Redneck Review

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I Can Read the Writing on the Wall

Well, since you've all been good, I will tell you that story about "the
writing on the wall" that I promised a couple of days ago.

At one of my schools long ago, we had an LD teacher who was a
little different. LD stands for learning disability. These kids have
been tested and found to have a measurable problem in some area.
It might be reading, it might be math, it might be both. The point I
am making is that this is just a normal cross-section of kids who
have a learning problems. They are not troublemakers. They
exhibit the same kinds of behaviors you would get from other
middle school kids who are not in that class.

Let's rename this teacher "Donna." She didn't quite fit in with the rest
of us, but we didn't really know why. She tried to make conversation
with us at lunch, and in the teachers' lounge, but we didn't know how
to respond to some of her comments. We did try to be nice.

One day Donna said, "I just don't know what to do. Every day after
the kids leave, I see that somebody has written "F*** me" on the
blackboard right behind my desk. I erase it, but the next day after
they leave, I see that it is there again."

Now how do you respond to something like this? We don't exactly
need to call in the CIA. You are an adult. These kids are 11-14
years old. How can they outsmart you every day for two weeks?
How can you not notice who goes behind you while you are sitting
at your desk? If you are out in the room helping another student,
how can you not know who is up and roaming around? Why do
students think they have the right to write on the board? Do they
do it because they think it's a joke, or because they hate your guts?

We all gave Donna our advice:

Don't leave the chalk on the chalk tray. Keep it in your desk.
Don't let anyone walk behind your desk.
Don't let anyone out of his seat without permission.
When you are in the hall between classes, make sure they all sit
down when they enter the room.

She must have solved the problem, because we quit hearing about
it. But then my two good friends and I would slap a hand to our
forehead when we did something really dumb, and exclaim,
"F*** me!" Donna didn't know. We weren't really making fun of
her. She just gave us a good saying to use.

So here's the point I'm trying to make: There comes a time when
you have to be able to read the writing on the wall. If you want
to be a middle school teacher, you have to be on your toes. You
have to want to join that circus. You must be willing to be the
clown and the lion tamer, to walk that high wire between "buddy"
and "prison guard." And if you slip, you must be willing to bounce
back up and learn from that mistake, and make adjustments. Not
all people are cut out for this job. If you can not control your little
corner of the Big Top, you can not contribute to the maximum
development of each little performer in the circus that is your
school. Kids this age are fighting for independence. It is a normal
phase of development that allows them to break away from
adult influence in order to become mature adults. They must be
guided in the right direction--not forced. If you can't develop a
comfortable, yet respectful, learning environment for them, you
should try a high school position, or maybe another line of work.

Donna should have read the writing on the wall.


  • At 11:46 PM, Blogger Raehan said…

    Teaching at that level IS very hard work. What happened to Donna in the end?

  • At 1:02 AM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    When I left that school, "Donna" was still there. The kids just didn't seem to respect her. She was not as bad as some teachers I have worked with. She did make an effort to teach them. I think whoever wrote that on the board was doing it to get away with something--not out of animosity toward "Donna."

  • At 2:52 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Hi Hillbilly Mom,
    I was going to write a comment here, but I can't find any chalk. :-P

  • At 8:54 AM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    Ha! You crack me up, Bec.
    I DO keep my chalk in the desk, and my dry-erase markers, too. The worst my students do is write things like "Suzy was here" or "James rules" when I am doing hall duty between classes. Yeah, like I can't tell who did it!

  • At 3:04 PM, Blogger Bert Ford said…

    I do not envy the soldier/saint roll of the teacher. Especially when you hear what goes on in classes today.
    Reminds me of a time 30 or so years ago when I was at Sacred Heart. The nuns had hired a Guatamalan woman to attempt teaching 4th graders Spanish. The problem was that she spoke little English, and her last name was Gonzoles. Of course the class unanimously nick named her "Speedy". She didn't get the joke. I, and two of my friends began pretending to speak Spanish, while speaking gibberish, and loudly immitating Speedy Gonzoles (the cartoon character). We found this so amusing that no matter how the nuns tried to beat it out of us, we couldn't stop. It was like crack or something. I would go home bruised, but the next day we'd be back at it. Eventually, we began having impromptu strategy meetings to come up with new ways to bedevil this woman.
    She finally quit one day, in a loud fit of Spanish & what may have been broken English.
    To Mrs. Gonzoles, Sorry.
    Hope you found your niche.
    To the nuns, Yeah, I know I'm goin' to hell.

  • At 3:36 PM, Blogger Redneck Diva said…

    I did some substitute teaching a few years ago. I simply adored elementary (especially 3rd grade) and loved the high schoolers. But I would've rather taken a beating while being given a novocaine-less root canal then teach in the middle school/junior high. I just couldn't seem to get on their level as hard as I tried. It just wasn't where I was supposed to be.

    I wholly admire anyone who can teach that age group. One of my dearest friends in the world teaches middle school math and I think she is related to Ghandi somehow.

  • At 3:48 PM, Blogger Bert Ford said…

    Something Just came across my desk.
    I do a lot of work for some of the local school systems. The princple of a local school requested that I not indent any paragraphs to give their Handbook a more streamlined look. (No problem) Then, she came back wanting the outlines to be flush justified with only 1 tab. (Okay, confusing to read, but okay) Now, she has come back and requested that there be no paragraph breaks in the entire 28 pg. document, just one solid block 9 point text flush to both margins with no indication of paragraphs. I tried to explaint (politely)how this would make the book confusing and difficult to read. But, she insists that it's looking streamlined was very important and that people would be able to figure it out. (maybe so)

    This woman is so stupid, talking to her makes my brain hurt.

    I wonder what the response of the actual "teachers" will be when they get their new handbooks.

  • At 9:42 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    I used to prefer middle school, back when I taught science. What was I thinking? They absolutely suck the energy right out of you. I only have them a half-day now.

    Shame on you for getting your crack fix off of Speedy! Some of my students told me they went through 8 math teachers in one year. One of them swore, tossed the keys on the desk, and left. She didn't tell the principal or anybody. Another one, they locked in a storage cabinet. People, teachers EARN those 3 months off every summer!

    About the handbook...(!) Nobody will read it. Maybe she is trying to save paper. Maybe she is on crack.

  • At 1:38 AM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    I'm already scared and you guys aren't helping. My plan is to walk in and be hardcore strict for the first little while, then try to become more normal once they're aware of who's in control. But if I get locked in a filing cabinet, I will be blogging from Parchman.

  • At 1:48 AM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    That's a good plan. The advice around my red neck of the woods used to be "Don't smile until Christmas." It's a lot easier to loosen up than it is to get strict once they think you're a pushover. Always have some extra plan to keep them occupied if you finish a lesson early. Doesn't matter if it's a riddle, whatever. Have you seen those "Brain Quest" things in the Wal*mart toy section? It's a box of flip cards with questions on grammar, science, S.S.,
    math, etc. My kids like to try and answer those, or we make it a team thing. Of course, I have small classes.

  • At 8:53 AM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    That sounds good. I'll try to remember to look for those next time I go to WalMart. One of the things they emphasized during the class I just took was that you should never allow there to be a single moment when the kids aren't busy, so I've been collecting "time-sponge activities" as I come across them.

  • At 10:12 AM, Blogger Bert Ford said…

    Ooo! Ooo!
    I've got a great time killing game.
    It's called, "Who wants to get bludgeoned."
    It's played just the way it sounds.


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