Thursday, February 16, 2012

the itsy-bitsy spider

Quote of note: “I think they kind of complement each other in like a psycho way."--Student on the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

16-year-old boys are gross. This is stating an obvious fact, but on Monday I saw further validation of it. In the middle of my honors class, a student ate a spider. I just need to take a second to first say EWWW. We’re not even going to pay attention to the fact that I was already freaked out due to my fear of spiders. Two boys spotted one floating in front of them, and plucked it off of its silky thread. The other kids expressed their disgust at how close it was to one student’s mouth. The boys squished it on the floor, and then one of them picked it back up, and as I watched open-mouthed in horror, placed it in his mouth. One girl had her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide as saucers, and I would have laughed at the comedy of it if I hadn’t been feeling physically ill.

The class was going nuts, and I sent the bug-eater out of class. Afterwards, I informed him that he needed to serve detention with me the next day. (There are many times as a teacher when I find myself doing things I’d never imagined or stringing together words in a very unexpected combination, and this was certainly one of those times.) When I asked him what the heck he was thinking, he said he felt like the people wanted it, so he did it. I told him no, you just wanted to show off. At his detention, I told him he needed to write a letter. There had been a couple of other incidents in the last couple of weeks, and so I requested that he write about how his behavior is sometimes disruptive and unacceptable, and how he can go about improving it. He wrote a nice little letter, complete with diagrams.

I talked to the student at the end of the detention, and told him that on his last report card, I wrote that he talks too much, but also that he is a pleasure to have in class. Interesting combo, huh? I explained that while he has his obnoxious teenage boy moments, he’s also a nice, bright kid who shows a lot of enthusiasm for the material. That enthusiasm is wonderful, but he needs to harness it a bit and show it in a more appropriate manner, and stop with the antics and outbursts that become distractions. He agreed, and said that he would try. Our talk ended with smiles, and I hope that now, when I cue him to quiet and calm down, he will be quicker to adjust his behavior and will not allow it to escalate to such disruptive (or gross) proportions.

Monday, February 6, 2012

baby steps

There are some kids I just can't fully figure out. I have his one girl who is surly about 90% of the time: ignores me when I say hi as she walks in the room, rolls her eyes and makes faces when I tell her to put her phone away, sulks in her seat, doesn't want to participate, and won't make presentations or even participate in Socratic Circles. She flat-out refused to write a major paper, and ended up failing last term. Yet every now and then, a totally different girl shows up in my class. This version of her is intelligent, engaged in the class, willing to ask for help, and even allows a smile to cross her face.

The pleasant version made an appearance last week, and it was like a breath of fresh air (it's quite exhausting dealing with so much attitude from a student all the time). She was working hard on a project, asking me questions to see if she was on the right track. When it came time to do the presentations, I expected her to give me some version of her usual "I hate people and I don't do presentations" explanation. But instead, she got up and made her presentation, and actually did a nice job! Oy, I was kvelling. After the presentations, we moved into a discussion about the end of the book, and she participated a number of times, adding valuable insight to the conversation. She didn't look as though someone were pulling her teeth, but rather had a smile on her face, as though she were--dare I say it?--enjoying class. I was so excited about this development, I kept talking about it for the rest of the day.

The student didn't participate in our Socratic Circle last week (well, she did talk in the outer circle, but was silent in the more important inner circle), but she wasn't in a bad mood, and I hoped she'd be willing to participate again this week. However, her darker side returned today. She wouldn't even face forward in her seat, which was especially great considering that I was being evaluated by my coordinator today (although I think that went fairly well overall, despite a couple of these small issues). I know she has a lot of crap going on at home, as I have contacted her dad before, and this is probably all just a defense mechanism, but it kind of upsets me. I know that she is a smart, capable student, but she is her own worst enemy. I hate wanting a kid to succeed more than they want it for themselves. Last week gave me hope, but today made me worried that it was just  fluke. Hopefully it is a baby step in the right direction; perhaps her happier, more driven side will start making more appearances. I'm trying to encourage her without pushing her, and hopefully she will see that I am truly on her side.