Thursday, February 16, 2006

Don’t Throw Rocks or Paper - More Disciplinary Problems

Was it just a few weeks ago that I was so happy and proud of my new Regime of Terror? While for the most part, the new system of “every time you see me, you WILL get a grade” has been both successful and amusing (to me, I mean), today there was a stunning deviation.

Thursdays are an awkward day for me. I have a 7:30 class, then a 3 hour break, then a class, then one hour free, then my last class. First class, 7b. I like this class because they’re just so normal. Their English is average. Their behavior is the same. There’s one class clown, one brilliant kid who refuses to do any work, some loud boys, some quiet boys, some hair-twirling girls, some diligent girls - but as a class, they’re just so normal and wonderful. They never annoy me, they never delight me, but as I scribbled once in the margin of the class notes I keep on them, “I like them calmly.”

During my long break, I walked to the market and stocked up on fruit. I’ve gotten into fruit and tea in a last-stand attempt to get rid of a long-running low-grade cold. I had a nap, followed by coffee, to steel myself for my next class: the dreaded 5abT.

This class is... wait, let me think before making a bold statement... yes, this class is my absolute least favorite. If you ask me on a Tuesday, I might tell you my least favorite was 7ab, but at least 7ab can speak English. 5abT is the worst of the worst 5th graders. Both in behavior and language. They had begged me to do more speaking with them, instead of just written exercises, so today (much against my better judgment) I concocted an activity which had them writing questions with “Do you like...?” (Do you like swimming, do you like cats, do you like English, etc) and then asking them to each other. Absolute chaos. They ran around; they climbed over tables; they screamed; they laughed at things out the window; they laughed at the light switch; they doodled; they made up games; they threw around wads of paper. The climax came when, as I was standing in the front desperately trying to grab their attention, one little monster took a ball of paper, looked me straight in the eye, then whipped it right at me, hitting me squarely in the sternum. Not the force of it, but the nerve of this kid, his completely indifferent and apathetic attitude, was enough to take my breath away.

What should I have done? In hindsight, options lay themselves out before me like a buffet of punishment possibilities. I could have screamed at him. I could have screamed at all of them. I could have left the room. I could have ordered him out. I could have grabbed him by the ear and marched him to the principal. I could have smacked him. That last one actually crossed my mind, but instead I took what was probably the path of least resistance: in the moment of pure blessed silence that followed the ball hitting me, I made a show of opening my gradebook and writing next to his name. Which prompted the other students to all leave their seats and crowd around to see what it was I had written, which led to a whole ’nother round of me fruitlessly screaming “Sit down!”

After class, I took the high road and tattled on him, plus the others who were just being generally disruptive, to Kati (my contact teacher and the most feared teacher in the school). She told his form-teacher, who didn’t seem the least surprised about neither the paper throwing nor the other stuff. In fact, as soon as I mentioned one name, she named the other three without hesitation. I also told Vali (my favorite of the English teachers, mostly because she gives me tons of advice and ideas without ever being condescending or dictatory), and while I was teaching my next class, Vali confronted the paper-thrower in the hallway. He angelically explained to her that he had been throwing the paper in the waste basket, and I had happened to step in front of it. Bullshit! I told her that A) I hadn’t moved at all and B) there’s no waste basket in the room! Vali was quite upset, more so that he had lied to her than anything else. That kid will grow up to be a serial killer.

I guess it’s too late to say long story short, but quick conclusion: Kati said that in the future, I should grab their tájékoztatós (the small, personal napló) and bring it to her, another English teacher, or anyone that speaks Hungarian, so they can write a message to the parents. Not exactly an ideal situation, but we’ll see.

On the positive side of life, my 7:30 class tomorrow will be canceled - which I found out not from my contact teacher, not from a memo, but from the students themselves. The way it was explained, it might be a permanent thing... meaning one less class for me, hooray! But I’m not hopeful, because things Good For Emily so rarely come out of that school.


indiana said...


So i'm sure you can imagine, doing what I do, that I have these theoretically-informed ideas about how teachers behave; however, this one might actually be interesting and, dare i say, useful? Its this thing called functional behavior analysis which is a whole system, but the main part is this question--what does the behavior do for the individual, what is its function? If students want attention, that's why they're bad, thats actually good because you have attention to give (unlike, i don't know, if they want breakfast). Also, we don't use punishment alone (ie without some type of reinforcement), so i do vote against smacking the kid.

On a separate note, "don't throw rocks or paper" is catchy for some reason I don't understand.

jrj said...

i went to the house of terror museum in budapest today. it!s pretty good. so don!t fear that crazy-ass beat-em-down punishment...the hungarians are used to it...

jrj said...

oh...and congrats on making it past the 1,000 hit barrier on zour website!! all the rest of the thousands fall quickly after that first difficult one...