Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy No Kids For Two Weeks!!

Wahoo! I'm done I'm done I'm done! I made it! Ok, so it's only two weeks off, but still. I get time to myself. And wouldn't you know it that last night, right after one of the hardest spin classes I've ever taken, I got sick. Of course. So I've been on vitamins since last night.

Today's party was fabulous. In the past, I've allowed the kids to plan the party with a couple students in charge. It's always so stressful because they're in charge of setting up and cleaning and of course they make it a HUGE deal with decorations and games and blah, blah, blah. This year, I gave that up. I decided that I needed to regain control of my classroom parties. Instead, I had kids volunteer to bring food in. So today we ate and we watched a movie. That's it. I organized the layout of the food, the came up and got it table by table, we ate, we watched a movie. Wow. What an incredible difference. They cleaned up after themselves (imagine that), I gave the leftover food to the kids who brought it, and we were done. I was cleaned up before school even got out. Apparently I do need any and all control. But I guess that's one of the reasons I became a teacher.

So here's to sixth graders that are old enough to clean up after themselves, having control, and being high on vitamins. Happy vacationing to me!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wanted: Parents That Sacrifice

Is it weird that the day after the "Johnny" fiasco hit its limit, I had another parent issue?

Friday morning, an uncle of a student came in. This uncle apparently lives with the kid and his parents and asked me to inflict more punishment on his nephew for his recent behavior. This poor kid is rather tall and goofy for his age (probably around 6 foot as an 11-year old) and doesn't fit in at all at school. He had alot of issues last year where kids would pick on him and he'd get really angry. I haven't had any of those this year with him (partly bc my kids know that I would probably physically hurt them if they picked on anyone in our class - or out of our class for that matter). However, whether it be because he has alot going on or because he just doesn't care, he does as little as possible to get by in class. And those kind of students are hard to break because they're smart enough to know how to beat the system.

So I made these issues aware to the parents (I have been for about 3 weeks) and nothing was changing. Finally, yesterday his uncle came in. But it was really uncomfortable. He told me he wanted more punishment at school because it wasn't happening at home and he wanted this problem to be nipped in the bud now. He suggested detentions EVERY time the student doesn't put out the effort he's capable of. This shocked me for a few reasons. One, why am I not hearing this from either parent? Two, detentions? Seriously. Three, why is it not being taken care of at home?

So I warded him off by telling him I'd speak to my principal about possible ideas on how to change the behavior of the student. My principlal immediately told me that the uncle had no right coming in and asking me to do anything in regard to the student because he was not a legal guardian. And also that I was to follow the consequences posted in my room... no more, no less. So it was now my job to call the mother, explain what happened and why I couldn't do what they asked of me. The mother started crying on the phone as I tried as best I could to make a positive spin out of the uncle's awkward visit and the ongoing problems I was having with the student. She asked about counseling (we offer it free through the district, though it's not very good or consistent) and pretty much told me she didn't know what to do with the kid anymore.

I'm not a parent (though I do pretty much parent 31 kids for 6 hours a day) nor do I wish to be one at this moment in my life. So how is it that 2 parents in the last week have asked me for parenting advice because they've all but given up on their children? I don't understand! Don't get me wrong, I love their kids and would do anything I could to see them succeed. But when they fail and I've run out of options, isn't it the parents' job to know what to do? Isn't it the parents' job to find ANY MEANS necessary to help their child? And by any means necessary I mean even if it is an inconvenience to them?

Sometimes I wonder if my parents had it easy with my brother and I. Well, no, because I can think of plenty of instances where one of us were struggling and they pulled us out of it. They didn't give up. So why is it that I come across so many families that don't help their children? Or help them in the wrong way? It's frustrating and it's sad that the ratio of students who have great home lives is usually about equal to the students who don't. And these famlies have mulitple kids. Don't they know what they're doing to these poor kids?

Oftentimes these aspects of my job make me sad and discouraged. But then I think that if I'm the only consistency and release they have in their lives, I have to keep doing what I'm doing. It makes it all worth it when I can see them smile at one of my stupid jokes or get an A on a test. So I keep on keepin on....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Johnny, please be good

There's this kid in my class that NEVER STOPS TALKING. I think he's by far the worst one yet. He's a good kid, he just likes to be the center of attention. I moved him to an island (a desk all by himself) about 2 months ago. Generally when this happens, the student shapes up within a few weeks, we have a talk about he/she (actually mostly he) changing his/her behavior and how I'm willing to give them another chance to "be out in the world" (i.e. sit at a table group) if they feel like they're ready for it. They always say yes and I cautiously put them in a table group (where I know they least want to go) next to my desk or the front. They manage to control their talking and we move on with our lives.

Not this time. This time my little Johnny (name changed so I don't get sued by a crazy parent) actually does nothing to change his behavior. I've actually moved his island from one side of the room to the other and just last week moved him right up against my desk. Now I was hoping I didn't have to make this move because I knew it would cause me great stress on a daily basis. But it had to be done. I was literally running out of options. I've talked to the class about ignoring him (which I think only made the problem worse). I've talked to little Johnny about his behavior. I actually asked him what he thought needed to be done to get "out into the world." He knew exactly what needed to be done and I almost thought I had him really thinking about changing his behavior. We made a deal (HIS deal that HE came up with, I might add) that if he behaved until Winter Break, he could be "out into the world" when we came back. Yeah, not so much. The very next day I had to kick him out of class because I thought I might actually throw something at him.

So I decide to call home. Well, his parents speak Spanish so I ask our bilingual secretary to call home. I write the long list of things that have taken place so that she can properly interpret them to his mom. I thought this was it. I thought I had him. That's always my last alternative in cases like this. I feel like I have to give the kid the benefit of the doubt in changing his own behavior before I rat on him. But I was running out of options.

So at lunch today the secretary comes in to tell me about the conversation. And basically the mom says she knows, he's always been this way, but she doesn't know what to do about it. Excuse me?? That's not at all what I wanted to hear. Thankfully my principal was in the lounge when the secretary was telling me about this so she asked me to send him to her. Truthfully, there are few kids that are afraid of our principal so I know this won't work. But still.... What the hell is wrong with his parents? If my parents would have gotten a phone call home about that same issue, my ass would have been red by the next morning. And then she probably would have grounded me and then taken me into the classroom early the next morning (by the ear) and made me apologize to the teacher. I don't understand.....

So everyday, I have to take a deep breath, allow myself not to be overrun by this child, and deal with him like a professional. And from now on, I've decided I'm just going to kick him out when he disrupts. I'm going to start making his life really unbearable until he realizes that he is not allowed to act the way he does in my classroom. He may be able to do it at home, but he ain't doin it at school. That's it. Done. No more.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My "Come To Jesus" moment

Wow.... I just had the most enlightening conversation with my roommate. I'm still reading the earlier mentioned book, Eat, Pray, Love and Oprah (yes, Oprah) had the author on again. The audience's experiences with the book were great and my roommate and I started discussing our views on religion. And what she had to say was fantastic.

Believing in God doesn't necessarily mean believing in Jesus Christ or whatever other religious diety there is out there. Believing in God means that I believe in something past humankind. Believing in God isn't necessarily believing in a person or animal or something that I can put a face on. It's believing that there is something out there that is larger than me that knows what is best for me. For my sake, don't call it God, call it "the universe." And religion can sometimes get in the way of my relationship with that "universe." Religion, in my opinion, is just a neat little package where God is the gift. I say, skip the wrapping paper and bows and just get to God...the universe.

So in this sense I've discovered tonight that, yes.... I do believe in God. I believe that there is a higher being out there that I sometimes find myself having conversations with. I believe that this God sends people into my life to save me when I can't save myself. I believe that God sends me signs so that I can learn lessons about myself. I believe that there are enlightening or spiritual experiences that have happened in my life that didn't have to center around being in church or the Bible. I believe that this life has to be about more than just work and play.

I can't tell you how much better this makes me feel about my beliefs. It all made so much sense to me tonight. I finally feel like I have a solid viewpoint about what God is. I'm interested now in where this new spiritual realization will take me in my life.