On the Verge of Student Breakdown: Things Said to Me, on January 28th, 2011

The following quotes were said by a compilation of my unhappy students, either learning about their altered 3rd marking period class schedule, or generally just upset with being in my class.

“I don’t need your help”

“I don’t want to be in your seminar”

“I’m leaving this school”

“Your stamps are stupid”

“I’m just going to drop out”

“You’re annoying”

“I don’t like you”

“It’s all your fault” (That they were switching classes)

“Please tell me I’m not in your seminar”

“I’ll be happy next year when I never have to see your face again”

“You’re a stalker”

I know what you’re all thinking. What kind of horrible person is this teacher? How can so many students have such animosity toward a single human being? Is he really a stalker? These are the questions that I’ve pondered over the last week, and I’ve been searching deeply to find a theory that fits.

Today, a co-teacher and I were talking about this very topic, and she said to me, “Doesn’t that kind of treatment make you sad?”. I told her that it sort of does, but that I’m used to it by now. Last year, my entire class, who I spent hours making lessons and activities for, who I tirelessly worked for and attempted to push to be better students,  loved to whine at my every request. Many of them were tame, but as a whole, they would complain constantly. They would even boo me from time to time.

This year, I think that the animosity and negativity towards me is an even more complex mixture of a few unfortunate ingredients:

1) My incredible cheesiness in the classroom triggering a “too-cool” factor.

2) Hormonal adolescent girls who are still into the “I hate you” attitude toward any male in their lives. (Can’t you kids just grow up already?)

3) Some more clever students who general get enjoyment out of telling me how much they dislike me.

4) And most importantly, students with Major (with a capital M) social and emotional problems.

Throw these all together in the old public school pot and there you have it: a perfect storm of student push-back.

In general,  I think that major reason I’ve been receiving such anger and hostility from the same students whom I clearly care about, is that many of them are struggling mightily in all aspects of school.

The vast majority of the twenty-five or so students I see, need a great deal more support in their classes than they are receiving. In addition, whenever I see them, I expect them to work hard, be motivated, and follow the rules.

Due to the fact that so many of them are mainstreamed into 8th and 9th grade classes (learning with no additional support with the general education students and only one teacher), they are failing.

I see them for occasional push-in classes where I help the math or english teachers, and three times a week for my seminar class, but for the most part, they are on their own.

My expectations, mixed with the fact that they are mandated to be in my class (as opposed to other cooler sounding seminars like Debate, Drama, Forensics, or Robotics class) have seemingly pushed some of them over the edge to negative-whine-annoying town.

As of now, I want them to start fresh for the second half of the year. The end of the 2nd marking period had many of my 9th grade students in absolute disarray. With real social and emotional problems, as well as problems at home, dropping out and not being able to keep up have become frightening and legitimate concerns.

My goal is to make school more fun and engaging for them. One of the roots of their academic problems seem to stem from very low self-esteem and self-confidence. I can understand. They’ve experienced so much failure, and received so many failing grades that it has become a cycle of negative associations with school.

Hopefully in the coming weeks and months they can turn it around. Maybe I just need to show them more pictures of animals dressed in funny costumes. Hell, I’ll literally try anything at this point.

I still genuinely like what I do because I know how important it is for the students who struggle the most. And,  I do feel needed by them in some strange, weird way – even if it is shown through insults, complaints, and whines.

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