The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 30 2013

Holding the Line, and Looking for Silver Linings

Day 91: Class today was a whirlwind. 6A was perfect. 6D had fun with the starch and iodine diffusion lab, but the concept was tough to get across (cell membrane pun intended), and I was about to throw JPV out a window for not doing his work. 6C got the lab done with only minor crazy, although I wished I’d been better about dealing with the boy lack-of-focus, or CJ’s inability to sit still and do her work. 6B was a little antsy, but not antsy enough to derail them.

By far the most memorable incident came during recess. I resolved today to stop being as nice to AC. I was tired of feeling like my kindness was getting sucked into a black hole. She repeatedly ignored my directions in class, such as not pulling in her chair or putting her binder down. Minor stuff, but she knows better. I kept her in for recess, and had her start by writing. She quickly and readily admitted she wasn’t following directions and was being disrespectful.

Once the conversation started, I hunkered down. I did not want to listen anymore. I wanted her to know that I would not and could not put up with the disrespect. I wanted her to know that I was tired of being the only one who left last week’s meeting with dad trying to fix things. She told me I couldn’t force her to do things like move her leg; I told her I was in charge of the expectations in my classroom, and she was welcome to take that up with the principal. When she asked why I was targeting her, I asked her if she was giving me any reason to trust her in class right now, and she agreed the answer was no.

The climax came toward the end, when I asked how she could commit to re-building our relationship, which is what she’d agreed to with her dad. She said she needed to show me respect; I said not good enough, that doesn’t build relationships, it’s just basic courtesy. She had already been crying, but this brought on a torrent. A whistle blew outside, indicating she’d missed all of recess, and she became distraught realizing I’d taken all of her time with her friends. A minute or so later, I dismissed her.

I was talking to our receptionist later, beginning with, “It seems like I’m making a lot of people cry lately.” This is still an unnatural thing for me. I don’t want to make anyone cry. I’m still confused as to why exactly my “kill ’em with kindness approach” isn’t working out so well. Still, I have to draw the line. We agreed I didn’t have to be liked by everyone, and maybe one of my two anti-fans would be that student next year, coming back to say hi and admitting I wasn’t so bad after all.

And then, an odd thing happened in afternoon homeroom. I was giving my homeroom their marshmallows for a reward they’d earned. For days, AC had given me the limp-fish handshake and no eye contact as she ran out the door. Today, I gave her an extra marshmallow for bringing a couple to the office for me. I was also trying to give her an out for the day; we’d had enough drama, and a marshmallow in hand was my way of saying, “You can take today off; I don’t need the handshake.” And yet, three fingers poked forward – her initiative – and I got my handshake after all.

I would be unwise to read into this. It could be less altruism and more putting on appearances. However, I choose to end my reflection on today hoping for the best case scenario. Don’t hold that against me.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

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