I am always upbeat when I enter my classroom in the morning, and then when I greet my students. The last couple of weeks have been a bit intense for all of us with the writing and revising of argument pieces and preparations for debates. Some children really resist the revision process, although now that we are using Chromebooks, many of them are more willing to make changes. But each morning starts fresh with a world of possibilities! This morning, however, I had to address reoccurring behavior problems with a child and I was not really looking forward to that.
The boy in question has had his ups and downs throughout the year, but he had been doing really well since after the holidays (strange, isn’t it? It’s usually the other way around!). In the past couple of weeks, however, his behavior and work habits reversed back to unacceptable levels so we had to address the problem. A conversation with Mom helped some at first but yesterday was not a good day for him, and he knows it. We step out into the hallway and I talk to him. At my first pause, “Randy” (not his real name! Ha!) proceeds to tell me that I said something to make him upset yesterday and embarrassed him in front of the class. What??? It’s “déjà vu all over again”! This kid likes to take preemptive action with Mom when he knows he is in trouble. I struggle to keep the edge out of my voice, and calmly ask him for clarification. He is unclear about the details and rambles on ending with the mention of witnesses! We end our conversation with the understanding that today will be a better day. As the class switches for science, I discreetly speak with one of the more reliable “witnesses” who says,”What?” and then dismisses the whole thing matter-of-factly, “I think he made it up”.
During my lunch break, I check my email and here it is, Mom’s note asking for answers to her son’s tears and horrible day yesterday, due to my yelling at him as soon as he entered the class and humiliating him in front of the whole class. Now it’s my turn to say, “What???” I vent to my co-teacher for a few minutes. She reminds me that she is in the classroom with me and I certainly did not do anything to even inadvertently humiliate the kid ( isn’t it amazing how good kids are at making you second guess yourself? “I gave it to you, Mrs. Bambara”, being the most common line). Talking with colleagues sometimes is vital to keep your sanity!
At recess, I mention Mom’s email to Randy (keeping it short). We part agreeing that it was a misunderstanding and with Randy smiling. “And, by the way, Randy, where is your reading homework?” “Oh – I left it on my table (at home)”. After bus duty, I go back to my now quiet classroom and write to Mom. Again, I keep it short and offer further contact if my answer is not satisfying. I end by asking her to remind her son to bring in his homework, yesterday’s and today’s.