The past week warrants daily reflections; as a brief overview, I had to: confront some students about issues with plagiarism and copying on an essay, deal with some very blatant disrespect from a student, give several students detentions, AND sub for a very weird day where nearly half of the school was gone on a field trip. Also, as the beginning of this week was the Monday after spring break, we were “welcomed” back with the news that over the break some students had broken into the school and done some serious vandalism. The damage was not only extensive to some of the physical property, but it was very personal and targeted specific members of the faculty.
On Monday (the plagiarism/cheating confrontation day) I wrote: Well, my reputation as the nice teacher has been soiled…and it’s not good. I never thought that students would react so dramatically to being told that they need to redo an assignment because they cheated/plagiarized! I chose to print the web pages where I found exact sentences on the internet, and one girl’s comment was “Oh, how nice, you printed the website,” followed by “I never went to this webpage.” So all I said was that the sentences were exactly the same. She didn’t say anything after that…
I’m scared for the possible retaliation…so far things have been so good. But WHY am I feeling so bad? They are the ones that didn’t do the assignment right, aren’t they? They are the ones that had the opportunity to ask me questions that never did? THEY are the ones who wrote the paper and INSIST that they knew the answers that they had already written…as soon as class started I just go so nervous to the point that I could hardly function..
The rest of the day was better, although still nothing very pleasant!
Moving on to Wednesday, in one class a particular students was being incredibly disrespectful to me. Mrs. Hook wasn’t in the room, which may have made a slight difference. I repeatedly asked him to stop talking after the other “tricks” (location, etc.) failed. He proceeded to tell me that if I gave him a lunch detention he would not come because that was “my time.” Unfortuntely I did not deal with this situation the way I would have liked, and let his blatant disrespect pass, as class was almost over. However, after discussing it with my mentor teacher and the dean, I was told that he needed to serve a detention for his actions. I did confront him later in the day (with the dean standing by.) I guess the thing I had been dreading (giving a detention to someone) wasn’t so bad after all! Again, the rest of the day wasn’t so bad…the students were really chatty today, but it was nothing too terrible.
Thursday, oh Thursday. I essentially bounced from class to class or collected students from the hallway that didn’t seem to have a teacher. There was a field trip that took most of the juniors and seniors, and enough teachers that they were scrambling to find enough coverage. As it turned out, I spent 5 of the 7 periods that day with mostly the same freshmen, teaching my world history class and subbing for 9th grade health and English. (The other 2 periods I just had any students in the hallway come hang out in my classroom…nothing fancy!) From my notes on Thursday’s health class:
“I did it. I finally brought kids into the hallway to talk to them. While subbing for Mr. Menache’s class, I had “a student” come into the hallway because he was making really inappropriate comments really loudly to the class (especially about people being gay.) I just told him that it was not right and that while I didn’t want to give him a detention (especially for someone else’s class) but I would if he kept talking. For the rest of THAT class, he was fine.
For the next class (my normal World History) I had to bring another student into the hallway to talk to him about his inappropriate and excessive comments. As “luck” would have it, the principal happened to be coming to check in on my class at that point, which meant he listened in on our little chat. I think it helped with the noise level for the remainder of the class, until…
SUBBING for English (almost all the same kids as the last 2 periods). To keep a long story short, as they were watching a movie, I had to move several students to prevent them from talking, gave one student a detention for excessive talking (same one I’d confronted not but 30 minutes earlier) and caught one student touching another inappropriately. I filled out “pink slips” or referrals for each of those situations, which turned out to be very helpful when the students did not appear for their detentions.
Needless to say, I was really thankful for Friday, and things went much better that day. Overall, this week was a week of learning that my “threats” need to have some meaning behind them. I can’t spend all my time worrying about whether or not the students will like me. (In fact, I lost “teacher of the week award” according to one student…!) I know that in the weeks to come this will be an important factor for me in the way that I handle a classroom. Good learning experiences this week…although I can’t say I appreciated them all at the time, I’ve made it through all the better.
UPDATE: the students responsible for the vandalism confessed on Friday and were expelled from the school. This week has been a good opportunity for me to see, close-up, how administration deals with such issues. Being at a small school allows me to experience things or know more first-hand than a larger school…
In reflecting on being “invitational and disinvitational” I sometimes think that this is a great topic but at times it can be a challenge for me. What I mean by this is the fact that, as I read through the levels of invitational education, I would place myself in the “Unintentionally inviting” category. Through self-reflections and talking with my mentor teacher, this seems to fit my interactions with the students. In The First Days of School, Wong and Wong state that these teachers “do not have a consistent philosophy of education” yet they are “generally well liked and effective” This is generally consistent with how I have been feeling so far this year; being a “people-pleaser,” I’m generally content with the idea that students like me. In fact, it has been a real confidence booster for me as I learn that more and more students do, in fact, think I’m a good teacher. However, it’s also good to be aware that, as an “Unintentional” inviter, it can hide “the fact that [my] students may not be learning to their fullest potential” Of course, this is never my hope for the classroom, so I will be more aware of the balance between being liked for my personality while maintaining high expectations for my students. I suppose this will also improve over time as I continue thinking about my philosophy of education and classroom management plan.
 Wong, H. K., and Wong, R. The First Days of School (Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, 2004) 67