Frustration Central. (I apologize for the poor formatting; wordpress is also frustration central today.))

12 03 2008

Today I became overwhelmingly frustrated with my students. Not with them, per se, but with their behavior. There’s a difference. We’re reading Act 2 of “Romeo & Juliet” and I’d split them up into groups. Because of several absences over the past week or so several kids lagged behind and had to play catch up, which, when dealing with Shakespeare, is never an easy task.

 

Thinking on my feet has always been what I do well, though when I have to do it every second of every minute of every seven hours a day five days a week it becomes absolutely draining. Realizing that I now (as in 8:50 in the morning) had a bunch of groups with varying levels of comprehension, completion, and cooperation (read: behavior) issues, I became flustered and snapped. I snapped on the outside and snapped on the inside. It wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t proud. In fact, I couldn’t tell, in the thick of it, what I was mad about: my students’ behavior or my inability to plan for the unknown (which, as a teacher, is basically what we have to do all. the. damn. time.)

 

 After that first class, I stormed out of school. I walked with so much force I was afraid I’d trample holes in the tiled sidewalks. How could I have been so stupid not to take into account the absences? How could I not have predicted that surely I would have students who needed to catch up? What was I thinking placing them back in their groups and what the hell was I doing in a classroom anyway? Wouldn’t it be lovely to stay behind a computer all day and not have to talk to anyone because then I wouldn’t be screwing up anyone’s lives as I led them through literature from the Renaissance. 

“Get a grip.” I said that to one of my kids who was fighting with another student over who got to answer a question on a worksheet, and I said it to myself. “Just get a grip.”  Except, when I said it to myself, I didn’t answer with “What’s ‘grip’?” like my student did. 

 

I’d left school to walk. Just walk and get the energy out of my system, the energy I felt coursing through my veins all the way down to my fingernails and threatening to scratch anyone who stood too close. I walked stomped to the padaria where I plopped my school books down on the table and forgot my portuguese long enough so that the woman who asked what I wanted to order looked away nervously as if she wasn’t supposed to be standing there in front of me taking my order. Why was I so furious? Why was I so troubled? 

 

Later I would write to Dennis in an e-mail that maybe I shouldn’t be a teacher anymore. I wrote it in a moment of weakness, in a moment of self-pity, knowing that he wouldn’t respond to it and that my cries for attention and empathy would go unheeded for at least a full business day. It was like a hiccup of negativity. And then I  got down to work. 

  I have to tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life to get something done. I had a mission, and my mission was: don’t ever do that shit again. Don’t freak out anymore, don’t freak out anymore, and don’t freak out anymore. And P.S: don’t freak out anymore.  And here’s how I accomplished my mission: I made worksheets and study guides and response questions for each of the scenes in Act 3 of Romeo & Juliet. I created packets for each of my students and settled the due dates for each upcoming scene in the play. I put all these due dates online and printed off the copies of each packet. I stapled the packets. And then I did the same thing for Act 4 and the same thing for Act 5. It was as if I’d sinned terribly this morning and spent the afternoon paying penance until blood spilled forth from my fingers onto the keyboard, and in the end I had earned God’s forgiveness. Except it wasn’t God I was worried about. It was my students.   At the end of the day I showed them what I’d done for them. Maybe I sensed them grow calm knowing there were guidelines and clear expectations. Maybe I sensed them take the thing I was giving them, a simple packet of questions, and breathe a sigh of relief. For once I didn’t hear the panic or anxiety in their voices that usually signals I’m going to have a headache on my hands because they don’t know what to do or expect. Maybe I heard all that from them. Then again, maybe it was just me.    I guess in situations like these we have two choices: resort to the easier “woe is me” attitude, or do something about it. I allowed myself a meaningless “woe is me” e-mail moment and then knew I needed to do something about it. We’ll see if it pays off; we’ll see if the work I put into this packet will actually help my students. The packet is a strategy and god knows there’s any number of strategies to help kids learn.  For the moment, though, I’ve quieted the thugs that hang out in the back of my mind who seek to beat me in an arm-wrestle of sorts. A mind-wrestle, if you will. I think as long as they’re quiet I can do my job, and even sometimes do it really well. Tomorrow’s a new day and I’ll give it another go. I think that’s my lesson today.


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6 responses

12 03 2008
luana spider

Ms.C,
I think everybody has bad days; if it helps my day today was also terribly horrible, nothing good happened, no one listened, I was sad, mad and furious all at the same time.
And please!!!!!!! Don’t quit being a teacher, I know that 7th graders can be very, very loud but some people are just like that, but there are also quiet and good students and students that like you very much and are really sad that you´re leaving. So no matter how loud we are, you continue being a great teacher. And it is our fault because we are loud, disruptive and disrespectful and some people just need to learn it is not how it works. So I really think your great and you would be wrong if you think you did anything. I think you are absolutely right about giving us this packet and I really hope some people actually understand they need to change their behavior in class.

12 03 2008
gina coggio

Oh, Miss Spider–I’m sorry to hear you had a rough day, but I think you’re right that we all have bad days. And it was just one bad day, so don’t worry, I won’t stop being a teacher just because of that; no one is at fault for today. Mixed energies produce an unstable day, right? Kind of like chemistry. (I don’t know, it SOUNDS like chemistry to me. You’re the science girl.)

One thing you said, “there are also quiet and good students”…ALL of you are good students. You are all unique and that’s what makes our classes so dynamic. Loud at times, yes. But dynamic and interesting and FUNNY, too, and I’m so glad to work with you all. This post today was about me learning a lesson about how to take a deep breath, how not to get swamped with negativity, and how to turn something frustrating into something helpful.

Thanks for your words tonight. Might I also say your English is getting better and better. Check out the semi-colon! You rock!

12 03 2008
Tina (aka Mom)

Yes, Miss Spider, I, too, want to say thank you for those thoughtful words you wrote to your teacher, my daughter. I was a teacher for many years, and I know how much it means to get feedback like that from your students. I am sure you brightened Ms. C.’s feelings quite a bit, and I appreciate that very much.

12 03 2008
Susan

There is a bit of enlightenment when we stomp off from something so frustrating and then almost immediately we are renewed with what we need to do about what happened. Its good for the soul to get down right mad about some things so that we figure out what we need to do. I don’t know you personally but from reading here all the time I know you are an amazing teacher. Its your lifeblood. Glad the day got better!

13 03 2008
ginacoggio

Susan, thank you….
You’re right. When we reach our breaking point we have to do something about it to prevent it from happening again.

13 03 2008
freeandflawed

“Wouldn’t it be lovely to stay behind a computer all day…”

No, haha! I stay behind a computer all day for work and then when I’m home, I’m behind a computer. I shouldn’t complain because I love it, but I think all jobs have their ups and downs.

The advice given above is pretty much the same I could offer. I just hope that today is better. May you find strength, patience and happiness🙂

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