Monday, February 24, 2014

Tales of a Substitute Teacher: THE F BOMB

A glimpse at the books in the classroom leads me to believe that clearly these kids do not care who is The Boss.
Today was a day of firsts: the first time I subbed at Forest Glen Middle School in Coral Springs,the first time that I was sent to a class without a roster or some semblance of school procedures, and my first time subbing social studies in middle school. More monumental than any of these firsts, however, was having a student basically tell me to "F off" and then tears that ensued. Mine not hers.

It happened ten minutes into class. I asked her, for the 4th time, to please stop talking, when she responded with something like, "Why are you f-in on my case?" and then again with something like "What is your f-in problem?" As I was trying to get the attention of the teacher next door, the curser walked out of class. I made an attempt to prevent her exit, but there was no stopping her. After she left, is when I cried.

How I wish I could just suck it up, but that has never been my M.O. I get upset and probably take it too personally.  I did not want to show my sensitive side or worse -- emotional weakness -- in front of the students, but the tears came, my throat tightened. I was unprepared for the interaction and it really shook me up. I wasn't bawling, but I was noticeably upset. Some of the students seemed genuinely sympathetic.

After some pacing and deep breaths, I calmed down and called an administrator. I told her what happened. She began, "I don't know what sort of behavior management you are using..." The thing is, besides calling security to the room, there are few tactics that work in a class full of children who don't want to learn or listen.

One of my twitter pen pals Joe Iacovino suggests this as a possible response: "How eloquent and witty. So tell me, did you come up with that all by yourself?" I like Joe's suggestion and am open to any others. If you are a sub and you are reading this blog, how do you deal with a room of full-blown non-listeners and outright rude students?
Boy with Plan: Daniel expects to go to Dillard High School for the Performing Arts next year.
As far as substitute teaching goes, this was overall a pretty dismal gig (and I have a high tolerance for dismal). But the day was not without bright spots.I enjoyed some positive interaction (though challenging for sure) during 1st and 3rd period and I also loved hearing Daniel, a 5th period student, play the violin. While the incessant chattering, paper throwing, and arm wrestling kept this 5 minute concert from reaching pure nirvana, it was awfully splendid considering.


Nancy said...

My heart goes out to you. I've been brought to tears as a sub of a KINDERGARTEN class. I can't even imagine middle school.

Clearly, I am not qualified to offer classroom management advice, but I do know that you are awesome. The students love you. (I've seen the love notes!) The beauty of being a sub is, you never have to go back. ;) Better days are ahead. <3

Unknown said...

To be honest I likely wouldn't be that flippant. However, I would still be direct. Something more constructive might be, "What makes you feel like I am picking on you. " When she voices her complaint a good reply may be, "I didn't realize I came across like that. I will be more mindful of that." If she needs to be reminded again after that then I could say, "Hmmm, I am having some trouble here. What can I do to get you guys (motioning to her group) more interested in the lesson?" The idea being to try and directly involve them. Not perfect ideas but better than my impatient comment.

Unknown said...

^Joe Iacovino

The Smiths said...

Ok. Guess what? When a kid feels it's ok to use the F word in class- let alone to an adult authority figure, some tough love is in order. One time to ask nicely- a second time not so nicely- and by the third, it's a "Look, you can zip it here or in detention after school." That is, Jane, if said Principal can be bothered with punishments for interrupting others' learning. My child would wish for detention if I caught wind they used that language and attitude in class.