Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday thoughts


"Lacrymosa" was favorite tract. You can listen here. The music is so beautiful. It was a perfect prelude to being a math teacher yesterday.

Yesterday was one of those days that can season other not-so-good days with fortitude. It was one of those days that just makes you smile.

I knew it was going to be a math day. After arriving, I found out I would be leading Algebra I all day. And for two different teachers. I call these days my "multiple personality" days. Regular teachers have a ninety minute planning period every day incorporated into their schedules. Often, subs are asked to pick up another class during this planning period which is usually easy to do, and it helps move the day along. And besides, subs don't need a planning period.

Yesterday, I had all Algebra I students which are mainly ninth graders with a few repeaters. All but one class had a test scheduled, followed with an in-class assignment. One particular class right before noon was not a college-bound class. I've noticed that many of the kids in this technical tract have little desire to do anything, they are often contentious and will try the living daylights out of the teacher, and they will be the ones to disrupt class and get sent to the office.

I've found out how much I dislike having to send a student to the office. Unless the offense is particularly egregious, I want to try to handle it myself. Of course, this takes time away from the class and a particular keenness to handle often delicate situations. I don't think I have that particular keenness but know I need to develop it.

After the test was finished by the students and I was in the midst of giving the in-class assignment, a couple of boys had some sort of altercation that appeared to be escalating into a fight. One blurted out what the other had said to him to which he had taken offense. It was pretty crude but common language among adolescent boys. I did not want a fight, nor did I want to have to send these guys to the office. It would disrupt class and not do anything good for the two involved.

To get a better handle on the problem, I motioned to the offense-taker to go outside the door. He told me what the other had said and was pretty angry. You know, these kids take such offense so quickly at what seems to me to be such trivial things.

So, I told him that sometimes, even if we really dislike what someone else has said to us, we just have to ignore it. He continued to tell his story about other times someone has offended him like manner, being quite graphic with his language.

Right then, I really didn't care about the language; it wasn't cursing or vulgar; it was just crude and common. What I did care about was helping this kid try to be a young man. So many of these kids, for whatever reason, simply do not know how to be young men and ladies.

While this student was still in the hall with me, I called the other student out. He was so much smaller in statue than the offense-taker. And he seemed scared. I don't know if he was scared of the other student or of me or of the consequences that might follow if he had to make a trip to the office.

He told me his story which didn't really make much sense. It appeared that the whole incident had gone far and beyond what either wanted. After this student finished talking, the mama in me came out, and I told them both that sometimes when people say things to us that we don't like, we just have to ignore it. We have to pick our battles and decide the ones that are worth fighting. Was this battle over words one that was worth fighting?

I didn't wait for an answer. What I did do was tell them that I wanted them each to act like the young men they are and to apologize to the other, shake hands, and tell the other he accepts his apology. They both nodded in agreement. I thought the small guy was going to burst out in tears. But he didn't.

Then, rather than sending them right back into the roomful of eager eyes waiting to see what punishment was rendered, I sent one to the bathroom and told the other to wait outside the door until he came out, then for him to go. I figured they might need that amount of separation.

I came back into the room alone, got the class started on the assignment, and in just a minute, each of these young men, who had to behave (maybe per force by me) respectfully, followed. Class resumed without a word of the incident. Even both of these students ended up laughing and talking in a common group later.

After the dismissal bell rang and all the students left, the offense-taker was the last to leave. He told me that he had thought about the whole thing and that it really wasn't a battle to fight. He said he was going to try to be less reactive now.

He left with a smile and a resolute walk.

I smiled too. That made my day.

Old-fashioned respect and manners are still effective.


For all those who know my desire to teach in a certain unnamed classical Christian school, I have an interview next week for a humanities position, teaching history and literature in high school. I meet with several people and then teach one class on the Industrial Revolution.

If you are the praying sort, I would appreciate your prayers for my clarity of mind and presentation.

May the Lord be gracious.


DebD said...

What an encouraging story.

I will definitely pray for your job interview. Something must be in the air. I have a friend who goes for an interview on Tues for a job she has wanted for years.

Kathleen Hamilton said...

Janie, I think you are made for this teaching thing!

And I will pray for your position at the Christian school.

Carrie K. said...

What a great way to handle that conflict! And I will be praying for your interview, too.

Carol in Oregon said...


This is weird...are we twins? Libera is one of my favorite groups. I discovered them three Advent seasons ago. Last fall when I was in PA, I met my cousin's daughter for the first time. She was in a city wide audition choir. I asked to see her music and she was singing Gaudete. The same version as Libera!

Your story is excellent. I especially liked how you gave them some space before they came back into the classroom.

Oh, I'm praying - fervently - for this interview and job possibility.
I can't think of one thing to recommend for prep for the Industrial Revolution. Blast!

Dana said...

Wow! I am so impressed with the way you handled this tense situation. Sounds like you made an impression that will last.

Praying for your interview next week, I am sincerely

Dana in GA

Debbie French said...

Those boys were given a piece of God's grace by you being there for them. I will be praying for you to recieve the new teaching position. What a blessing you are for me. Next year I want to teach a literature class and US History to my 17yo and 15yo and others in our home school group. Please pray for me. I do not have a college education but I do have the love for reading and journaling I want to share this love with others.