I have worked with students for so long that I consider myself a caring and flexible person – I lay out the expectations for both me and my students. We work along those guidelines, and have for the most part, worked out issues and concerns with positive results. In the most challenging situations, it came down to "you don't have to like me, but you do have to respect me." That was my "bottom" and fortunately the teacher and student situation improved after that statement, but now I find myself challenged.
The more I show concern and caring, the harder these kids (only about three) push away from me and the class. I keep a positive outlook until I realize they DO NOT care and DO NOT want to be in school. The public school environment does not work for them and at this point, they do not have any other option. I have spoken to their teachers and most share my sentiment. I spend more time trying to "hook" them and it is exhausting; even stressful now for a couple of these teachers and me. I have spoken to counselors about their performance and behavior in class. I have conferenced with them and they tell me outright that they will not respect the classroom rules, procedures, or teacher!
It is humbling, to say the least, that I have stumbled a beginning teacher situation – establishing respect from students. I took it for granted that I could easily maneuver in my student relationships. My solution is to remove them from my class, but I am told that is not an option. What now? Back to my drawing board, along with catching up on lesson plans, developing learning profiles, and grading student work. The past couple of days have been overwhelming and I know my students feel my energy and they begin to respond accordingly.
I know, call the parents – but they do not listen or respect their parents too. Today they left class and I felt drained and did not want to take that energy into the next class coming in. My next class had sensed the decrease in my energy level the previous day and it affected them because it had affected me. So – rather than go on with my planned lesson, I changed it for my new class. We worked with clay to review the writing process and to encourge them to focus on the topic for their personal narrative. I knew if I attempted what I had "taught" with the difficult class, I'd get tense.
It worked. I laughed and teased with my students. They were energized and engaged (the magic word) as they molded their sculptures. I asked a ton of questions throughout the lesson – can someone else create what you are making right now? How does it feel to create this piece? Does it come out exactly like you want at your first attempt? Then I share that I would like to see the same excitement and eagerness as they create their personal narrative – that their creations will be unique and all their own and it will take several attempts to see the finished product. The process of creating a sculpture and writing a narrative require the same energy. The light in their eyes reminded me of my role as teacher – not lesson planner, grader, or authorative figure difficult students want to bring down, but patient, curious, and amazed. Now, that is something I can control.