Today I was a 5th grade teacher at Stratton Elementary in Champaign. I have subbed for quite a few teachers at Stratton this year, but this was the first time subbing for this particular teacher. I had hopes that things would go well when I saw that her class had “Guest Teacher Agreement”. This document outlined the expectations of the class when they have a guest teacher (which is what they refer to substitutes at Stratton). It included items like “meet expectations”, “stay on task”, and “treat everyone with respect”.
Alas, several members of the class seemed to think that this agreement did not apply to them, or that it didn’t apply to me. It was a bit frustrating. Half the class was awesome! They followed rules, did their work, stayed on task, and were generally great. They were engaged and helped one another and they helped me. The others, though, seemed to do everything they could to drive me crazy. Talking, running around the room, treating everyone disrespectfully, and shooting things across the room with rubber bands. One boy was removed from the class after lunch when he started chasing and kicking a classmate. Another got kicked out with just five minutes to go after saying some incredibly disrespectful things to me.
I find that the only way to get through a day like today is to ask for serenity NOW and to remind myself that the students are not lashing out against me–they are lashing out against the environment. It is hard to not take it personally, though. Especially when a student starts mocking my speech patterns. Yes, I am practically deaf in one ear, have moderate hearing loss in the other and, as a result, I have a speech impediment. I’ve generally come to accept that I have corrected as much of my speech as possible, but I know that I don’t sound the way others do. (Whatever that actually means… After all, nobody sounds exactly like another person.) Most students are mature enough to accept my speech patterns without a problem. But some feel it is necessary to point them out. I’ll admit it: it hurts. It hurts that a 10-year-old believes it is acceptable to treat others differently because they are different. It hurts to realise that this kid is going to grow up to be a bully. It hurts to realise that I have very few chances to teach him otherwise, and I fear that his teachers won’t be successful, either.
Then I remember that kids who are bullies are able to grow out of it. Kids who are bullied are able to escape the cycle of bully-or-be-bullied. Teachers are able to have a positive impact. By seeking for inner peace, taking lots of deep breaths, and shedding the frustrations at the end of the day, I am able to move on and even return. Which is what I will hopefully do one day. I love seeing how these kids change. I’ve seen it happen before. I hope to see it happen again and again and again.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep taking deep breaths and asking for serenity.