Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Girl Amidst Chaos

at 7:48 PM
We have 10 days left of school.

I got a new student (new to the district!) last week. Noone responded to my e-mail about a transfer grade, or what to do with her since we were on our final project and she'd missed the lesson. Thankfully she turned out to be amazing.

So... Monday of last week. New student. I have another student explain to her the procedure and the ode, as I deal with my recently-back-from-suspension student and my handful of "bouncers." Now, this is the class with about 4-5 students who exhibit ADHD-like behaviors, who are constantly "bouncing" in an out of seats, groups, desks, classroom. They also tend to be my "bolters" in some cases. It's a hectic class, also my largest. New girl is doing well, so I leave her in the care of my awesome student, and deal with my handfuls.

Our final project is called Ode to the 8th Grade. Students are required to write and present an ode to their 8th grade year. I'm giving them some leeway -- anything that happened this year is fair game. However, an ode must be honoring their year, not dissing it. 

Tuesday, new girl asks me if she has to do it on her 8th grade year. She wants to do it on someone she admires. In exasperation (I'm dealing with twenty other questions at the same time, and my bouncers) I tell her sure.

Wednesday, another teacher, Jake, and I are walking back from lunch. I see a whole ton of students in a large circle.

FYI... Circle of students = fight. Always.

Then I see Beth (my mentor teacher, who is in the classroom next to me) in the middle of the circle.

"Go call the office!" I yell at Jake, and I make my way over to the circle. His classroom is closer. Gabby comes out of her room and she and I start shoo-ing students to their classes. Get rid of the witnesses and hangers-on.

When I get closer, Beth is securing a student who is hell-bent on killing someone. The little girl is spewing profanities and repeating, "I'm going to kill you! I'll f--- you up!"

My class and Beth's class are by our doors, waiting to go in. I call out, "My class! Line up and stay PUT!" I do the same to Beth's class. Then I turn back to make sure Beth is ok. She and a supervisor take the student around the corner of the building, so I start to let my class inside. I turn to find my class lined up. My "bouncers" were all in line... someone found them and kept them where they belonged. I was in shock. I unlock the door, turn back to my class, and the student comes barreling through my line, intent on finding her original target. I didn't think. I jumped in front of her. She pushes me out of the way, and ends up in Beth's arms again. At this point the principal comes out of nowhere, grabs the girl, and pushes her into my open classroom. The supervisor follows, and I close the door behind them.

I turn back to my still-perfectly-lined-up class. I take a deep breath, look them all in the eye, and say, "Breathe."

One of my "bouncers" asks to go to the water fountain (so he can see the girl he is assuming is now in the hallway).
"But I'm really thirsty!"
"I need you to stay here right now."
"But I really need something to drink."
"I'll give you a water bottle when we get in class, but I need you here."


I open the door to see if it's clear, and it is. I bring the kiddos inside. They're in shock.
They kind of shake themselves and pull them out. Oh yea, routine...
As I'm stamping agendas, a kid calls out.

"She's is soooo expelled! She hit two teachers!"

This reminds a student.

"Ms. B-, are you ok?"

I try to smile at them. "I'm fine." As I say this, I trip over a chair. his credit, my main "bouncer" covered his face with both his arms and tried really hard not to laugh. I made eye contact with him and smiled.

"It's ok. It's funny. I tripped. You can laugh."

He busts up. The rest of the class has a nervous giggle. It breaks the tension.

I start my lesson. I'm going over presentation skills for their odes. I'm keeping to the basics, and I want my students to practice so they speak fluently. The slide says "No pauses. No stuttering/tripping over words." I haven't started to explain the slide when my new girl raises her hand.

Using the best academic language I've ever heard, she basically asks if it's ok to pause if the pause is planned. (I wish I could remember her exact words. It was impressive.)

... my main "bouncer" stands up from his desk in the front row, turns around in a very exaggerated way, arms out like "woah, woah, woah" -- and calls out "Who ARE you?!" ...she's been in class for 3 days...

Chaos ensues.

"She's smarter than [straight A student's name]!"

"I don't even know what she just asked!"

...after waiting for my class to calm down, I answer her question.

Next day. She comes up to me with her rough draft. I've told students to have their drafts peer edited by 3 people before showing me, for approval to move on to their final draft. She hands me her poem about Poe and says, "I would have it peer edited but... I don't think anyone would understand the subtleties..." I take it from her.
"No problem." I read and and hand it back. "Go ahead on your final draft."

I'm no longer worried about a transfer grade for her.


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