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Another Week: The Nitty-Gritties of Teaching

This was an interesting week at school.  I feel much more integrated into my classes.  A geography/history teacher assigned a group project to make more use of me in the classroom, which is very nice.  In one of the classes, however, some students were clearly incapable of working independently in a group.  This group of boys was laughing and joking around the entire class period.  I have been focused already on one of the students in that group because he has trouble remaining silent.  He calls out, he has to comment on everything, he interrupts his classmates, and often he talks back to the teacher.  I have this class twice a week with two different teachers, one of whom, luckily, is their tutor (each class has a tutor, a teacher that devotes one period a week to talking with the students--kind of like group therapy, I presume).  This teacher and I are always talking about the behavioral issues in her class.  With her, they act appropriately, but without her, they get a bit out of hand.  While they have improved as a whole, there are still some students who are struggling.

Recently another teacher mentioned that all of the students in 1º ESO were just last year in Primary School.  This struck me.  And made sense of a lot of the issues some of my 1º ESO classes have.  This is why I feel more like a babysitter or a police officer than a teacher with some of the classes.  Constantly I have to direct a razor-beam of light with my eyes directly into the eyes of a student.  This signals: “Stop, now.”  If that doesn’t work, I may have to walk over to the student so they sense my physical presence.  If that doesn’t work, I may ask them directly what’s going on, even if the class is in the middle of doing something else.  I’m testing out different tactics, taking advantage of my role as an assistant (we don't call parents, but we can talk to the teachers who do).  Classroom management is clearly a skill.

Back to the disruptive student:  one particular moment from the week was during the geography/history class.  His group didn’t seem to be doing any work relevant to their project.  This student, A, had written down two bullet-points on a piece of paper about his climate, but was kneeling on his chair facing a classmate behind him.  I asked A to “sit like a normal person.”  I regret this phrasing, but he understood I meant I wanted him to sit down on his chair.  Then we lightly joked about his inability to behave properly.  He joked that he is “homosapien-sapien-sapien.”  When I moved slightly away from their group, he immediately perched back up on his knees on the chair.  I signaled this was not okay, but he was laughing.  At the end of the class, I managed to indicate to all the boys in that group that I was writing all of their names down.  T-r-o-u-b-l-e.

I talked to the teacher about this group and she told me that she gave them the hardest climate to present because they like to think they know everything.  And to address their behavior she walked around telling them all she was marking down how they were acting in class.  This spooked the group out a bit, thankfully.  I don’t blame this teacher for not wanting to get too involved in all of the hullabaloo surrounding disciplinary procedures, though.  I was happy that she told them she was grading them for this class period.  I told her how they had been playfully fighting, how one boy had tried to pull down the pants of another one, how one boy had taken another boy’s papers and put them under his chair.  Needless to say, this was a MESS.    

During another class, I was talking in the hall with a student about his Science Fair project.  The door to the class next door, the struggle-bus, opened and a group of students walked out with another assistant teacher.  That student, A, suddenly put his hands on the student I was speaking with and yelled in his face in a weird and joking way.  I said, “excuse me, are you in this class right now?” or something like that.  He looked a bit startled, but didn’t seem to really register what had happened and walked away with his group.  I spoke to this class’ tutor about both events because she really appreciates when I give her updates on their behavior without her.  And because I needed to vent to someone who knows the situation firsthand.  She told me she was going to call parents.

A day or so later when I arrived at school, A was next to the English Department.  He came over to me and apologized.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was you in the hallway,” he said.  He seemed upset and I thought for sure his parent had laced into him.  I also, though, had my guard up, because a teacher once told me he is a bit of a suck-up.  So, I reminded him of how I also told him to sit down in his chair and he didn’t listen.  He nodded and understood.  I said, “thank you for your apology, but now I want to see you behave better.”  We shall see…

As for the older students:  in my bachillerato classes, the teacher and I worked out a lesson plan dedicated to MLK Day.  The older class knew a bit about him, but the younger class didn’t know much.  In the first class, we went over some of the “I Have a Dream” speech.  I had prepared an essay prompt for them based on one a professor I worked with in the past had assigned.  They have to respond to the question “Has Dr. King’s dream come true?  Why or why not?”  I am SO looking forward to their essays.  It has been really interesting to hear the perspectives of students here on topics in American culture and history.  Funny side-note:  on my assignment sheet, I got so carried away with the writing process I forgot to include a note about how they had to read and internalize the text before writing.  I was able to add “YOU MUST SPEND TIME WITH THE TEXT FIRST” at the bottom of the paper before copies were made.  To be continued…

In the younger class, I gave each student a personalized assignment for the blog.  The topics are as follows:  a motorbike culture two students are obsessed with, thoughts on royal families, Beyoncé, the negative effects of Netflix, avocados, and some series of videos a student is into right now.  To be continued...

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