Who can you talk to?

Yesterday I was feeling a little discouraged. I'd had a few seventh graders come into my room after school to chat, two of whom I'd had last year, and a friend of theirs.

Not totally sure how they got on this subject, but they decided to spend a while telling me about how much THEY like me, despite the fact that everyone ELSE didn't. They listed off a handful of kids who apparently think I'm super mean.

Of the kids they listed, I know for a fact that three of the five do like me, or at least do most of the time (and I'm fairly sure the other two do, though one is currently thoroughly annoyed with me because I won't let her feel up her boyfriend in the hallway - dude, I AM super mean), but it's still sort of a downer to be told otherwise. Plus I'd had a run in earlier with a kid over her attitude, and one of my favorites (Motormouth) just in class. He was the whiniest I've ever seen him. So I was a little blah.

Today I got two new students. One seems very nice, though she cried a lot (moved over a thousand miles, first move ever, happened because stepdad got fired, just generally freaked out), but the other....may be more challenging. I'm pretty sure he and I will be able to get along eventually, but I think we're going to have some conversations in the meantime.

We had five conversations just today - one at lunch and then four during class. He was not as amenable to redirection as one would hope on his first damn day (really? You're going to just put your head down on your desk during my class? While I'm standing right next to you? Really?) though he did seem to sort of reach out at one point.

I was having conversation #4 with him, about how it's really not okay to just tell the whole class how boring writing is. To which he replied that that's just how he is, he says everything's boring, even football. My (possibly charitable) interpretation is that means that he says even really fun stuff is boring so I shouldn't take it personally that writing is boring because he didn't intend to be rude.

After class, he was ambling down the hall. I glanced that direction and saw a large group of boys. Soon as I saw them, I knew. A fight was brewing. You know how you can just tell, from the way some are leaning in, some are inching back, the set of their shoulders, the tilt of their head?

So I yelled for the other kid involved to come talk to me. I know him, but not well - I worked with him after school a couple of times two years ago, and I've seen him play sports (he's a hell of a running back), but I've never had him in class.

RB came over, looking back the whole way, and I asked what was up. He said that my new boy, the Antagonizer, was claiming that he'd made RB cry in a football game the week before.

I pointed out (a) no one knows this kid or gives a crap what he says, (b) RB is pretty damn popular and the school's star athlete, so what are the odds anyone will listen to this jerk, and (c) RB is having a really good year so far and shouldn't mess it up over some punk.

I asked him if the Antagonizer was worth getting suspended over.

No, he wasn't.

Okay, good. So who was RB going to talk to if this kid upset him? Who could he go to so that he can get through this without getting in trouble?

He shrugged. Didn't know.

"Well, who do you trust? What teacher or administrator do you know well enough to talk to?"

"You, Ms. Teachin'."

Oh. Okay. "Then you come talk to me. Whatever the issue with this kid, you come talk to me instead of getting into it with him. Will you do that?"

He nodded, and I wrote him a pass to class. I'm not sure he'll do it every time, but I think he'll try.

They must not ALL think I'm super mean.

(Photo credit to vagawi)


MaryHelen said...

Bravo! My oldest son is in high school and I appreciate it when a teacher takes the time to invest in him. I don't know if there is a teacher that he would really trust to talk to. It's a rare quality! Thanks for your post.

teachin' said...

Hi MaryHelen - thanks for your comment! I think those connections are really important. I just wish I made them with more students!

"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
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