"Education is not a product: mark, diploma, job, money; It is a process, a never-ending one." -bel kaufman

Thursday, January 29, 2004



today was the day i was not waiting for.
and it started well, too. poetry in english class. tonight's homework is to bring in a cd tomorrow so we can analyze the lyrics. in environmental science (6th & 7th periods), i was prepared to give the pros and cons of genetic engineering--we've been learning about international food industries, organic foods, and GMO crops. but come sixth period, i was not given the chance to teach.

i have always disliked the phrase, "the students will test you" in reference to classroom management. like when a teacher or administrator tells a story of a bad experience and says something like, "he/she was really testing my patience" or "testing my authority." i feel it puts the teacher and the student on two separate planes, divided in a way that the student sees the teacher as an authoritarian figure that can be brought down through misbehavior and disrespect. such a structure seems doomed for failure. this structure is perhaps the reason why there are feelings or anti-authority in youth. when i entered into teaching, i tried to approach the student/educator relationship with democracy and openness. i felt if the students saw me as an equal, there would be no room to "test" me because i would not be exhibiting the characteristics of someone who had power or authority over them, but rather someone with resources to share and teach them what they need and want to know. but maybe i am not doing the greatest job. and maybe they have problems of their own that bleed over into school life. because today i was knocked down.

much of it had to do with my inexperienced classroom management skills. and much had to do with two students who have little motivation to accomplish any school work. they have proven themselves apathetic towards school to every teacher i have talked to. and today, maybe they were just having a bad day. i don't know exactly. but once they decided to fully resist my requests for some kind of order in the class, the rest of the students lost any interest in the lesson and chaos reigned.

my classes have never been orderly. i attempt to let hyperactive energy fuel the class and i try, often successfully, to steer this energy in a productive direction. most administrators would probably see this as naive, but it has helped me gain the respect of most students--they feel less stifled--and i eventually have an easier time coercing distracted and disorderly students into working on the lesson. for me, it's about figuring out an alternative to the strict, authoritative stereotype of an inner-city high school teacher. today, however, was something from the classroom management textbooks, a classic example of disruptive students and a teacher with no solution and no other direction in which turn. so i let them rule for the moment. and then the rest of the class was surprisingly quiet, maybe disappointed in losing sixth period to the insults and jokes of a few individuals. when i attempted talking to one of the disruptive students (talk eventually turned into arguement), i surprisingly received backup from another student who attempted to point out the ridiculousness of trying to bring down the teacher: what's the point of deconstructing order and respect in a classroom, especially with a teacher who has, from the start, given you respect and second-chances?

postscript: i should also add that there has been a severe drop in student morale in the past week. individual students have been accused of disrespecting school property and breaking rules, often blindly and without sufficient evidence, and often times the whole school receives punishment for a single student's immature actions. i would like to also make this clear: i do not wish condemn any student in my sixth period class today for acting out due to frustrations stemming from school or personal issues. of course i wish they would not take their emotions out on me, but i try to remain understanding when situations like this occur. i know for sure that this is only the beginning. there will be much, much more difficult moments in the future. as long as i am prepared for these moments and able to recognize the challenges, i will be able to overcome them and continue on.


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