I have fallen in love with this blog and the opportunity it presents me to share with all of you the amazing and heartbreaking things that happen when ETC goes to the schools, yet I have a habit of wanting to share only the good. Believe me, this job has it's discouraging days, too. It isn't all about rainbows and mermaids! Part of being a teacher and a teaching artist is accepting that there are many things with children that are completely outside of your control.
A few weeks ago, a student (not one of mine) took a swing at me. when I asked and then told him to stop disturbing my class after a full 30 minutes of struggling to keep him from interfering with the group. My class was in the 'Cafetorium,' a hybrid of auditorium and cafeteria that is rarely conducive to using either space truly effectively in my opinion. The student was washing the tables after lunch, but he preferred to slap my students on the back of the head with his wet rag. The classroom teacher told him to stop, and after he yelled and took a swing at her, escorted him out of the room. He proceeded to run around the hall and come back in the side door and return to his disruptive behavior. When I asked and then told him to stop disturbing my class (after a full 30 minutes of struggling to keep him from interfering with the group and keep the kids engaged) he took a swing at me as well. I wasn't hurt, and I was truthfully more angry than afraid – a very bad day indeed. When I finished my classes for the day and headed home, I called my mother to discuss the day. Being a former high school English teacher, she took the situation rather philosophically.
"He took a swing at me!" I said, indignant.
"He missed, I hope." she calmly replied.
I remembered that my mother had suffered through many pranks, broken up several fights, and even had dead birds placed on her car. Through the years there had been mice and even snakes in her classroom, BB's thrown at her, and numerous cuss-outs. Looking at it from that perspective, I'd been pretty lucky.
Please understand, I don't share this to worry or upset anyone, just to paint as accurate a picture as possible of our actual interactions in the schools. I don't have any answers for this and many of the other issues faced in schools across the country everyday, but I do know this: people who feel that they are being heard are usually less frustrated and destructive than those who feel that their feelings are being disregarded. Though I was primarily focused on protecting and conducting my class, it is my job to give all students a voice and it is quite likely that I failed that particular boy that day. Though he wasn't one of my students, he was a kid who obviously needed someone's attention. I can only strive to listen and give more in the future.
Days like that are exceedingly rare, and they are more than made up for with hugs, laughter, proud smiles, and crayon drawings. Later that week, I went back to the school and the teacher handed me a sheaf of cards the children had made. They were darling drawings and precious letters that, as such things usually do, brought tears to my eyes. Here are a few:
How could anyone be discouraged with letters like that??