Thursday, October 2, 2008

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst of Times

Today, I volunteered in both kids' classrooms, with Patrick in the morning, and Josie in the afternoon. I had originally planned only on Josie's class, but at the walk-a-thon yesterday (the grand prize for which was won by a girl with thirteen aunts and uncles, BTW) Patrick's teacher came over and asked if I could help her today, so I went in.

Like last time, when I arrived in Ms. N's class, the little K students were getting ready to sit in a circle and sing their morning songs. There was a neat list for me of things that she needed help with at the table in the back of the room, which was light copying, putting homework into kids' binders, and then working with the kids individually on a pattern project where they took colored stars they had made and glued them to a paper band, which I then stapled into a crown that they could wear. It was adorable, and the kids were happy to do it, as usual. When circle time was over, the kids divided into three groups - writing, reading, and centers, and did what they were supposed to do while classical music played from Ms. N's player. It was a very nice hour and a half. Ms. N is a very sweet, rainbows-shooting-out-of-her-butt kind of teacher, but you can also tell that there's something a lot more sassy under there, too. I like her a lot.

I then ran some errands, came home to let the dogs out, and went back to the school after lunch to help Josie's teacher, Ms. M, with reading.

There was no one in the classroom when I got there, so I waited for about ten minutes, and when the kids came in from lunch/recess, many of them said 'hi' to me (they remembered me from the field trip) but Ms. M marched right past me without a glance. I know she saw me, she just didn't speak. She then proceeded to IGNORE ME for close to fifteen minutes more while she attempted to get the group of kids to settle down and copy their homework down into their binders and begin independent reading. I say 'attempted' because it did not work. Period. I would say that out of 25 kids in the class, MAYBE five of them did what they were told. The rest of them kept talking, walking around, and, in two boys' case, throwing things at each other (paper, pencils, etc, in a play way, not a fighting way). Meanwhile, she was mitigating an argument between two girls, and occasionally throwing out commands for people to sit down, be quiet, etc, which the children basically ignored. Once she was done with that, she finally came over to me, said something about them being crazy after lunch, and said that I would be working one-on-one with kids, whoever I chose, and that they should read aloud to me. Since there was nowhere for me to take the kids, literally not an extra pair of chairs or surface in the room, I simply chose a child from Josie's cluster of seats and brought her to the front of the room to sit with me on the floor while Ms. M took the first reading group to the table. I'm not kidding you, she had to stop every few minutes to ask for quiet, and it was so loud in there from children talking and horsing around that the kids I was working with had to read to me in a normal tone of voice rather than a hushed one!

Josie was the third child I took, and in the hubbub I asked her if it was always like this, and she said, 'yeah, pretty much.' I asked her if she liked it in this class, or if she thought she might like it better in the other class, but she said no, she was fine where she was.

It only got worse from there, too; after the first group finished at the table and the next one went up, I was sitting on the floor with R, a boy with serious ADD, and one of the boys threw a spitball at him, which actually landed on me!!!! Can you imagine, actually doing something like that to someone who's SITTING WITH an adult?!?! I knew who had done it, too, and he knew I knew, so rather than get up and get Ms. M, who obviously wasn't in control of anything, I simply stared at the boy for about three minutes straight, while he sank lower and lower in his seat. R was upset, though, and stood up in the middle of the room and yelled to his teacher finally, 'MS M - WHO THREW THIS AT ME?!?!' She actually said, I kid you not, 'I don't know, R, sit down.' ?! He had something thrown at him, complained, and she didn't care. This says to me that either it happens all the time, so she doesn't care anymore, or she has so little control that that's the least of her problems. I think it's a combination of both, really.

After a few more minutes, Ms. M abruptly stood up and announced that it was the end of reading time, put away your books, it's time to do testing drills. She didn't look at me, and since I was scheduled to be there 90min, and I had only been there an hour (with almost half of that being waiting or being ignored by her at the beginning), I figured I was supposed to help. WRONG. She completely ignored me again, until finally I decided that I must be supposed to leave, so I got my purse, and only then did she say a terse, 'thank you'. That was it.

I was entirely shell-shocked. When I went back in another hour to pick up the kids, while we walked home I asked her again whether she was OK in that class, and whether she felt like she was able to learn in there. She said that she was used to it, and just tuned it out, which seemed to be true, since literally (and I'm not bragging here), out of her table of five kids, the ADD boy R was talking to himself, the other three were loudly talking and laughing with each other, and she was sitting there reading silently. I don't think this was because I was there, because she comes home with perfect scores on behavior every day, and although I know she's far from perfect, she's never been a discipline problem in school.

I'm slated to go into this class every Tues and Thurs afternoon for reading, lucky me. I'm torn between running for the hills screaming and barging in there every single afternoon!!! It's obvious that there's no effective discipline - even one of the girls in the class smart-mouthed her back when she asked a rhetorical 'why do you all think you can act like that?' with 'because you're too soft!' The girl got a nasty look, but she was speaking the truth. Also, several of the children are entirely disrespectful, sassy creatures. I was tempted to go straight to the principal's office once I escaped the classroom, but decided that I should wait until I go in again and can speak of a pattern that I've personally seen, rather than based on Josie's stories and my one time in the room. I know this isn't a new teacher, because she actually taught at the school Josie was at last year, but lost her job when the school was redistricted. The ignoring parents thing isn't new for her, either - she wasn't very friendly on the field trip, either. Maybe she's got a lack of confidence thing going or something, which would explain both her behavior towards me and the kids' lack of respect for her. Either way, WHOA.

Anyone with older kids have any input on this? I mean, I know better than to think that a K class and a 4th grade room would be alike, but to me this seems extreme. As long as Josie doesn't mind, and is learning, I suppose it's not a huge thing for her, especially since her most challenging work is done outside the classroom with the enrichment teacher, but still. And I have NO idea how to talk to the principal about this. I don't want to sound preachy-parenty, but I think if this really is a pattern, something needs to be done to help restore some kind of order in the room.


Anonymous said...

Holy crap, that is incredibly wrong on so many levels. I really feel for you!

creative kerfuffle said...

wow. has josie's teacher been teaching a long time? she sounds burnt out. she sounds completely opposite from patrick's teacher. i think you witness a few more afternoons and then by all means talk to the principal.
if josie is anything like the girl, and i think they are, she probably wouldn't tell you if she were having problems, even slight problems, in the class because she doesn't want to rock the boat.
sadly i think this probably happens in more classrooms than we realize. the girl comes home almost daily talking about how kids don't pay attention or talk back to the teacher or CUSS (in 6th grade!) i'm all for the f-bomb lord knows, but i never, ever thought about saying it in 6th grade.

Melissa said...

That was insane, I am not looking forward to the school years. I can tell you though that I would have thought the younger kiddies were harder to settle than the older ones. I don't think the teacher is the only reason why those kids are acting that way too. Having no discipline at home or at school would just about do anyone in dealing with classroom of kids. I would only imagine going to the principal would do no harm either, maybe for the teacher to buck up but the kids aren't afraid of a teacher or an adult why the principal. Good luck..keep us updated!!

d e v a n said...

yikes. Can you talk to her and ask if she needs some help with discipline? That is so tough.

LoriD said...

Oh man. That situation is so unfair to the kids who want to learn, but can't tune it out. I think you should go one more time and see if it's more of the same. If it is, you need to talk to the teacher, then the principal. There needs to be a plan to get that classroom under control.

And what's up with ignoring your VOLUNTEER? Lack of confidence is no excuse for lack of manners.

Kristi said...

What an awful situation! Kids know what they can get away with, and they will totally take advantage of a situation in which they aren't disciplined.

I can't believe she would ignore you! She's probably just embarrassed you had to see how little control she has over her classroom!