The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

“Am I Doing Good Today?”

Today I was a 4th grade teacher at Robeson Elementary in Champaign for the second day. Today was a pretty good day, although not quite as good as yesterday, despite our goals for improvement. Several of the students were on task and focused all day, but there were also quite a few who were easily distracted and just a bit too edgy. It may have had something to do with the combination of it being Friday and the skies being gloomy and overcast. Still, I enjoyed my day, and was glad that I had no need to employ my stress vein that I like to pretend I have. (I just spent far too much time unsuccessfully looking for a picture of the vein I mean. It is the one on the side of your forehead that feels like it is throbbing when you are stressed. Oh well.)

One of the things that really struck me over the past two days was how often my students kept asking me about their behaviour. The questions were usually things like, “Am I doing good today?” “Are we on your good list?” “How did I do?” “Was I bad today?” “Are you feeling stressed, Mr. V?” Several of these students have known me for a number of years, and I guess they’ve learned to recognise my tells when it comes to how far they’ve pushed me to the brink of insanity. It was kind of depressing, though, when one of the boys decided to write a cinquain about me. (They are doing a poetry unit and write a poem in a different style each day.) I don’t remember the exact wording of it, and I am blanking on the wording, but the thing that made me sad was in the second line, when he had to use two words to describing me, he wrote “Joyfull, screaming” [sic].

Ouch.

I asked him about this, particularly the “screaming” part, and he said, “Don’t you remember last year? You screamed at us all the time!” Then another boy piped up and said, “Yeah, especially when [former classmate’s name] did something!”

Double ouch.

I don’t recall actually screaming, but I do remember having to raise my voice, particularly when the aforementioned student started throwing punches and furniture. It was a stressful year with that class, to be sure.

Fortunately, I have worked hard at improving my classroom management and swallowing my pride by calling on the assistant principal to intervene when things start to get out of hand. As a result, I am a lot less stressed because the class is better managed, and our experiences are much more positive. Now if only I can figure out how to channel the desire to be good into all of the students! (Don’t worry, fellow educators; as soon as I figure it out, I’ll let you all know before I publish a book on it and make millions!)

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