I’ve been a teacher for over fifteen years. I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly in the classroom. When I first began teaching, I couldn’t imagine the number of behavior problems I would encounter. It was insane! And administrative support was mixed — at best.
I had students do silly things like a burp or fart out loud. While stinky those actions were manageable. Things that were more challenging were talking back or swearing every other word. The worst was students fighting in class or assaulting me. I still suffer trauma from those incidents.
As I mentioned, administrative support was a mixed bag. When I was a novice teacher, administrators were very helpful in disciplining the students. The administrator for our 9th-grade academy was an older woman who could clear a hallway by her mere presence. When it was time to transition to the net class, the student knew better than to dawdle too long in the halls. The administrator would appear and start yelling at the students to get to class. And they scattered like frightened puppies.
In the classroom, when I had an issue with a student or students, I would do a write-up and give it to the administrator. She would appear either the same day or the next day at my classroom door, telling the students to go with her. If the student happened to be absent, she was sure to call home and let the parents know the student was facing detention — or even suspension. She was a badass and I appreciated her support. She helped me get through my first two years of teaching.
And it was a crazy first two years. I found out I was pregnant a few months into my first school year. I had to navigate nausea and teaching. Some of my students were great, I gave my first A+ ever to a wonderful, young lady. She had great attendance, behavior, and classwork. I never had to reprimand her in class or call home to let the parents know. She was the first of many wonderful students that sat in my classroom.
But for every wonderful student, there were not-so-wonderful students. I had girls and boys who yelled at me, called me the b-word, and assaulted me. The students yelled at me over their work, grades, and attendance to class. I was called a “bitch” because I prevented a female student from copying work from another student. I was hit by a plastic bottle, plucked on the back of the neck, grabbed by male students twice, and assaulted by another male student who rubbed his crotch against mine.
I suffered a lot at my first school. There were students who’d rather complain about my teaching than do the work. They’d run to the administrator about their grades and I would get emails from the administrators. Some administrators even changed my grades! I was teaching at a school where morals, values, and common sense had no place in the building.
But despite the evil of others, I stuck to my guns. I didn’t want to compromise my integrity. I still had many good students who adored me and my class. We had fun, laughing over student antics and talking about their future plans. Many students knew that I cared about them. I was their “school mom”, treating them like my very own. Even after students had graduated, many came back to visit me.
Of course, my popularity produced a lot of haters. Administrators and other teachers couldn’t understand how I was able to develop such great relationships with students — especially with difficult students. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took years of trial and error. When working with other people’s children, you have to connect with them. I find that humor works best. Another tactic I use is common interests. I’m in anime, art, drawing, fashion, WWE, and shows on Amazon Prime and Netflix. When students learn of my interests, it helps conversation and build connections.
When my first school went down the tubes because of MCAS scores, many teachers left the school. Many others were forced to leave. The school lost so many good educators, but because administrators thought the educators were a problem, they sent them away. I was one of those teachers. I wound up at a middle school, teaching 6th grade English.
My time there will be in my next post. Stay tuned!