Today was one of those days where I wished the entire world could have been in my shoes to experience what went down. Especially those teacher bashers we all know too well who went to school once and therefore consider themselves experts on the matter of what it is exactly that teachers do. The ones who think we drink coffee and dole out detentions for ten months, and then lie on the beach all summer, laughing haughtily at them as they drive to work. I’ve long since given up trying to convince those people of anything since they clearly believe teachers are lazy due to a really special level of ignorance in the first place, but today I would have paid a hefty sum just for the petty satisfaction of watching one of them try to keep it together.
The day started in a bit of a rush because I’ve been working on my report cards and therefore ignoring my lesson plans, but alas, the lessons still needed to go on. So I was trying to throw together half-decent plans while inhaling my breakfast. It’s not a very zen way to start a day that requires 100% of my energy and patience from the moment the first bell rings. During this time I also received an email from a parent who wanted her son exempted from health class, however health class was happening today so there was that to sort out all of a sudden.
The morning bell rang and my students came barreling in as they always do. In my class we have five letters on the board and if I have to count down from three more than twice for the students to zip it up and focus, then I remove a letter. They need at least one letter on Friday in order to have some free time, and if they have no letters at all they can no longer sit with friends or use their devices during unstructured time. And yeah yeah I know that’s an external reward and that makes me a bad teacher and blah blah blah, but it (sort of) works and I’ve made my peace with it. I have way too many other things to worry about, as you’ll see.
This being said, for some reason my student with autism despises this letter system. She hates teacher discipline of any sort, but she really takes offense to those letters coming down. And of course, shortly after the learning support teacher had just shown up to let us know that her EA would be away today, I had to take the last letter down, because, in a nutshell, my class is insane. I said, “Sorry everyone, but you’ve just lost your last letter.” As I was saying this I could see her slowly get out of her chair (a rare and very worrisome sign) and I knew she was coming for me. She got up in front of the class and said, “No everyone, you’ve just earned all the letters!”
I said calmly, “No, we lost all of our letters.”
And then she of course said, “No, we earned all of the letters!”
So I repeated as I have a million times before, “No, I’m the teacher and I choose when the letters come down.” To this she replied with her favourite line, “I don’t need the sarcasm, thanks.”
(I find it pleasantly ironic that she accuses me, a self-proclaimed lover of sarcasm, of being sarcastic when for a rare moment I’m not being sarcastic at all).
At this point I knew my only option was to ignore her, so I went about my work of helping a drama group set up to present. In the meantime, she took it upon her self to inch over to the chalkboard ledge where I put the removed letters in an attempt to steal them. I caught on and swooped over and put the letters deep into my desk drawer, which elicited a death glare and a moment’s contemplation from her. I continued helping the drama group set up and watched out of the corner of my eye as she crept behind my desk and went for the drawer. I said “Hey!” probably more firmly than I should have. “DO NOT GO IN MY DESK!”
At this point she howled, “Stop yelling at me!” and then proceeded to have a major meltdown. I told her that I was sorry I yelled (which I was) but that she wasn’t listening when I used my normal voice. She continued to have her moment all while I tried to keep my rowdy class of mostly boys from unintentionally breaking something, or someone, while they waited for the drama presentation. For the record I had asked them to use the time to practice with their own drama groups but, for obvious reasons, I never really believed that would happen.
As she was just standing there and wailing at the front of the class, I had to try to get the drama group set up around her. I finally got them ready and her out of the way, and just as we were about to start, the star of the play got a gushing nosebleed. (Why wouldn’t she?) So I ushered her out with the assistance of one of her friends who also suffers from frequent gushing nosebleeds, and I said we’d have to take down all of the stage props for that group and set up for another because their main character was out of commission for a while. Keep in mind that while this is going down, the rest of my students were either pushing each other around the room at top speed on the wheely chairs that are supposed to be for the computers, throwing a legit, full-size rugby ball around, or yelling at each other because one Muslim student accused another of not being able to fast, since that student had decided with his parents that he shouldn’t fast during the week as he already has difficulty not getting suspended without being hungry, and everyone else felt the need to weigh in on the matter. These are all normal background activities in the last ten months of my life that I’ve just had to make peace with, because a person can only deal with so much.
While my nosebleeder was in the washroom trying to stop the flow, one of my other female students with extreme emotional difficulties decided to wander her little way into the bathroom to check out the situation, unbeknownst to me. The problem here is that the girl I sent to help the nosebleeder is her arch nemesis, and when I poked my head out to see if the other girls were on their way back, I found only my emotional struggler on the hallway floor bawling her little heart out (not an uncommon event). I can only assume that drama went down in the bathroom. Meanwhile drama was supposed to be happening in the class and the second group was all set up and waiting impatiently (i.e., smacking each other with their props), so I just kind of shut the door on her with an apologetic look and hoped she’d figure it out. I’m not proud of it, but when this is a daily occurrence, nothing I could have said or done would have helped in a timely manner, and I had twenty-some-odd other crazed children to worry about.
The other drama group did their play and the nosebleeder eventually came back and was ready to present, but the emotional mess in the hallway was also a part of her group so, as it was, that group could still not perform. She had calmed down a little by then but declared that she would not be presenting, not ever, so I said let’s leave it until after recess and regroup then. Keep in mind that during all of this, the rest of my class was definitely still zooming around, throwing things, or passionately fighting about matters of Ramadan. I’ve become really good at breathing deeply and telling myself, “THIS IS FINE.”
Recess offered a well-needed break from the students, but during this time another teacher somehow managed to puncture the tendon between her thumb and index finger with – believe it or not – her lanyard. During what must have been an intense game of four square with her grade sevens, the ball somehow smacked her lanyard clip into her hand in such a way that it punctured right through. (So when they ban lanyards next week, you’ll know who to thank. As for me, I’m the reason we can’t open our windows more than six inches due to an incident that resulted in a broken thumb, so my staff likes to thank me for that one, especially since we don’t have AC.) Some other brave teachers tried to administer first aid but it was obvious that she would need to go to the hospital to have the lanyard and her impending tetanus dealt with. This left the matter of covering her class, so the learning support teacher, who was already covering for the absent EA, had to go hold down the fort. To top it all off, at some point our secretary also had to leave, so our principal had to work the main desk all while trying to keep our school from self-imploding.
At the end of the day, I crashed in my chair only to remember that I still had hours of work to do on my report cards, four field trips to organize, a lesson to prepare, and a classroom to put back together. But hey, I’m not complaining. What else would I write about?