Friday, June 15, 2007

Woman in the Middle of...

Yes, well, in my defense I’m in the middle of a nervous breakdown. I will not harp on the breakdown. We all know that there are times when a breakdown seems like just the thing to get you through the days. And it really can be entertaining. The highs, the lows, the alcoholism, the cigarettes, the heights of ecstatic joy, and the plunging welling yawning depression coming straight on its heels. Being on the edge of a nervous breakdown is trite, I say if you are going to do it go all the way and just jump. Alas when you jump you do tend to lose control which would explain my inexplicable and out of character shouting at my first period class.

I teach seminars on classroom management. I’ve written fairly well received papers on classroom management. I’ve done research on classroom management. I know what to do and what not to do in a classroom. But take a class of already rowdy teenagers, add a nervous breakdown, multiple by forty students, add coffee, an activity that took me three hours to laminate and the boys exactly, and I do mean exactly, five minutes to destroy, and another thirty minutes to wad into little balls to throw at each other, and a Korean co-teacher who runs up at the beginning of class and says “I’ve got to go now, I have important work to do” and you have all the makings of a first rate loss of control that makes all that classroom management experience seem laughable. I’m not proud, people, I’m not proud.

But those monsters had it coming.

I know not to yell at students. Yelling invariably becomes unproductive. They outnumber you. They will always be louder. Never yell. I have several methods I use to get attention when I need attention and students are in the middle of a loud activity. I know how to get to the kids without raising my voice. Yet, it was the wadding of the activity into little balls and throwing that finally pushed me over the edge into the wrong. It was the fact that my entire lesson for the next four classes utilized the cards that were now wadded and stuck to the bottom of chairs. The cards that I would either have to remake and use for next weeks class, or call a loss and just progress with my lesson plans. I was, in a word, pissed.

Lacking in accuracy. I was very pissed. I was raging psychotic pissed. I was pissed off dammit and I was not going to take it anymore.

Unfortunately, I let the kids know this in so many words, and at least one of those words slipping out in anger was not merely “shut up”. Damn.

I knew it as soon as it came out of my mouth. My brain clicked into immediate overdrive and I felt the red and the flush and thought in my brain “Fraggle Rock” and knew that the damage had already been done. All I could do at this point was recover. Fortunately I did suddenly have the undivided attention of my class.

The class got quiet and looked at me. I looked back at them.


We all knew what just happened. They knew as well as I did that this was not a good thing. They calmed and waited. I had them put their heads down while I collected the cards. My brain said “Ass cover! Now!”

And boy howdy did I. I stood with crumpled cards in hand, and in my righteous anger and indignation at having an entire day’s lesson plan reduced to so many spit balls I even managed to squeeze out a few genuine tears. The boys were thoroughly chastised. The bell rang and I kept them a few extra minutes for good measure while I dabbed at my eyes.

I released them enmassee and they stood up. I was patting myself on the back for a nice good save, even had two students come up in tears themselves apologizing for the thoughtlessness of their compatriots. And it might have been okay, until I heard the kids hit the bottom of the stairs. And then let off a string of dialogue straight out of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I thanked the boys who were crying for coming and apologizing and sat at my desk with my head in my hands listening to the explosion of chatter in the courtyard and realizing that I was, of course, going to be made to pay for this slip for the rest of the semester. I have a feeling they will be angels in class for the next three classes before the summer break, but they will remind me in the halls and down the stairs that they are now aware that my language vocabulary includes more then just “I’m fine thank you and you?”

At least they were amused.



Ipsofacto said...


That really does sound shitty. I really don't know how you manage to teach 40+ students (I find 10 tough going).

As regards your *lecture* that involved you demonstrating the finer points of informal english (i.e. how to fire off random expletives), then I wouldn't worry too much. I'm sure they've seen (and heard) it all before.

Although clearly not pleasant for you, it certainly makes for a good read.

Saradevil said...

Thanks for that. I was starting to feel the lack of commenting on this one as a silent judging which was not really helping.

Glad that my loss of control amuses more then thirteen year old Korean boys.

To help I took a stab at total drinking this weekend, but have to admit that I only got to the drinking part without the total part even being touched on!


Just then, Sara loses it and goes off on her students,
"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Mother mother fuck. Mother mother fuck fuck. Mother fuck mother fuck.
Noise noise noise.
1 2 1 2 3 4
Noise noise noise.
Smokin weed, smokin weed.
Doin' coke, drinkin beers.
Drinkin beers, beers beers.
Rollin' fatties, smokin blunts.
Who smokes the blunts? We smoke the blunts."

Saradevil said...

Yeah, NB, that was pretty much how I felt. But honestly it really really was only the one swear word.

However what you wrote is pretty much a direct quote of what the boys said when they hit the bottom of the stairs.


Ipsofacto said...

I think it's hard not to occasionally lose it. We're all human after all and the stress has to come out sometime (it's just unfortunate that more often than not, it's the classroom).