Thursday, August 28, 2008

Losin' my cool

So I really like most of my classes, and feel indifferent to a couple. And one just drives me crazy. They've gotten gradually worse which I think is not so much a result of my teaching (no, no!) as that they've gotten older, and the class has gotten harder which means we have to spend less time rolling dice and more time rolling with our Patterns books, and there are:

- a few boys who are really smart but have decided to use their smarts to drive me crazy instead of learning English
- a few boys who are really dumb and use their "dumbs" similarly
- a bunch of boys and girls who are nice but not smart so I'm always having to teach them instead of controlling the mis-fits.

For example, one boy occasionally drops the f-bomb and gives me the finger. (He's in 4th grade.) So I make him write new words many times, have the CT write notes to his mom, act cool with him when he is nice and answers questions (which is often), but not much else I can do.

Usually it goes OK- some days better than others- and when the CT is there, she usually hits kids who misbehave. I do all the stuff I know to make kids have fun and control unruly kids- which has turned 3 other crazy classes into classes I like- but it just doesn't work very often with these guys.

So today the CT wasn't there. But the kids were being so good. Except a couple of them were speaking Chinese to each other, but whatever. I noticed messages kept floating between these 3 kids- Jess (finger kid), Michael and Howard (both of whom do great in class but challenge me more to impress each other than to challenge me). Then Michael says in Chinese, something to the effect of "Do we do it before Student Book or after Student Book?" And student book is right after the book we're doing now. I punish Michael's team for speaking Chinese and move on. At one point Jess says, in Chinese, "after student book." And I'm starting to feel kinda scared- like, if they totally make me lose my authority in front of the whole class, that's bad. Also I find myself doing my regular calculus in my head: I outweigh one Taiwanese guy but not 2, so I don't have to be scared if only one looks like trouble. (Not that that happens much.) Then I think, I don't think I could take 3 12-year-old boys; also, I don't want to have to beat them up. (I realize this is crazy but it's my thoughts.) I finally decided that if crazy stuff starts to go down I'll just leave the classroom and make someone else clean it up. Sure I will look like a schmuck but I don't care.

We play a game and the boys in question behave pretty well. OK. I start to think of alternative strategies to running away or beating up kids. Then I hear Michael say, "Howard. I think before student book" (in Chinese). I told him to speak English and he says it in English. I let us finish the game. Then I gave the class something to do and took the 3 boys outside. Right away they looked guilty and then said, "Teacher, why?"

I asked them in English what they were planning, and they acted like they didn't understand. And who knows if they did. So I asked them in Chinese- What do you want to do? Nothing, they said. One more time, what do you want to do? They don't say anything. You think I can't hear? You think I can't understand Chinese? (Total bluff, as I couldn't understand their plan, only when it would occur.)

Finally Jess says, in Chinese, "I don't undertand your Chinese." (Which was not true, but I could call that bluff.) So I went to get a CT to translate. Of course I couldn't pull one out of actually teaching, so I went down the classrooms looking for one who wasn't teaching. (Worse-case, Jasmine was teaching but I figured I could pull her.) Last classroom I found an NST teaching so I went in and got the CT and quickly explained to her.

Man, she let the kids have it! They looked about ready to cry. They kept insisting they weren't planning anything but she was like "Teacher Christina speaks Chinese! Why is she angry if you don't want to do anything?" She made them apologize sincerly- if they just mumbled she was like "Again. Again."

I didn't really care if they told me what they were going to do (an in retrospect it was probably nothing too terrible- probably like throw their pencils or something, as these kids are really nothing compared to US kids); my goal was more to convince them that the time for them pulling crazy stunts with me was over.

We'll see if it works next week!

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