Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day #16

"You can't handle sixth graders," Q-tip says to the social studies teacher. "You should maybe teach third grade. Or second!" This, from one of the better-behaved young ladies in the school, a true brainiac. She's developing a smart mouth and an attitude worthy of the March already.

Right now the entire sixth grade team is struggling to "handle" the sixth graders. The classes are too big, there are exactly ZERO one-on-one special educators in the building (and we need at least 12 of them for the three classes I teach, according to the IEPs). Today a new student transferred in. The first page of her IEP has a warning in large bold caps: "This student will disrupt class. She is a constant distraction to her classmates and her teachers. She needs one-on-one attention." She is the sixth such student in my second period class--out of 22. I have no one-on-ones, I have no special educator, and I have no co-teacher that period. It is a constant war to keep the class from total chaos when there are six students who climb on chairs and who throw tantrums for no apparent reason.

Last period I have 30 students, with a further five behavioral/learning disabled IEP students. Until this week they gave me a co-teacher and a special educator, but now I have lost them. The co-teacher has been pulled to teach in the Library last period (I don't understand why the librarian can't teach Library class?). Also, the special educator has been told she needs to service two other full-size classes last period, on top of mine. So she is my room about 15 out of the 90 minutes. Meanwhile I have her kids shouting "I need help!" every two seconds while I'm trying to teach the class. I can't read directly to these kids, or do their other accommodations, without five heads and all hands on deck. So they derail the entire lesson, through no fault of their own. We're talking severely emtionally disturbed children, some of whom have a propensity to violence, defiance, and self-mutilation.

But somehow I am regarded as relatively "on top" of behavior management. I find this ridiculous. I'd hate to see what's going on in other rooms if mine is any kind of model. The gym teacher hit my cell ten minutes into my planning period; I had to go and remove Mohair from the gym because he was out of control. The gym teacher is a long-time vet of the DC school system, a guy who has been an assistant football coach at several colleges and universities. And Mohair is 4 feet tall. But I have seen his handiwork when he is having a bad day-and he's only one in that crew. I took Mohair back to my room and spent my planning time showing him how to use the Internet. The gym teacher owes me.

I will build alliances one by one if necessary. I get more kids on my side, they will help keep their classmates in line.

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