Awful

October 23, 2009 at 10:43 am 4 comments

My junior class makes me miss my seventh graders so much.

Probably I handled this entirely wrongly. I’m not sure I care.

Remember Noisy Boy? Well, he’s going to need a real name, I think, because I suspect we’re going to get to talk about him a lot. I’m told that there’s a softer side to him, so for now, let’s call him Hyde – maybe eventually I’ll meet Jekyll.

Hyde has issues. Let’s not forget that. Hypothetically, his behavior is not his fault. He’s supposed to have severe ADHD. He’s adopted, and I don’t know what the story is behind that. If I had to guess, based on his behavior, I’d say there’s some trauma there – some sort of “my parents didn’t want me, so who the hell cares who I am or how I act” feeling.

He’s angry, and he’s irritated, and he’s bored, and he could give a damn.

Yesterday we were reading Act II of “The Crucible.” A couple of talented student readers were reading the main roles, and doing a great job at it. It was interesting, understandable, and even – as junior English goes – enjoyable. Most of the kids were into it. Hyde, however, was refusing to look at a book, rocking his chair to the point where it almost fell over several times, and disrupting his cousin. I quietly told him to put his chair down and read along; he physically resisted me.

Later, he put his head down and went to sleep. I might would have ignored it – probably every teacher occasionally makes the decision that a sleeping kid is better than a disruptive one – but he was showing so much underwear that I couldn’t let it go. Without interrupting the reading, I woke him and told him he needed to pull up his pants. He told me (loudly) that there was nothing wrong with his pants, and put his head back down. At that point, I recognized that continuing the conversation would definitely disrupt class, so I waited.

After the reading was done, he immediately came to life and began bugging another student, taking her things and rooting through her bag. I pulled him aside and tried to talk to him about his attitude. He threw himself onto a desk, began twisting back and forth, rolling his eyes and making faces at me. He told me that the reading was boring and stupid, that he didn’t know or care what was going on, and that my entire class was boring and stupid.

I asked him what his goals were, what he wanted. He told me that I wasn’t allowed to talk to him, that he didn’t have to answer any of my questions. I told him that he should, because I was trying to respect him and talk to him like an adult. I asked the question again. He began saying “I dunno” over and over and over again, like a six year old having a tantrum. I finally told him that I was going to have to write him up if he couldn’t behave any better than this, and he told me that I didn’t have the right to write him up for not answering a question. I walked away and called security.

While waiting for security to show up, I tried to wrangle my class back under control. They’d had ten minutes to begin working on the assignment, and had taken that ten minutes to pack up, walk around the room, move desks around, and throw all the cushions off of the sofa. I stood in front of the door and told them that no one was leaving until I saw people in their desks working on the classwork.

The bell rang, and – knowing I meant business – the class remained seated. I said that anyone who had 5 or more of the questions answered could show me their work and go; two students did. Challenging Boy (Hyde’s cousin) tried to sneak past me and was sent back to his seat. As the halls filled, I let those with 4 questions done go, then 3 questions. Several kids, figuring I’d eventually let everyone go, just sat there. I stopped before the 2 question release and told them that no one was allowed to go without showing me at least one completed question. Backpacks flew open.

Hyde tried to storm out of the room. I blocked the door and told him he had to show me one answer. A few kids came by with an answered question and I let them go. Hyde came up with a one-word, incorrect answer scrawled on a sheet of paper. I told him it was wrong, and asked if he could tell me what the question was. (He hadn’t even opened the book.) He went over to his cousin’s desk and began loudly commenting on the stupidity of it all. Most of the class correctly answered the first question and was released. My next class was waiting in the hall to enter.

Meanwhile, security still hadn’t shown up.

Hyde went over to my printer and jerked out a sheet of paper. (I realized later that he nearly broke the paper tray in the process.) A moment later he came up to the door with an incomprehensible scrawl, covering the entire page in one-inch-high letters. I looked at him. “Hyde, I’m not accepting this. You’re a young adult and you can’t turn in work that looks like this. You need to do this correctly.”

At this point he began yelling at me.

“YOU’RE PISSING ME OFF,” he yelled.

“You’re not exactly making me very happy, either,” I responded.

“Well, that’s just great. You want a cookie?” he snarled. “What’s the big deal? I’m just going to throw it away the minute I leave this stupid room anyway.”

He crumpled up the sheet of paper, threw it across the room, and stomped back to my desk. He took another sheet of paper out of the printer, sat down, and rewrote his answer, this time making some approximation at correct assignment format. He shoved it under my face, and I took a moment to read it. It was close enough.

“I’ll accept that,” I said, “but for now, you need to take a seat.”

“Well that’s just great. I’m having fun now,” he said.

He threw himself into a seat. I ignored him and called security again. There’d been a miscommunication; they thought he just needed to go to the bathroom. (He’s on a hall freeze list.) Then they got confused when I said he was still in my room. They tried to tell me just to send him down the hall and they’d meet him; I refused, knowing he’d never show up.

Finally a security guard arrived, with apologies about the confusion. I explained the situation and handed him the hastily written referral slip that I’d been working on, off and on, for the past fifteen minutes. Hyde saw the guard and stood up, throwing his crumpled-up assignment across the room as he went. My classroom full of sophomores tried not to stare.

God, a third period like that makes me appreciate my fourth period so much. I wanted to cry, but they were smiling and joking, and I just smiled at them and was so happy that I had some nice kids to balance out the deeply troubled (and troubling) ones. They began writing spooky stories for our end-of-October formal writing assignment, and I played “Monster Mash” and “Thriller” and “I Put a Spell on You.”

I don’t know what to do with Hyde. I really don’t.

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Entry filed under: BAD BEHAVIOR, BAD DAY, STUDENTS.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joyce  |  October 27, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I feel so sorry for all teachers that have a “Hyde” in their class, especially at the high school level. I am a retired elementary teacher, 1st and 2nd grade, and retired in 2005 because I was soooo sick and tired of the mountains of paper work required to make sure there was “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND”. I subbed two days at our high school last school year and said NEVER again. The kids were rude, disrespectful and didn’t care one bit about their education. Of course high school teachers as well as grades 2 through 12 are all being held “accountable” for test scores. BS !!!! I did NOT go to college 5 years, master’s degree, to be their mom, self esteem cheerleader, ego stroker, baby sitter, etc. Then they go into the REAL world thinking they deserve the same from an employer and be paid top dollar for working when they feel like it.

    Bless you and all teachers. I hope someday people wake up and understand a teacher is there to TEACH not be the answer to every need of their students. Parents should be MADE to send a child to school that is ready to learn. This includes respect, accountability, etc. BUT good luck ever getting it; seems as if EVERY flaw in students is directly related to their teachers.

    Reply
  • 2. Molly  |  October 28, 2009 at 7:24 am

    OMG. I can relate. I have some of the worst behaved, most disrespectful sophomores I have ever imagined in my classes right now. Keep your chin up. Maybe some of your collegues have more success with “Hyde”? Perhaps an email to his other teachers asking if they have methods, ideas, or tricks that help them to relate to or reach this kid…..

    Somedays I have to remind myself that I cannot throw a kid out the window.

    Good Luck.

    Reply
  • 3. teachin'  |  October 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    He’s supposed to have ADHD? Because, uh, that’s not an excuse for just being an asshole, which is how it sounds.

    You mentioned an IEP in your other post – what are his goals? Does he have academic goals that he’s not reaching? Have you talked to his case manager about his behavior? If you can’t meet the terms of the IEP because of the environment he’s in, that’s a problem. I’d take it up with admin/special ed from a legal responsibility standpoint – you’re on the hook if he’s not getting his mandated services from you, so I’d document and then talk to your union rep (do you have a union?) if admin and sped are unresponsive to your concerns.

    Any chance this kid is also ED? I don’t know the full situation, nor am I an expert, but he sounds more like my most challenging ED student than any of my ADHD kids. Granted, I’m in 8th grade, not 11th, but still.

    And I agree that of course he has reasons for his behavior, but in two years, once he’s out of high school, no one’s going to care and he’s going to be screwed. He needs to get this figured out NOW, and he’s going to need an advocate to help him with that. Whether that’s you (I probably wouldn’t particularly want it to be me, based off this story, but maybe you feel differently), or his case manager, or a counselor, or an outside mentor, this kid needs help. I haven’t read your blog so I don’t know if you’d want to take that on, but…..might be worth it, at least a little bit.

    Reply
  • 4. More about Hyde « Full of Bees!  |  October 29, 2009 at 10:52 am

    […] 29, 2009 Several people commented on my post about “Hyde,” my junior for whom the best metaphor (thus far) seems to be a hand grenade tossed into my class. I […]

    Reply

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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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