Day 19 (Thursday)

Ok, so I've been slacking off (HAR!) and not updating this thing on a daily basis. My apologies. Over the last few days, I have alternated between being the Best Teacher on Earth, and the Worst Teacher Known to Mankind--sometimes, making the switch several times in an hour.

You know how parents are always saying, "I can't believe it; I open my mouth and I hear my mother's voice come out--I swore I would never say that to my kids," but then they did anyway. It's the same thing with teaching. I'll be in the middle of a lesson that's not going so well, only to interrupt myself with such rhetorical brilliance as: "Excuse me--which one of us is the teacher, and who's the student?" (NOTE: If you ever find yourself asking that question in your own classroom, you've already lost any semblance of control and you're in deep shit.) Anyway, on with the updates.

the bad

You wanna know what was bad? My teaching on Wednesday afternoon, that's what. As far as the students and I were concerned, I was an authoritarian jerk, with absolutely no intrinsic motivation going for me at all. I was only remotely able to control the bad behavior through force, rather than getting anyone to "be good" on their own. In short, it totally blew.

the ugly

Due to there not being enough teachers in Clark County, two of the teachers at my school are getting moved to another school, effective Monday. I won't be one of them, but it's still pretty unfortunate for them. Furthermore, the state is going to cut the school district's budget by $20 million next year. Fabulous.

My girlfriend 'Annalise' just found out that she's getting switched from fifth grade to a second grade position, starting Monday. I suspect I'll be letting her write the ugly portions of this blog over the next few weeks.

Seriously, it's not life or death that teachers are getting moved and switched. But it is pretty unfortunate to work tirelessly for a month+ setting up your room and your routine and all your classroom procedures, only to be told, surprise! Time to move to a grade you've never even conceived of teaching! (Did I mention we don't get paid enough for this? In Clark County School District, new teachers get $15 per hour for a ten hour day--before taxes.)

the good

My little buddy Duane came in for his Required Parent Conference on Wednesday. I gave him a "No Violence Contract" which clearly details the expectations and also provides him with a self-cool-down option that puts him in charge of being proactive in preventing violent behavior. He handled the meeting like a champ, was able to thoroughly explain every part of the contract back to me after I was done with him. Later on that day, all hell broke loose in my classroom, not really because of him, but that's an aforementioned story above.

Today, however, he was of all things, the model student in my classroom. He quietly sat in "attentive listening position" the whole day, and this is a kid with ADHD so severe that even our medically-conservative psychologist said after one minute, "that kid needs a stimulant." But he was perfect in my classroom. He did call out in class exactly three times, landing him at the "Invisible Desk" to go write a letter to Mom (who would never get it because I let them rip it up at the end of the day if their behavior improves), and instead of being irritated, upset, or slamming his chair into his desk and sitting there for ten minutes without starting it, he gently got up, pushed in his chair, walked over and calmly began writing the letter, immediately. I cannot even begin to describe what an incredible accomplishment this was!

I realize as I'm writing this that with Duane, every day is largely up for grabs, but what this told me is that if he can behave perfectly in my class for two hours, certainly his minimal standard of behavior can be raised so long as I've got it together. I have noticed that he responds very well to tangible, positive reinforcements, as opposed to me simply harping on the negatives all the time. So it was a very positive learning experience for both of us.

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