All told, this was actually a pretty good week, in a year that has been lighter on good weeks than I had hoped it would be back in August. As I’ve said before (skip down a bit if you’re a regular reader; this ain’t nothin’ new) my day generally gets easier as it goes on; my largest and most poorly behaved class is first, followed by a better-behaved, smaller class (one that is still challenging, mind you, as it’s packed full of special education students) and then finally followed by my honors Algebra class, who are my darling wonderful angels even when they’re not.
First and second hour, in a lot of ways, determines how most of my day goes. If first hour pisses me off enough, the three minutes in between them leaving and the class dominated by special ed students generally does not result in enough time to shed my mood, and my special ed kids’… well, foibles, we’ll call them, start wearing on me. Exactly how many times must you be told, child, how decimals work before you actually hear it? You spent so much time at your locker, which is directly outside my classroom, that you were late to class; you’re telling me you brought colored pencils, markers, crayons, glue and three different colors of paper… but don’t have your math book or your workbook or a goddamn regular pencil?
Is there any chance, any chance at all, that your 60-IQ ass is going to make even the remotest attempt to do any math of any kind today? One problem, perhaps? Just add something. Here, seven plus two; we spent five solid minutes arguing a few weeks ago about whether it was reasonable for you to be expected to know that, and you insisted repeatedly that it was too hard and that you didn’t understand and that you’d never done addition before in class (note: I am not exaggerating), right before switching to insisting that you’d been telling me the answer was nine for the whole time.
If first and second hour are reasonable, I’m able to react to these sorts of things with equanimity, to remember that most of these kids really are doing the best they can, and that all I can hope for is progress, not mastery– and that progress is going to be slow and is going to involve setbacks. If first an second hour are not reasonable… well, sadly, frequently neither am I. Throw in a heavy dose of seventh grade literally being the worst year of anyone’s entire life in terms of your interest in and ability to pay attention to academics and frequently I am not the kind and caring individual I wish to be by the time these kids get into my room.
If I also have issues with third and fourth hour, I can even be savage with my Algebra kids; however, they are empathetic enough and smart enough that they recognize when I am not to be trifled with and they are capable of working in silence until I can get my shit back in order and deal with them like they are people. I rarely end fifth and sixth hour in a bad mood. It happens, but not often.
One of the determining factors of whether my forebrain or my id are in control of my actions at the end of first and second hour is whether the Two Kids Who Are Always Suspended are in my room or not. Now, the first of the two Kids was in my room last year. We’ll call him Darryl. Darryl, by himself, is generally manageable. He also likes math more than most of the rest of his classes; last year he also had math first thing in the morning, and I generally didn’t have much in the way of behavior issues with him until later on in the day. In addition, he’s smart: he could be an honors student if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to be. He could be getting an A or he could be failing depending on his inclinations at any particular moment.
I can work with the kid, is what I’m saying, and he’s generally not a huge problem, especially if the other Kid Who Is Always Suspended is not in the room. They have a synergistic effect on each other, you see; both together are substantially worse than either of them individually ever is.
Last year, Darryl was suspended more than any other student in his grade. This is probably only because the second Student Who Is Always Suspended came in mid-year.
We’ll call the other kid Jihad. Jihad is, basically, unredeemable, as far as I have ever been able to tell. There are a number of virtues that can cause one to like a person: they might be smart, clever, funny, attractive, kind, gentle, generous, brave, athletic, or charming, for example. Darryl could be many of those things depending on his mood and the day of the week.
Jihad is none of those things, ever. If he has virtues, of any kind, I am unaware of them. I don’t say this often; I can think right now of four students out of my entire career that I might use this word about: I hate this kid.
His mother thinks he is a perfect angel who gets picked on by his teachers. His mother is a lunatic.
(Actually, I should point something else out about him: a lot of the time I can find a way to work with even my worst kids if I know they’re coming from shit home situations. I’ve tried individual tutoring with two of the four kids I’m referring to up above on the rare occasions that they’ve shown an inclination to actually learn something– if you’re embedded for your entire life in a context where criminality and ignorance is normal, I have trouble getting too angry with you for growing up criminal and ignorant. Jihad lives with both parents, who are happily married and gainfully employed. He has literally no excuse.)
The 64th day of school happened to be this week. I happened to have a conversation with my assistant principal about Jihad on that day. She remarked to me that, of the 64 days of school we’d had, he had been suspended or otherwise absent on 34 of the 64 days.
I’m doing the thing again where I give tons of background information for what ends up being a not-very-long story; sorry about that. Needless to say, having one of them in my class substantially erodes my ability to teach– and it’s a class of 31, and it’s not like the other 29 kids are all angels. I have another three or four kids on top of the two of them who can trash a room all by themselves when the inclination strikes them; we’re not going to talk about the drama issues that the girls are occasionally prone to.
Having both of them in class at the same time makes teaching virtually impossible. Understand that, despite all my rage and complaining here, I am actually pretty well-known in the building for being able to keep my kids in the classroom. Office referrals from me generally get taken very seriously by administration precisely because they’re so rare. Teachers are able to dismiss a student for fifteen minutes to in-school suspension on basically any pretense we want. There are teachers in my building who rarely go a class period without dismissing at least a couple of kids. I generally do no more than two or three a week– and of those, half will be for Jihad. I’ve kicked Jihad out of class within fifteen to twenty minutes of the start of the period at least half a dozen times this year, and probably twenty times altogether. That’s probably over half of my total for all the referrals I’ve written for everyone else combined.
There’s no point in providing the details; I wrote Jihad up on Friday and sent him to the office. He was suspended on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, returned to class on Thursday, I think managed to make it through class without an ISS referral, and was sent to the office on Friday after literally every adult (three) in the room had multiple interactions with him either trying to get him to shut up and do some work or trying to calm down some issue he’d started with someone else.
I got a call about fifteen minutes later from my assistant principal. Jihad’s being put up for expulsion. She wanted a formal statement from me about what had happened. Which I provided.
I ought to be doing fucking cartwheels here, people, and the other teachers he has throughout the day are doing cartwheels. I seriously cannot make it clear enough just how awful this kid is, or how much he destroys our ability to educate the other 29 kids he shares a classroom with. The education of those other 29 kids is vastly more important than his is. He is in the most literal sense a detriment to the education of everyone he comes into contact with throughout the day.
(And, frankly, the expulsion is going to be denied because he’s not violent– he’s far too much of a coward to fight, another thing I don’t like about him. I figure at best we’re quit of him until January and it might only be a couple of weeks depending on how long it takes to get an expulsion hearing scheduled; these things, luckily, can take a while.)
I spent all day Friday beating myself up, going over what had happened in my head over and over and over and trying to figure out where I had gone wrong and what I could have done– either on Friday in particular or over the third-of-a-school-year that I’ve had this kid– to keep this from happening.
Which is fucking bullshit. I know exactly where each and every one of this kid’s buttons are– it’s not hard; they’re large, and red, and they blink– and I’m twenty times smarter than him on his best day on Earth and my worst. I could have manipulated this kid into blowing up and getting kicked out of school in August if I’d wanted to. While I’ve put him in ISS a lot (everyone has) only one of the office referrals leading to suspensions (prior to this one, at least) have come from me, and that’s because a fight that started in someone else’s room bled over into my class. This is not. my. fucking. fault. And, again: it is undeniably a plus for my other kids that, at the very least, we’re quit of this child for a few weeks. Hell, it’s even a plus for my kids who aren’t in class with him, because he so frequently manages to ruin my mood in the morning and it spills over into my teaching with the other kids. So this is literally one student’s shit behavior fucking up almost ninety other kids’ educations.
This is a good thing, goddammit; this kid manages to stress me out on weekends and he’s out of my room. So why the fuck do I feel bad about it?
5 thoughts on “In which I get what I want (and it sucks)”
You feel bad because you’re human. You feel bad because you know he has no excuse to act this way other than to be a shithead and probably has no future.
I’ve just got to say, I’m a relatively new follower of yours, but your blog has had a huge impact. There’s this one teacher I straight-up hated all year. I thought he was unwilling to work with us or be at least somewhat professional, and like he expected us to do everything completely sans assistance just because we’re the AP class. For some reason, though, your tone kind of matches his, and so I heard it in his voice. I hear him complain about his undermotivated classes, his low pay, and his mountain of work he does just to help us do well – and for no thanks.
Now, I see that he, like everyone else, is a REAL PERSON! With feelings! And weekend plans just like the ones I had before I had to do his homework, that he doesn’t want to grade any more than I want to complete, but we both have to suffer because I need to pass an exam at the end of the year, the difference being that I get college credit and he gets a tragically low salary!
Basically, you’ve really helped me actually like this guy, and I’ve even started putting forth effort in his class. I even raised my grade a solid 8% so far. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.
I think the good news in your post is that you DO feel bad about it without taking on responsibility for something you didn’t cause, can’t control or can fix. Only that student can do that.
[…] remember when Jihad got expelled and I was down to one of the Kids Who Are Always Suspended left in my room? The end of the day […]
[…] to do something wrong and annoy me the very second I become of his existence. Jihad was expelled for the last month and a half or so of first semester; I had been told that he’d been strongly encouraged to go elsewhere and as of last Thursday […]
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