Another mixed bag today, of which I am most frustrated with my continued delaying of the inevitable.
I’ve stated that I hate confrontation. I’ve also had the unfortunate joy of having classes that can put on the semblance of maturity momentarily until the time is right, and I haven’t adapted myself well to dealing quickly with their tomfoolery.
Today my problem class did it again. They went – pardon the expression – balls to the wall in trying to keep the class from going anywhere, and they stepped it up enough where I started threatening. That calmed things down at that instant, but it didn’t help me establish the discipline that I’ve needed. One student in particular went above and beyond, and I’m now resolved that he needs to be taken care of. (No, not “eliminated” – but at least taken out of commission as far as being a problem for me. This is also my defiant student from yesterday.)
I really have to take care of this soon. My university supervisor will be observing this problem class next week, and it absolutely cannot go like it did today. I’m probably going to talk to this student personally tomorrow, since I think he contributes very well to discussion and is obviously very, very intelligent (although he’s made it clear that he hates English). It’s time for a little divide-and-conquer with these students; they have to be separated so that they don’t exert so much power in their numbers. There are also a few problem students who I’ve been advised to threaten with parental contacts; these students know that a bad word to their parents very well may result in some bad consequences, and I’m hoping that I can do something with that.
I do have one very positive interaction to talk about, though. In my earlier, non-problem class of seniors, I had a student that, I think prompted by some of the usual griping, got up and informed me that he was going to DS (Directed Study). I asked him (rather incredulously) why, and he said he was going to explode if he had to stay in the classroom. I directed him to wait for me in the hall, and I got the rest of the class going on something. When that was established, I stepped out (and my co-op followed close behind, I think to observe how I handled the matter), and I told the student that leaving wasn’t an option. I commiserated – rather honestly – about not liking the griping, either. But the bottom line for me was that leaving wouldn’t solve anything: he won’t always be able to run away when he doesn’t like someone (I related this to the workforce), and he wouldn’t get a chance to contribute meaningfully to the class. He didn’t put up a fight to any of this; he nodded quite frequently, and when I told him that he should try to help drown out the whiners and directed him to rejoin the class, he did so with no further comment and an attitude that communicated understanding to me. It was a beautiful thing.
This is a student, however, with which I already have a rapport; he and I had a chance to sit down one day during a prep period and talk about his research paper, his future, and some other things like word etymologies. I think he respects me already, and I can with relative certainty that the students I’m having problems with don’t have the slightest respect for me. That has to change, whatever I have to do.
I’ll keep working through it. The frustrations at not doing what I need are somewhat offset by knowing that I can get it right with some students. My goal now is getting all of my classes to a point where the dynamic can be productive – and hopefully somewhat fun – and this other peripheral stuff gone. The planning, instruction, and organization are all getting better, but I think getting this done will put me over the top.
Tomorrow promises to be interesting: the seniors have parties belatedly celebrating the end of the research paper where they’ll be doing One Minute Rants (a play on the Two Minutes Hate in 1984; like the name suggests, they’ll be giving a one-minute-long rant on a political issue), and I’m going to try and use my guitar with the juniors to give a different twist to some of Emily Dickinson’s poetry – the latter should be interesting to see how they respond. The idea for that is largely a credit to two of my English professors, who pointed out at various points that many of Dickinson’s poems have an identical meter (alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter, e.g. “Be-cause I could not stop for Death,/He kind-ly stopped for me“) to two well-known songs: the theme from Gilligan’s Island and “House of the Rising Sun.” The next step of bringing in a guitar to accompany myself singing these poems to the tunes is entirely my idea, and the students seemed to be excited about the idea. Whether or not that’s in hopes of making myself look foolish is yet to be seen.
Tomorrow also marks the halfway point in this period – let’s make it through on a good note.