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Posts Tagged ‘problem kid’

For the last few weeks, nearly every time I walk into my Tree House classroom, I want to maim and mangle the little monsters I teach.  Sometimes I worry that it’s my lack of technique and proper strategy, but I usually comfort myself with the fact that most teachers who have a class in this curriculum hate their children as much as I do.

The true problem is that I like the kids individually and even mostly as a class (save Ian Wang, that wicked little blight on humanity and Jay the budding sociopath or politician).  It’s only when they have to be dealt with as a mass of children that the slow boiling rage starts to simmer and I use the teacher’s-desk-and-chair-as-cage on kid after kid in close succession.

Yesterday was terrible with this class and after I wiped the board clean of points and sent them home with no stamps, I went to my desk out in the main office space and put my head down to curse slowly and methodically and more creatively than is my wont.  Today, I sat them down and made them write two lessons’ worth of worksheets, and the situation was a little better.  The best thing was that Ian Wang was a little cowed by being sent to the first grade classroom yesterday and thoroughly and sickeningly-sweetly tongue-lashed by my supervisor.  What made me feel bad about myself, though, was that when he came back and apologized at break time, I could only see his sullenness and think “I want you broken, kid, not falsely contrite and seething.”

Teaching is not for everyone.

Or teaching certain levels is not for everyone, because my favorite class that used to be on Tuesday is now on Friday, and today was a wonderful end-of-level games day.  I made a crossword puzzle and photocopied the word search in the teacher’s guide, and also thought up a decent hitting-the-whiteboard game which upper elementary and lower junior high kids still enjoyed.  Surprisingly, the puzzles were the real hit, and there was utter silence for minutes on end as they deciphered the bastardized IPA that they’re taught here and found the resulting spelling words.  I had some nice conversation with my Chinese teacher as we shared standardized testing experiences, and enjoyed watching my students puzzle out the crossword clues.  At one point, though it was unrelated to the work, I had to explain to Ernie that bullshit was in fact a bad word, and he should say BS or crap.

When four kids had finished (and greedily claimed their prizes of a single Werther’s), I needed to occupy them and so told Brian Chen that if he was so set on speaking Chinese in class, he could write it on the board for my benefit.  Unfortunately, I could only think of the lines I had just made him write to claim his prize (“I will speak English in English class”), and I already know how to say it.  Overall, we had some fun writing various sentences in various languages on the board, although I had to police a little when it came to Sam, the oldest kid in class.

It was a really nice end to the week, and was only improved by home calls to my junior high class and cartwheels with a few Tuesday students.  I’m looking forward to the weekend, but without any sense of oppression from the week behind, and it’s a really great feeling.

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Last evening’s class was adorable. One kid I’ve fretted over since I started with his class in level one was remarkably responsive and so outgoing that I almost couldn’t believe it. He came right up to me during a patterns practice exercise, and even though he didn’t have the pattern down, I was able to practice with him one-on-one.

Even though there are 20 kids in this class, it’s starting to develop a real comfortable atmosphere. It’s a joined class of about eight originals, nine or ten kids from my old Kids Club class, and a few new ones. It took a while for them to get to know each other, but it’s coalescing and I have high hopes for this class. They really enjoy the singing and I actually find myself having fun playing it up with the dance moves.

One of the new kids is also the oldest one in the class, and he has the most confidence and spunk of all the students. The grammar point of the lesson was the object pronouns it and them, building from him and her in the previous class. To introduce it, I asked them if cookies was a boy or girl, and this kid answered “bogirl.” He’s a character.

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This week started poorly and has not been improved by the ever-warming weather.  Today continued the pattern: I was tired in Chinese class, one of my kindergarteners came back from a mini-holiday only to be sulky and uncooperative, the very thought of  my evening classes filled me with a mild but insidious frustration, and budget calculations show that I’m not going to have any fun until at least September (and only if I’m lucky and get a lot of hours).

Even though I wasn’t looking forward to teaching, I knew I could count on the early class today to pick me up–and was then sorely disappointed by apathetic, mostly out-for-summer 6th graders.  Not only that, the problem kid in this class, who is usually not too big a concern, actually caused some big distractions today.  I got back at him by withholding bathroom privileges for 10 or 15 minutes which felt far better than it should have.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m in such a mood lately, and I’ve boiled it down to job satisfaction: I don’t have much.  I see kids 50% of the time they come to class (the Chinese teachers see them every time) so there is a lack of consistency.  The school policy of 100% English is an impossibility that serves to create a gap between me and the kids that only the Chinese teacher can bridge.  In addition to the gap, there’s the added frustration of resolving questions and managing homework and classroom activities in limited language that the majority of the class can fully comprehend.

And to top it all off, I have discovered I can’t stand teens and pre-teens, who make up about half of my classes.  I believe I said earlier that I like mid- to higher elementary school students best, but I was wrong.  It’s lower elementary I like because they still have enthusiasm.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I couldn’t stay angry and frustrated because my junior high class actually cheered me up.  They were mildly responsive, and then my CT (Chinese teacher/co-teacher) suggested and implemented a seat change so we sat in a rectangle rather like a small college class.  She also brought out her stash of fake money so we could start a system like I had in high school Spanish: responses get money, students hold the money to buy test points or candy and class parties.  I have been wanting to do this for a while, but I haven’t had the money to buy… money, so I was glad when the CT brought up classroom ideas and volunteered her money for my idea.  I only wish she had brought it up before class, instead of just before break.  I won’t argue the results, though!  I’d be hard-pressed to say the class was on fire after break, but they were more involved due to proximity, and the CT sat in the desk-square and we had a real co-teaching relationship going on.

Another good thing: I know with certainty that I may be a good explainer, and even a decent teacher, but I am not and should never (again) be a foreign language teacher.  And it’s always nice to check something off the possibility list and narrow options down.

So now I’m happier.  Rebecca, this is how I do it: be angry and huffy in my head until something good happens.  When the good happens, let it outweigh the bad.

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I love Tuesdays.

I used to despair over my earlier Tuesday class (earlier generally means both younger and earlier in the day, although my Tuesday classes are about the same grade level for the most part), but then I got a new student who brings up everyone around her and the serious ADD kid is coming under control.  I started playing more active games in that class to get some energy out, and it’s especially appropriate because we’re learning about outdoor activities (snorkeling, surfing, playing hockey, ice skating… parascending?!) and it’s fun to act them out as they learn.

The later class I’ve liked from the start, or at least from the day they were Team Superman and Team Joker.  They are full of energy in the best possible way, and seem to have decent English.  My co-teacher in this class rules with an iron fist, so I always grade well-spaced and tidily written homework (for the most part), although when she subbed in for the earlier class’s CT, I was not as impressed with her work.  I think she does better with the higher levels… or she was having a bit of the same shock I had with my early class!  To be fair, they did abysmally on an assessment (vocab is their strong suit, verb conjugation is not).

One of my favorite kids in the later class is named Ernie, and he’s the one who always advocates for superhero/villain team names.  After one of my first classes with his group, he showed me his Batman sandals and I was appropriately complimentary.  When this class had oral tests recently, I decided to wear my Batman shirt, which he used to ask me a great question when it was his turn: “Do you like ….the… Do you like adventure movies?”  I was very pleased, and apparently he was too, since now, whenever I see him outside class, he shoots me with some finger weapon.  Today, I introduced him to grenades by throwing one to him and killing him.  When he recovered, he followed me to the office and asked, “Teacher, what’s this?” [mimed hand grenade].  What a fun mini-lesson to be able to say, “That’s a grenade, Ernie.  You pull the pin and BOOM!”

He learns quickly, because he dodged the next one I threw him and let it take out Teacher Jennifer and the copier.

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These past two days have been a little surreal: it’s starting to get hotter, and for the past two nights, I haven’t been able to sleep more than 30 minutes at a stretch.  Fortunately, I’m not feeling terribly tired, but the despair that comes from not sleeping is pretty irritating at 4am.  My plan for tonight, if the heat, heat-induced bug bite sensations, and actual bug bites continue to prevent sleep, is to go walking or running when there aren’t people around to gawk, then soak in a bath and watch TV and movies.  The bugs don’t bite during the day, so I’ll just sleep tomorrow.

I didn’t expect today to be an amazing day at work, but it was remarkably good.  As I was walking to my first class, one of my other Kids’ Club classes barreled up to me and shoved small gray things in my face.  “Teacher, TEACHER!!!!”  I have never felt so old, because I had to grab the girl’s arm and move the object back before I could even see that it was something like a shell.  The way they were carrying on, I thought it was a bug, but it turned out they all had hermit crabs, and once I figured it out, I asked to hold it, at which point I yelled in pain a few times, which they didn’t believe but still seemed to like.

My first class is full of smart and quick kids who are very eager to please, and so it’s always a fun way to start a Thursday.  My second class is usually more stressful because they are older, more numerous, unenthusiastic and have problems.  Two or three girls could be diagnosed brain dead, I think, and one boy has ADD and I’d say his seatmate should be tested too.  However, two weeks ago, a number of them were absent and because of the story we were reading, I was able to work in a ghost story (if you’re wondering, it was the “Now I’ve gotcha, now I’m gonna eatcha!” booger one) with the lights turned low.  I tried to tell it with a lot of repetition, as it’s meant to be told, but also so they could understand more clearly, and I think the humor of the story and the break in routine shook them out of their stupor a bit.  Last week, a number of kids were absent again and we had a review lesson for their upcoming test which made it easier to focus on individuals, and this week was the start of a new level which always feels promising.

I’m looking forward to the weekend as well, since I’ve got a Cinco de Mayo party on Saturday and another dragon boat practice on Sunday, not to mention PAYDAY on Friday.  Fun times!!!

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The elementary school just down the road from me plays songs on its bell system, and it’s been bugging me since I moved in that I couldn’t remember what a certain lunchtime song was.  Today, I finally remembered midomi.com and within 2 minutes, I had worked it out that it was Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  Sweet success!

Now I just need to figure out how to conquer little Mr. ADHD in my Tuesday class (I’ll have him again on Friday), and how to get my junior high class to talk.  I think a lot of it is the textbook, which sucks pretty hard.  Hopefully, the next level will be better, since theirs is a pretty flexible curriculum.

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I have now met all of my classes, and I can say that I have only two that require a significantly larger portion of energy or attention.  Now, I’m definitely not at the stage where I can waltz in 5 minutes before class and prep in my head, but I am not nervous to the core anymore each time I walk to a class.

One of the classes that will take an especial focus is my second-oldest class, probably 4th to 6th graders if the grades run like they do in the US.  These kids are not particularly rambunctious, and that’s actually part of the problem.  They’re a bit apathetic and don’t speak up readily or well.  For a class that’s supposed to focus on all aspects of English, this is a pretty big problem.  I think the best fix here is figuring out what kind of games and interactions they like and focusing on those so they want to to participate.

The other class is younger, so it’s easier to get them to play games and know you’re not insulting their adolescent pride, but there’s a restless child, a tattletale, and a cheeky-borderline-naughty one.  If they aren’t handled, the rest of the class won’t get a proper amount of attention, and that’s not fair, since there are some pretty good students.  I have a really good co-teacher/Chinese teacher in this class, so I’ll see what she has to say about those kids in particular and the class in general.

Oh, and remember Poo-poo King?  I think it might not just be in fun; I think he’s unpopular and I am not sure what to do.  Clue #1: Referred to as Poo-poo King at the start of the second class.  Clue #2: Another kid tripped him, very possibly on purpose.  Clue #3: Never has a speaking partner, even though he and his deskmate are the easiest and most obvious choice for each other.  Something to talk to that CT about, I suppose.

Let me end on a positive note: my Saturday class was a joy, especially considering they were in school on a Saturday.  Bravo, C2!  There were some excellent participators, especially in the back rows.  This is great, because it means they draw my attention to the back of the class and I don’t have to remind myself to do it.  Another reason I think I’m going to enjoy this class is that they’re just starting a level, so I’m not jumping in in the middle of a unit.  It makes me feel less like a sub and more like a teacher.

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