schools.”

“OK, but until you do, this work needs to be done.”

Reluctantly, he works. And while he works, he vents. Fortunately, the other four children in the room take this well. They know him. And by the end of the period, we have worked ten math problems and he does seem to feel better. He will at least smile a little. But I am spent. And I still have a period to go.

Do you think the general public knows what goes on the the classroom, what the teachers have to deal with? I think the public thinks that mostly, kids sit in obedient rows in the room. They turn in their work on time (which teachers then promptly lose). They are never tardy, and they never say things they shouldn’t.

The general public should have been in the room of upperclassmen with me yesterday. I noticed a commotion at one of the tables and went to investigate. Turns out a girl had asked a guy across the table to throw a tissue away for her. (This guy will regularly blow his nose and ask others to throw his tissues away.) She hadn’t done anything quite so gross, so she threw the tissue across the table at him and it landed. On the crotch of his jeans. The commotion came from his insistence that she remove the tissue. After all, she had thrown it.

Now all of this might sound entertaining to you, and sometimes it is. Sometimes it is heartrending. Most of the time it is tiring.

A few years ago, my son came into my junior high classroom to teach a lesson on music. I thought he did remarkably well, but when we left school, he showed evidence of every nervous habit I think he ever had.

“Mom,” he said, “I don’t see how you stay calm with the level of activity those kids have. It was all I could do.”

Hence the ticks. A sort of release.

I thought for a minute. “Somebody has to stay calm,” I said. “And it’s up to me.”

It is really. Teachers do control the atmosphere of the classroom in much the same way that a parent controls the atmosphere of the home.. Most teachers don’t mind. It is their job. But I just want to go on record telling the general public that what it isn’t is EASY!!


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February 2006
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