Today was incredibly long and emotionally draining. Although, honestly, it only took one 80-minute class to feel that way. At the end of last block, when the
bell rang, I ran upstairs with the express purpose of eating some of my feelings before running the after school MUN mock debate.
I have a class of students who are a handful. It’s small and they’re smart kids, but they just won’t shut up. I have enough first-year-teacher insecurity about my behavior management skills that it can get to me pretty easily. Today they were especially challenging – they wouldn’t stop talking. Kept laughing and talking over me and the energy just wouldn’t go down. At the end of class, I’d had it and told them “Fine. You’re acting like third graders, you’ll be treated like them. Put your heads on your desks and wait silently until the bell rings.” When the bell rang it was, “You may leave silently. Without saying a word. Goodbye.”
I don’t mind them speaking out. I like having loud, talkative classes. My 6th graders are a total zoo half the time. What I care about, and what really makes me want to cry is the fact that two of the loudest kids in the class are bullies. They’re picking on a boy who is oblivious to the fact that they’re teasing him, being mean to him. I can catch snippets of what they say across the classroom, no matter how far apart I seat them all.
And that’s all that I can hear – snippets. And that’s when I want to cry. Because I can’t hear the rest of it. And I know they’re saying it. At least the snippets and fragments I catch seem to say that. In three years of working in classrooms and over six years working with children in different capacities, this is the first time I’ve really felt like my deafness was a handicap and it’s all because I can’t hear the bullies. It makes me feel like a failure at making my classroom into a safe space for all my students.
I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t fix my hearing – I can’t stop them from saying things I can’t hear. I’ve talked to the school counselor about it; he’s going to have words with the ringleaders tomorrow. This is after I’ve already had stern words with them. Even after this though – they could just be quieter and I would not know. I’ve talked to the counselor about my own fears too and we both drew a blank on coming up with solutions for me that weren’t “pay the best attention you can.”
How can I make up for my hearing loss? How can I protect my students from their bullies? How do I deal with these kids again tomorrow? How can I make my classroom a safe environment for everyone?
N.B. – This post has been edited. Upon reflection, I felt that it was too revealing about my students in a way that does not add to my personal experiences/reflections, and cut out some parts. I would hate for a student to stumble across this blog and feel badly upon reading it.
Since it was originally posted: the meeting with the counselor helped and I got to see some tremendous maturity on the part of some of the students involved. Here’s to a better second semester!