New teacher diaries

First cry of the year

New Teacher Diaries

On Friday, a handful of my 5th-grade students acted out, talked, wouldn’t listen and were horribly disrespectful. It was sad and disappointing. (Making things worse, it happened two days in a row. My team teacher, Ms. B, and I had hoped the first day would have been enough to make them realize they needed to shape up.) These students were required to fill out behavior reports, which were, in turn, filled in with details by us and were supposed to go home for parent signatures.

As I ran around the school looking for someone to help us make copies of the behavior reports, I turned to a teacher who informed me that she had no time to help me make copies of something I needed to take care of myself. She further informed me that Ms. So-and-So was the copier ... which would have been helpful to know if I knew who Ms. So-and-So even was or where to find her.

I had been pretty thick-skinned so far this year but at that moment, I melted. I tried to hold it in and disguise it but we all know how that works. Another teacher saw me and before she could even ask me what was wrong, I was falling apart, tears rolling down my face. I couldn’t even explain to her what was wrong. She told me that she’d take care of the copies and that I’d better get my tears cleaned up and my appearance back to normal because I couldn’t let the kids see me cry. I dodged into the (luckily) unlocked teacher bathroom and splashed water on my face while giving myself a quick pep talk and reminding myself that it was Friday.

I spent most of that Thursday and Friday not teaching but instead managing behavior. I was beginning to feel like a drill sergeant, which is the last thing I want to be. A major part of my philosophy for teaching and managing students is to build relationships with them, get to know them, show them that I care and then to use these relationships to help talk to them about their behavior and help them work on improving it enough so that we could continue learning in the classroom. I don’t want to be strict and distant from my students forever. I don’t want to regret smiling and laughing with my students because they then lose control and ruin the learning environment. Somehow, I need to find a way to be the kind of teacher for the students in my class that can have a smile on her face while simultaneously having the “we get down to business” expression standing strongly behind that smile.

That Thursday and Friday, there were moments of learning, and these were amazing. These moments gave me the fuel I needed to make it through those two days. They made me ask myself how I could keep the class engaged despite the distractions (such as one boy yelling out wrong answers on purpose or singing songs at the top of his lungs whenever he feels the urge).

Just to set the record straight, the students who have these “behaviors” that need to be managed represent only about a third of the class. Unfortunately, they are so distracting and I’m so unprepared to deal with them that it takes away from the learning of those students who are there to learn. The other two-thirds of the class are great. I believe that Ms. B and I will eventually be able to break down the wall that separates the kids who act out from learning, and this will be a success that we won’t soon forget. I think other teachers would agree: those students who cause you the most stress end up having this attachment to your heart as you see your impact on them and wonder the next year how they are doing without you as their teacher and if you did enough to teach them and guide them down the path towards success.

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