Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I made Angela Cry Today!

What a terrible day! I had trouble getting to sleep last night and awoke feeling tired and grouchy. To add to my troubles, all of my classes seemed to be teaming with kids that were on sugar-highs and exhibiting attitude problems. So, when dear sweet angelic Angela reached across my field of view to grab an eraser during one of my more frustrating moments of trying to communicate a very important point to my students (at the very end of what seemed like an endless day) I swatted her hand away.
Only, I didn't do the swatting with much skill, instead I managed to plaster her poor tiny hand to the table with a pretty solid blow. I realized immediately that I had used too much force in my distracted attempt to get everybody's attention. Then the tears started to flow. She was inconsolable as anybody would be in her situation. The strange hulking man that she had to go and see five times a week had inflicted pain -- without warning. I apologized immediately in all the languages I knew how to apologize in -- I even threw in an apology in Hungarian because she was acknowledging neither English nor Korean apologies and I figured it couldn't hurt. Once she settled down abit I asked her to come outside of the classroom for a minute and I apologized again. I told her she could come back to class or sit in a quiet room for a little while. As I suspected she was looking for a safe place to recover and chose to stay in the quiet room. When the Korean teacher showed up I asked her to talk to Angela -- telling her the whole story about what I big mistake I had made and what a crazy teacher I am. Because the Korean teachers English isn't so hot my explanation involved some miming, heaps of pointing ,and the doleful uttering of "Sean pabo SoenSangNim -- Sean crazy teacher".
To my great relief Angela eventually forgave me. And we played a game for the rest of class. I've been teaching for nearly six years in a variety of places you could readily describe as hell-holes and this has never happened to me before. Not to the nastiest most temperamental, tantrum throwing scrap of a kid. I haven't a clue where this came from. Luckily, a colleague of mine was able to tell a story that involved what seemed to be a far worse transgression that escalated way out of control.
Tonight I need to consider how to avoid letting myself fester in agitation all day under the tiring wrath of snotty-nosed kids that seem incapable of focusing on the simplest of tasks for the briefest of moments.
One of the most frustrating things that a teacher has to put up with is repeatedly telling a student or students to stop interrupting, sit down, stop shouting, stop hitting, stop lying on the floor and stop blanking out. Some days you learn to deal with it, and some days it just builds up until you want to explode. I guess the problem is that the simple repetition of: "Don't talk, run, lie-down, pick your nose" doesn't do the job. You have to stop repeating yourself at some point and force the child to be aware that they are once again doing exactly what you told them not to do dozens of times before -- within a 5 minute period, no less!
I think this is a sign that our new curriculum could use some work. Phonics is good. It helps kids to read, but unfortunately it is boring, boring, boring. Not just for the kids either. So, how do you create an interesting learning environment when your trying to teach something that requires an incredibly high number of repetitions for the student to learn and you really aren't teaching anything else of substance that they haven't also already heard about a million times?

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