There Will Be Rum

Today was a pisser.  No, really.

Yesterday, I received a new student.  Well, new to me.  He came from the class next door where for the first 10 days of school, he wreaked havoc, screaming “No!” at his teacher and often running out of the room and rampaging around campus.

It was decided by the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, that it was the combination of an inexperienced teacher and other strong personalities in the class that made it wise to move him to a new classroom.  When the AP told me about it the day before the move, she admitted to me that he’d run away from her office before she’d sent him home for the day.  I said that I didn’t know what I could for him do if administration clearly couldn’t control him either.

But Little Hellraiser E1’d in my room yesterday.  It wasn’t exactly smooth but it was tolerable.  Fast-forward to today.  He started out fine, adhering to our ‘First Things First’ tasks, completing his Morning Work and even reading for a few minutes.

But it was during my iii block about 15 minutes into the instructional day that he began to go downhill.  The schedule is so tight and I was trying to get the iii lesson done but I had to keep stopping to redirect my new friend.  I finally had him sit beside me while I finished the lesson.

Following iii, we began our Morning Meeting.  When he refused to join the rest of the class on the carpet, I chose to continue with what we were doing and put him on ‘Ignore’ as he roamed around the room.  That’s when the shit hit the fan.  As we continued to ignore him, he began to escalate his behavior, eventually scooting a 6′ tall rack of journals toward the center of the room and pushing it over onto the carpet, causing kids to scramble out of the way.

Before we could do anything else, he’d grabbed a chair, carried it toward a cluster of kids cowering by the wall, and proceeded to throw the chair at the kids.  (All of this I have on video on my phone.)  I pushed the call button and told them a student was throwing chairs while I had the kids line up at the door.  We then went out onto the sidewalk and waited for the BIC to come.

While we were outside the room, he absolutely trashed my classroom.  Mind you, he wasn’t screaming, he wasn’t angry, he was simply destroying everything in sight.  When the BIC arrived, he and the AP had the kid clean up his mess while I took the rest of the class to the playground.  The photos are from after it was ‘cleaned up’.

Little Hellraiser was apparently sent home for the rest of the day.  According to the Principal, whom I saw later, he won’t be back tomorrow, either.  I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t want him back in my room.  The truth is, he poses a danger to other students, both physically and academically.  I can’t do my job properly if I’m constantly worried he’s going to hurt someone.

And another fact:  I am a highly qualified professional educator.  I’m hell at teaching kids to read and to write and to perform first grade mathematical functions.  I am NOT a psychiatric nurse.  I am NOT a social worker.  I am NOT trained in dealing with mentally disturbed children.  And it’s not what I want to do with my life.  I can go through the union to refuse to have the kid in my class.  I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

wpid-20150902_165350-1.jpgThis is happening tonight.

I’m not Miss Beadle.

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Science Kid

I’ve written about several of my first graders in previous posts.  You’ve met Precious Precocious and Kid Danger.  Now allow me to introduce you to my friend, Science Kid.  He’s bright and very interested in science.  Earlier in the year we were discussing sequencing as an inquiry skill.  The illustration used in our science book was of the butterfly life cycle.  Science Kid pops out with, “That’s a chrysalis.”  Indeed.

Something else that you should know about Science Kid is that he has ADHD.  On the very first day of school, mom practically threw him in my door.  “He should be on meds and he isn’t today,” she informed me before fleeing the scene.  Nice!  And believe me, you can tell the difference between a day when he has his medication and a day when he doesn’t.

Still, I don’t like to have preconceived notions about kids.  I’d rather go along and see what happens.  And what I saw was a kid who, while constantly in motion, appeared to me to try hard to do the right thing, and who also was apparently listening even when it seemed that he was not.

It was interesting as our class moved throughout the school to lunch and Fine Arts classes.  I kept getting the same reaction.  “Oh!  You’ve got Science Kid.  Wow!”  But truthfully, he seemed okay to me.

I realize that I’m more patient that some.  While other teachers might be calling home every day, I get that he needs to move, and so as long as he’s paying attention, I’m alright with him digging through the supplies and fidgeting with the edge of the carpet.

On the other hand, I’m not patient with oppositional/defiant behavior.  Suddenly, this is what we seem to be getting.  And again, I get that there are certain traits I can expect from ADHD, difficulty with transitions for example.  Today, he absolutely refused to stop working on an ancillary project that he can finish tomorrow.  When I insisted that he stop and leave it for another time, he set about trying to break a pen from the supply basket.  That’s not okay with me.  My patience is beginning to wear thin.

I try to temper my response to his behavior with the understanding that as unpleasant as he can sometimes be on the outside, it’s probably much worse on the inside to be Science Kid.

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So I’ve Noticed

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Kids are all different.  Some are sweet, some are smart, some are cute, some are adventurous.

I’m a fan of curious kids, those who genuinely want to know more.  About everything.  Often they are not the most well-behaved.  But that’s okay.

I’ve had kids who were too good for their own good.  Do you know the ones I mean?  I’ve found myself silently urging them to bust out and do something outrageous, just for kicks. It’s alright.  The world doesn’t end if you get into a little trouble now and then.

Then there are the un-lovely kids.  The ones who fight you every step of the way.  The ones who seem to believe their mission in life to to make your life miserable.  The ones you really don’t like, and you count the days until they’re someone else’s problem.

And they are the ones who need the most love.

There’s always a reason for the way they are.  I want to be the kind of teacher who keeps that in mind.  I don’t always succeed.  But hopefully, I win more than I lose.  It’s good to know that every day is a brand new chance.

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Batting A Thousand

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Teaching, in my opinion, is more art than science. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously you have to know your content and be skilled in best practices.

But you also have to have game. You have to have almost a sixth sense, reading body language, understanding your kids’ currency.

Engineering a unique classroom culture is vital to team building, and to effective classroom management. To that end, there are quite a few traditions I’ve built into my bag of tricks. 

Friday always brings highly anticipated festivities. One of them is the celebration of the Table Points winners. The seating arrangement for my firsties is two eight-top tables and one row of six. Each table has a name that they chose. All week, tables compete for points by exhibiting good choices, being ready, treating each other kindly, etc. The table with the most points by a certain time on Friday wins. Rather than giving a treat or prize, I like to have a special activity which only that table gets to do.

Today, the Ariel table (aka Isolation Row) came out on top. For their reward, they did a little Halloween art project. It was a simple cut and paste bat, but you would have thought they won the lottery.

It’s good to hang out with little dudes. They remind you that often, less is more.