That’s how many office referrals I wrote today. Ten in one class. Ten, in one class, before I could even get class started.

I may take tomorrow off.

I may also shut down my YouTube channel, but that’s a whole other conversation. I’ve been realizing more and more lately that it’s not fun any longer, but that might just be general depression and anhedonia, and maybe I shouldn’t delete 500 videos until I figure out which it is.

In which I inspire

This was a really fucking rough day. I got through my third and fourth hour basically by deciding that I was blind on the left side of my body. I have been keeping track of the swear words I hear for the last few days, and I’m averaging around fifty a day, and generally half of those or so will be the N-word. It’s still not impossible that I end up back in a classroom again next year, but it’s getting less and less likely with every passing day. I’m just completely exhausted with all of them at this point, and I don’t want to do this any longer. If that means I need to ignore fully half of one of my classes so that I can concentrate on the group of them who still have a modicum of interest in receiving an education, well, fuck it, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m well beyond feeling bad about it.

And then as I was walking out of the building, our social studies teacher stopped me and asked me how one of our … more troublesome students had done in my room today, and by “troublesome,” I mean “has 74 office referrals so far this year, and is somehow still allowed to be attending school despite having not the slightest shred of an academic agenda.” I thought about it for a moment and realized that not only had I not had to put him out– I’d had to speak to him a couple of times, but not especially seriously– and that he’d actually turned in his work, which given his current 11% class average (and that’s his third-highest grade) is not a common occurence.

She has a student teacher this semester– and, God, of all the years to be student teaching, you couldn’t have chosen a worse one than this one– and he’d had to put this kid out of class himself today, and he was having a really hard time with it. Ed school fills your head with all sorts of nonsense about how it’s always the teacher’s fault if you can’t “reach” any of your students, and the notion that for one reason or another certain students might be unreachable is simply treated as heresy. I don’t even know this guy all that well and I could tell he was beating himself up over it.

And fuck me dead if I didn’t spend the next fifteen minutes talking this poor guy off of a ledge and trying to make him feel better about himself and his future as a teacher. He was always going to have a hard time with middle school– he’s got a prominent lisp among a couple of other, uh, prominent physical characteristics– and he was one of those guys where it’s difficult for one’s first impression to not be “the kids are going to eat you alive.” But he’s putting in the work and he’s doing his Goddamned best and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a kid who easily ranks in the bottom five percent of students I’ve taught in my career fuck up this guy’s day. And I think by the time I left I had him feeling better, and on the one hand, yay me, and on the other hand I really don’t think anyone should be going into teaching until we have a serious societal reckoning with what we actually want our teachers to be and what we want from our schools, and that reckoning needs to firmly eliminate the word “babysitter” from our job descriptions. Because that’s what we’re doing with this kid, and with a higher percentage of my students this year than I’ve ever seen before. These kids have no interest and no business being in school other than fucking up the educations of the kids who want to be there, and any vestiges of patience I might have ever had with it are simply gone at this point. A completely honest accounting would have involved telling this guy that things weren’t going to get better because in the last twenty years nothing has ever gotten better in education. That trend isn’t reversing anytime soon.

But hey, I got him off the ledge. And if I go to work tomorrow, it’ll be five days in a row. Baby steps, I guess.

Nattering on about school discipline

First things first, I suppose; it looks like I’m going to get what I want regarding the student from last Friday being moved out of my class, and without a fight about it, even, although I may owe the school counselor a doughnut and coffee or something. Naturally, now that I’ve gotten what I want, I’m going soft internally on the whole thing, all oh, don’t give up on the kid and give him another chance.

My inner bleeding-heart is going to sit down and shut the fuck up on this one. But he’s rattling on anyway.

We had a meeting this week where we talked about discipline data in our building– specifically the number of ODRs (basically, office write-ups) that we as a staff had been writing, and we’re having another meeting tomorrow morning where we’re going to talk about things we can do that might bring down the number of ODRs being written in our grade level, hopefully without simply saying “write fewer ODRs.” I’m going to temporarily lay aside the question of whether this is the right way to talk about this and note that the data dashboard the administration has access to now is awesome, and I’m going to beg for access to it even though I’m probably not technically supposed to have it, because I am a Data Nerd and this is my jam.

To wit: I discovered this week that, while I can’t see office referrals written by other teachers (which is fine,) I can see how many times each of my students has been written up, along with the dates of the referrals. And I got curious about a few things and did some digging.

My 3rd and 4th hour class, surprising no one, has the largest number of total referrals at 139. To be clear, this number comes from adding each student’s total referrals together, so it’s across all of the teachers and classes for each of the students. My 1st and 2nd hour is my second-highest, with just under 100, and my 5th and 6th has the least. I haven’t done anything yet like divide it up on a per-student basis to control for class size, but that’s coming, believe me. Because, again, I’m that guy.

There have been 58 days of school so far.

I also looked at how many referrals I, personally, have written for each class. 3rd and 4th hour has 35– which is interesting, because that’s nearly exactly 25% of the class total, which is exactly what you would expect given that they each are in my room for 25% of their day. I have written 5 referrals for 1st and 2nd hour and 5 for 5th and 6th, which are much smaller percentages of their total– I think I’ve written about 10% of the total referrals for 5/6 and closer to 5% for 1/2. Interestingly, the two most-written-up kids in 1st and 2nd hour have never been a problem in my room, possibly because they either aren’t awake enough or their ADHD medication hasn’t had time to wear off. I was surprised to see how many referrals they had, to be honest.

I am resisting the urge to draw any conclusions about this, because there’s no good way to distinguish between “this teacher manages his classroom well and does not need to do referrals” and “this teacher gets run over and isn’t tough enough to hold the kids to account for it.” I think if I discovered I was doing more write-ups for any of my three groups than other teachers I might be concerned about that– and I think the office might do well to see if any of their teachers are being seriously overrepresented in writing ODRs– but that’s not the case.

To circle back around, this isn’t the best metric to get at what we actually want to talk about. The problem with using ODRs, suspensions, or anything like that as a metric for building discipline is that, as I said above, it’s impossible to distinguish between a well-run school or a well-run classroom with one where the inmates are running the asylum and the staff or administration have either 1) checked out completely or 2) simply been told you cannot write anyone else up. Sure, that’ll bring your numbers down, but the problem isn’t actually that we want to write fewer referrals or have fewer suspensions. The problem is we want the kids to stop misbehaving. The two things overlap, of course, but one shouldn’t be mistaken for the other, and creating a building culture where the kids are invested in class and in learning and want to be there and aren’t simply at school because their parents need babysitters is a hell of a lot more difficult than simply reducing the number of times a certain form gets filled out.

(I’m going to suggest increased use of buddy rooms tomorrow, for example. This doesn’t do a single thing to help any particular student behave in class, it just gives them somewhere where they can either 1) cool down or 2) irritate some other teacher who then actually does the referral, and it at least increases the chance that a kid can avoid the office. Buddy rooms can be helpful, because there are kids who can benefit from 15-20 minutes to get their heads straight, and Lord knows a fifteen-minute break from some specific kid’s bullshit can help me get my head on straight– but it doesn’t really much help kids learn how to improve their behavior or keep them more invested in school.)

In which that’s enough of that

I did something today that, in what … seventeen, eighteen years of teaching? I’ve lost track– I have never done before. I wrote a student up, and after doing the office referral wrote an email to my principal, my assistant principal, and our Dean of Students, in which I made it clear that the student I had written the referral for was no longer welcome in my classroom. Not today. Not next week. Not after he gets back from his suspension. Never. He is no longer one of my students. They are moving him out of my homeroom and out of my class or I will simply send him to the office every single time he shows up. I am done with him, period. If I need to involve the union, I’m going to involve the union. If I need to threaten to quit, I’ll do that too. There are plenty of places that need teachers. But I’m putting my foot down on this one, and that’s simply all there is to it.

It was a long fucking day, in case you were wondering.

Friday, Goddammit

I am home alone, as the wife and the boy are out at a birthday party, and I am sorely tempted to go out and hop in the pool by myself. But there is so much left to do if I go get in the pool– things like removing and replacing the cover, possibly checking chemical levels (it rained last night) and then there’s the whole putting on a bathing suit and drying off afterwards bits, and … I may be too tired. Maybe I’ll just look at the pool. That’s relaxing too, right? Sure.

I wrote up six kids today– six!!— which is a number that I have not reached in … a while, and received reports from other teachers in the building that their kids were also out of their Goddamned minds. I very badly need to get my middle group under control. I did something I have not done in a very long time today, and emailed the words “I need help” to my boss, as it is too early in the year for these kids to be this nuts. My other two classes are good-to-great, so it’s not just this grade, and it’s not even all of the kids in the middle group, but it’s enough of them that I’m putting out a different fire every twenty to thirty seconds for an hour and a half straight, and I’m going to end up in tears in front of these motherfuckers at some point soon if I don’t kill one of them first.

I’ve got the weekend to rest and relax, and then five days until a three-day weekend. I’ll figure something out. I always do.