Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When I Was Down I Was Kicked

From a very young age, it was apparent that I was not a girly girl. I am simply not blessed with the graceful gene. I was always the most awkward in my ballet classes and when I took part in cotillion ballroom classes, I am pretty sure my partners had to withstand the agony of patent leather Mary Jane's crushing their toes.

My lack of fine motor skills have always been a constant source of entertainment. My friends always laughed at my clumsiness, even counting the amount of times I tripped over a flat sidewalk while walking.

Flash forward to present day and not much has changed. I am still extremely clumsy, crashing into things, falling, dropping things, tripping, slipping in the shower etc. To this day, I have been unable to keep my body devoid of at least one bruise or scratch. The only injury I have managed to avoid is one that was inflicted by another person.

That was until I became a teacher.

I have always refrained from discussing work on my blog. It's not that I don't have plenty to say, and a plethora of stories to share, however, I feel that it is unprofessional to do so. However, today I am breaking my silence.

Disciplining students is always a challenging task, one wants to be tough but fair, kind but strong and I've found that doing so in my current environment is a near impossible task. You see, at my school, we are not allowed to enact the normal methods of discipline. We aren't allowed to "deal" with unruly students by the conventional methods (detention, sending them to the principal's office, throwing them out of class etc) We are, instead, supposed to reason with the student, talk softly to them and ask them why they are behaving the way they are. I am not saying that opening the lines of communication is a bad thing. I actually think it can be an effective method, however in some cases it's simply not enough.

At my school, we have a stamp system. At the end of each lesson, we present the students with stamps that they have earned for a job well done. I have started not taking the blanket approach to this ("Everyone gets three stamps!") but instead allotting stamps to students in a merit based fashion. If they pay attention and are well behaved they get the highest amount possible, if they talk or are disruptive or uncooperative they receive less than their peers. I feel like this approach is fair and serves as an incentive for the students to try harder next time.

Today in my first class, I had a student (who will be referred to as Student X)who was sullen, uncooperative and unresponsive. I tried to coax Student X into participating and when that didn't work, informed Student X that this behavior would result in a loss of stamps to which the student simply glared at me. "Ok,"I thought,Student X doesn't care so neither do I.

When it came time to distribute stamps, I went around telling the students what they had earned, and only gave one stamp to Student X, thinking that this was actually quite generous. When I next looked at Student X, I noticed that they were crying. I decided to approach the student to let them know why I had decided this and that it wasn't personal, just reflective of this one classes performance.

Student X began to shout at me in a very hostile manner, to which I responded in a calm, soothing voice. Student X then began to kick me several times. I buffered the kicks, held on to X's leg so they they couldn't kick me again and kept trying to explain. Student X didn't like this. X responded by jumping up and shoving the desk which knocked me over. I got up, shaken and a bit frightened yet trying to retain my composure. Student X then picked up the desk and threw it at me, while screaming hysterically. The class looked on horrified. Student X picked up their pencil case and began hurling the contents at me, including the pencil case itself. At one point, the student grabbed my wrist and twisted it.

It was at this point, that I decided the safest and most logical thing to do would be to walk away. To explain the situation to the classroom teacher in the hopes that it could be smoothed over. I did my best to keep my cool but walked out feeling a combination of fear, anger, frustration and shock.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident. That a student has never attacked me or behaved violently before. But that would be a lie. I also wish that I could say I felt like I had support from my employers in this situation, that the students would be properly reprimanded and that I felt like it would never happen again but that also wouldn't be true.

The only take away I am getting from this is an additional set of bruises from a source they've never come from before.

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