The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 28 2012

Tired of Thick Skin

Day 55: The majority of the day can be summarized as follows: Kids on the second day back from a break are easier to deal with than on the first day back from break.

Now, to the real story. As usual, AM avoided me in the morning. This time, however, she didn’t show up for morning homeroom. I had her paged to homeroom. About a minute later, she storms in and slams down a small, balled-up piece of paper. When I try to ask her where she was, she cuts me off and says, “You’re not my advisor. I don’t have to speak to you.” I ask her to pick up the paper; she yells “Move!” and goes to pick it up.

In short: Done. To the office. The vice principal is out, so I let the person managing the office know AM is unable to leave the office and go to class until her mother comes in for a conference. When I make it back to homeroom, I am not in a stellar mood. Fortunately, my homeroom listens attentively when I share with them that I have zero tolerance for disrespect, ever. I think my “I feel slightly murderous” expression gave away that I wasn’t playing around.

The story does get better. I got coverage for 4th period so I could meet with AM, her mother, and the stand-in for the vice principal. In that meeting, AM did the most sharing she has since the disrespect began in mid-October. AM said she thought my expectations were too high, and it was stressful to deal with SLANTing and tracking. She said she knows she needs to work on the disrespect, that it just happens sometimes. I was able to share with her that the expectations come from my respect for her and her classmates, that if I don’t have high expectations, I won’t be able to teach students as much, or help them grow as much as they could as people.

The conversation ended with me telling AM that I respected her, and believed in her intelligence and her leadership. I echoed what the stand-in for the vice principal had said minutes earlier, that I cared about her a great deal, and wasn’t going to stop. I let her know she had hurt my feelings, and that I hoped the next time she was frustrated, she could deal with it without being disrespectful, because I knew she could communicate with me better than that.

I didn’t teach AM; she stayed after to make up the science work with no incidents. She spoke to me, albeit briefly, but even that’s an improvement. We exchanged letters, as we’d agreed to do in the office. Mine repeated that I believed in her intelligence and leadership, that I believed she could find a way to let me know respectfully when she was frustrated, and that I believed we would turn things around together. Hers owned up to her disrespect, and apologized. It was a solid, full paragraph.

I’m not naïve enough to think this is it. If AM’s issue is structure … Well, if the post-Thanksgiving days are any indication, I’m not giving up my classroom structure and expectations any time soon. However, I can’t help but hope for improvement. Apologies for the melodrama, but AM has been breaking my heart. It takes too much energy to pretend to not care, to pretend my feelings aren’t hurt when she ignores me and says hi very effusively to other teachers, to act like a hard-ass when I have to respond to the disrespect. So I’ll cross my fingers, and hope I get some evidence of change tomorrow.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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