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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Three Days In!

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Three Days In!

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So I have successfully survived three days as an English teacher in an alternative school for boys with emotional and behavioral disabilities. And I plan on going back tomorrow too. ;)

In all seriousness, I think my first week has gone really well. There have been some low points ... but there will be. Teaching--and especially teaching high-risk kids and students with special needs--tends to be romanticized in pop culture, but the reality is that real kids, teachers, and classrooms aren't Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers. These boys are in this school for a reason; they face multiple challenges, the least of which are sometimes the diagnoses listed on their Individualized Education Plans.

This week, I have been focusing heavily on building rapport. I think it's working. One of my students told Bobby, "Yo Mr. Rob, your wife is cool as shit!" That's high praise! I've been told by another that he has my back if anyone messes with me, and another told me today, "Ms. W-T, I like your attitude!"

Success in this classroom is very different than what I called success with my honors students while student teaching. With the honors kids, success was one of those classes where everything was clicking and the students were really engaged and taking their thinking to the next level. Success in this classroom is keeping some of the guys in my room and awake long enough to get their classwork finished.

But then there are moments of surprising triumph. I have a student, J, for two mods each day. I've enjoyed having him in class because he's willing to participate and engage with what we're doing, even if I know he'd rather be somewhere else. I took in my stuffed soccer ball to use for some of our activities, and he juggles it constantly during class. Today, he came in, did his classwork, and left to go down to the weight room. Later, though, the academic coordinator told me that, prior to my class, he'd met with J because he'd just found out that J had passed the federally mandated HSA test for English. He wanted J to know that he no longer needed my class and could switch to another class if he preferred. But, no, he said he wanted to stay with me.

I'm still boggling over that. That's high praise indeed!

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • real kids, teachers, and classrooms aren't Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers

    My favorite in that genre is "Stand and Deliver." Wishing you all the best of luck. If anyone can make a success of it, you can. You are a world-class negotiator, have enthusiasm for your subject matter and you have Bobby.
    • I've not yet seen Stand and Deliver--I'll have to check it out, even if the noble!teacher subgenre does slightly irritate me (because it makes it look like if you walk into a room with passion and caring, it will make all of the students turn out okay. So then people wonder why so many don't--because it's so much more complicated than that! Clearly it must be that the teacher is lazy and/or incompetent! Sorry ... rant out. ;)

      Bobby has already told me that if he hears "staff assistance in the English room" over the walkie-talkie, he's dropping everything and running!
  • Not surprised you're pooped! It sounds exhausting!

    But Yay! It seems like you enjoy what you're doing and that it works. I'm so happy there are people like you, and wish there were more!
    • Believe it or not, this school is less exhausting than the school where I student taught and had mostly honors students! Right now, I have zero students in my class. I know two are here, but my assistant is out trying to track them down. And we have much more support and planning time here.

      But starting a new job after vacation + 4th of July ... *whew* Yeah, that explains it. :)
  • :D

    That's awesome!
  • Good for you! I think kids like this actually are desperate for someone to appreciate them for who they are.
    • I agree. Many of them have never been told that they're good at something. It also helps to actually like them, warts and all, which I do. I had a student at my internship school that every other teacher loathed. I liked him (recognizing that his behavior came from his home life and, I strongly suspect, undiagnosed Asperger's), and at the end of the school year, he told my mentor that I had been his favorite English teacher. And he did really well in my class. I think it does make a huge difference, if a student feels welcome and appreciated in a class.
      • It's true that being liked by someone is pretty powerful. I wonder why so many people in the world think the answer is an authoritarian approach, forcing people to behave in a certain way through fear and intimidation. We don't seem to get still to this day a basic understanding that love and affection are more powerful and lasting incentives for behavior.
  • Marvellous!
    Hopefully, the positive feedback will be enough to tide you over the inevitable low points. Keep it up!
    • I think I have the advantage of not having excessive expectations. I'm going to try my hardest for each kid but really going to be thrilled with any difference I can make here. :)
  • I am so glad to hear that! :) Congratulations! :)
  • I'm still boggling over that. That's high praise indeed!

    That's wonderful!

    (Also, I got your card. beautiful; thank-you so much!)
  • WTG Dawn! Although it doesn't surprise me, it is always gratifying to have your students show you how much impact you can make. You're going to do great here. Just remember that students are "tricksy" and keep on your toes. You have to be more than one step ahead of them, no matter how much they may like you and your classes.

    Thanks for the lovely card - I really needed something cool and relaxing like that to look at this week.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • You're most welcome! :)

      These kids, especially, I expect to be tricksier than Bilbo with a magic ring! :)
  • One of the best feelings for teachers is when the kids say they love you. ;) YAY for you! I've always known ever since you beta-ed my fanfic that you'd be a fabulous teacher!

    • I'm going to try to live up to that hope. :) I think it helps that I honestly like teenagers--even those who make themselves really hard to like. (Especially those, even.)
  • I can imagine that can be very rewarding! It can't be easy to deal with those students, but reaching them is so imporrtant because you manage to help them to have control of their own lives. Congrats, dear!
    • So far, I'm trying to keep myself one step outside of my lessons. I don't want to take offense or dislike a kid who comes in and says, "I hate this class! This shit is boring!" (I told a student today that I could stand up and tap-dance for him, and he'd still find class boring. It's almost like a refrain for some of them.)
      • We don't have special classes here, I think, but no kid would ever dare to say a class is boring. Even if they thought so. Of course I studied in a private school, and it might be different in a public one.

        In my country, most people study in public schools, but around 20% of the workforce has studied in private schools.
  • Good for you! Congratulations! Now we can rant together about teacherly stuff! (and there's a lot to rant about that doesn't even begin to touch on the kids!)
    • Yes we can! :D Although a lot of the problems that plague teachers in our public school system aren't much of an issue here. (We, of course, have issues unimaginable in a public school.) I've found that the biggest frustrations are everything but the students!
  • That's wonderful! :D
  • Haha, those sound like awesome compliments to me! "Cool as shit" & staying in your class despite not needing to-- that's really awesome.

    Good luck, Ms. Dawn! ;)
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