Sunday, May 01, 2011

Auspicious start to Term Two.

Quite weird returning to school on Wednesday after a longer break than usual. Nonetheless, four on. That is, a full day of teaching awaited me. No biggie. This is my teaching lot on Mondays and Wednesdays; for the entire year. The timetable has remained unchanged for me for three years. I'm used to the pace.

However, I was feeling the pain on Wednesday. Dragging my feet. Should have been energetic, instead I was enervated, for a variety of reasons. But as teachers know, we can't let our moods affect us. Take that mood into the classroom and you can guarantee a lesson of kids acting out.

Had year 12s last period. Last term, I'd planned that this lesson would be low impact, on me anyway. The students had a task to complete during class. That was it.

As I approached the classroom the students milled around the door, enjoying the warmth of the autumn sunshine. I could feel it on my back as I approached. Bit of a breeze too. Pity we all had to go into the classroom.

"Hi, Miss, how was your holiday?"
"Too short! You?"
"Yeah, good." The usual post holiday banter. I was amongst them now, smiling, feeling not too bad.

In front of me was Rodney. He's a big fellow; stocky and about six four. He's one of the brightest students in my class, but I'm hard pressed to get his best work out of him. Something in him renders him reluctant to give too much. His year 11 teacher admitted to seriously loathing this kid. He's sarcastic; too ready with the smart-arsed remarks. Kids aren't born like this, and at the end of last term, I felt I was beginning to get around his self-defeating behaviour. As if.

"Marked our SACs yet?" Rodney asked. All our year 12 SACs are cross-marked. We do first and second round marking, and third marking should it be necessary if the first two rounds throw up discrepant marks. I learned this during the years I marked exams for VCAA. As it happened, all the teachers had completed the first round marking. Of course, it being our first day back, we hadn't had a chance to do the second round. I started to explain this to the assembled students. We still weren't in the door. But before I could get it out Rodney let me have it.
"What's wrong with you?" he barked. "You've had three fuckin' weeks!"

This prompted an explosive verbal reaction from me, not to mention a near coronary, by the feel of my heart banging in my chest. Yeah, I shouldn't have sworn. Teachers should be above this, and generally I am. My arm was thrust out, indicating the direction he should go to get out of my sight. He spluttered something but retreated. At that stage I became conscious of the silence in the yard. About forty kids had witnessed a woman of a certain age going off.

After that I could barely function, despite the support of the students who felt that he had it coming. For me, it was my loss of control that was so shattering, as was the flagrant disrespect of a senior student who also should have known better. Within about ten minutes, Rodney had apprised another student, via text message, that he'd phoned his mother, who'd phoned the principal. Naturally, he had played down his own part in the drama. Apparently he'd asked an innocent question at which I'd abused him and unfairly banished him from the class.

So there I was, at 3.15, seeing the principal. Fortunately, he understood.

In conclusion, what? So glad my own kids have pursued careers other than teaching? Teaching can really suck? Is it worth it? Why am I still dwelling on it even after the principal told me not to lose sleep over it? Back for more of the same tomorrow? And why have I spent six hours this weekend marking?


Geoff said...

I eagerly read your blog whenever you post a new entry.

I am currently a secondary teacher in training at 30 years of age. Your blog is both entertaining, but also seriously daunting and makes me worry that maybe I've made the wrong decision!

Please keep writing. It's a fantastic read.


Fraudster said...

Hi Geoff
Thanks for your comment. Always pleased to have an appreciative reader.

Re your career choice: if you've got the personality for it, it's a great job. I'm sort of sick of working so hard though, but this is the lot of the English teacher. We have to do the marking. No way out.

I'll just quote a comment I made to another reader in an earlier blog, in case you haven't seen it.
I wrote: The compensation for the English teacher is that English is the BEST subject, where anything the students want to discuss is relevant. I also get to indulge my passion for reading, and stand-up comedy with a captive audience. I find the classroom highly entertaining most of the time - apart from some stuff I've written about, but even that is interesting.

So don't give up on the teaching. It's the closest thing I can think of to being a parent, and being a parent is the best thing I've ever done in my life. Honestly.

Cheers and thanks for reading.