Fights, drama, and everything wrong…

People always warned me when I was going into education that high school girls love drama. As a teacher I would see bits and pieces over the years but as a principal I see so much more. The drama they have hasn’t changed much since my high school days but the ways of coping have become so much more…emotional and sometimes violent. Maybe it’s just my district but the fights have gotten out of control and it’s all fueled by Facebook and Twitter.

Just recently, we had a large fight between a group of girls. After the fact, no one could tell why they were fighting, just that someone said something on Facebook and “put my name in her mouth”. Never mind that it was months ago that this happened, they still had a score to settle that was made bigger by everyone putting their $.02 into it. Sadly to say, because the fight took place in the school building, none of these ladies are still in attendance.

Also, with fights, drama, and other issues, it’s no longer handled out of school. There is no discussion, no problem solving, no ignoring the nonsense. Everything is brought to school. For example, Student T has an issue with Student A. A and T have been friends but there is some issue with some belongings each has of the others. Instead of having parents help out and get the belongings back, Student T has brought it to school and now wants to fight Student A. Student T is going around the building telling anyone who will listen that Student A has my stuff and if I don’t get it back I “want my round” (want to fight). No discussion, no “Hey, here’s your stuff, can I have mine?”, nothing. In the meantime, Student A has been in my office 3 or 4 times crying and hyperventilating and letting Student T control her life.  So what initially started outside of school between A and T, has now become 15 or so girls all involved and invested and taking sides and encouraging a fight, and a disruption to the education of all involved.

I had a mom a couple weeks ago scream at me (over the phone), “You motherfucker, you have lost your passion for kids and your job”. I wish this was a lie to just make the blog better. It’s really not though. This was because I called to tell her that her son was being rude and disrespectful to a teacher who was discussing his attendance issues with him. He then became rude and disrespectful to me. When I called her she verbally abused me for 15 minutes on the phone and called me every last name in the book. When she came into my office about 10 minutes later, the secretary actually had two police officers come in because she was afraid of what this mom might do. When she finally calmed down and asked why we never notified her of her son’s attendance or behavior issues, we told her that we’ve called and left messages that were never returned and then handed her a stack of over 20 letters that were sent to her home and returned to the school due to an incorrect address in our school data system. After that she told us, “Don’t ever fucking call my phone again, I don’t have time for this shit, you deal with it” and walked out of our office. I wonder just where her son gets it. You can bet your last dollar I won’t make the mistake of calling her again.

This is a true statement on society. If you look at schools across the country, the instances of violence are surging. There are so many great things happening in our schools but the violence is overshadowing them. Just recently I read in the news, of several different instances of students being stabbed to death and killed, in school, because of a relatively minor problem. Parents have stopped helping and tell us, “It’s the school’s fault, they didn’t stop it”. When will parents step up and take responsibility for what their children are doing outside of school that is causing the issues inside of the school? As I sat through expulsion hearings, the hearing officer who is a former superintendent of schools asked the parents that question, “When are you and your child going to take responsibility for the actions instead of blaming everyone else and the school?” One parent was so pissed off when she was asked that question, she got up and walked out of the expulsion hearing telling us, “I don’t need to hear this” despite the fact that her child had been one of the biggest issues in the reason for the expulsion hearing in the first place. A small majority of parents have decided that it’s the schools responsibility to “raise the child” and it’s becoming such an issue.

Is it summer yet…

Student: Mrs. XYZ, What is “Saynco day Mayo? (totally pronounced wrong), I just saw it on my Snapchat.
Me: Stare face of death
Class: WE JUST DISCUSSED THIS AND WATCHED A VIDEO ON IT.
Me: Continues to stare in disbelief
Class: Where have you been for the last 1/2 of class?
Student: I, um, I am just kidding, ‘nervous laugh’

I’m still grumbling

Today I assigned a WebQuest. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s basically the students have to go online and search for information about a topic and then complete an assignment as they go along. I found a great one dealing with the topic that we are currently learning about in class and thought they would have fun with it. Most are and have said so. It’s a change a pace from grammar and vocabulary drills we do on Quizlet in the computer lab.

One student however is refusing to do the work. Why you may ask. Because I won’t help him. Ok so that is a total lie. I helped him and told him exactly what to do. His problem is that he didn’t pay a bit of attention to me telling him how to start and where to go. He was too busy reading his text messages and SnapChats as they came in. Finally after him asking me 3 times what to do but not listening I told him, “I obviously cannot help you if you won’t listen to my instructions of GO INTO YOUR EMAIL AND CLICK ON THE ONE I SENT YOU AT 7:00AM THIS MORNING AND THEN CLICK ON THE LINK IN THE EMAIL TO OPEN THE DOCUMENT”. He did that and then immediately said, “now what?” I told him to read the directions that are typed in red and in bold font. He whined and said, “Can’t you just do this for me?” No, nope, uh uh, no way, not happening. At that point he just turned off his computer and said, “Well if you won’t help me, I just won’t do it”.

This all goes back to last week and the sense of entitlement. “Why can’t you do it for me” is a question I hear about 100 times a week. Whether it is not knowing the meaning of a word and I tell them to look it up, to doing an assignment, to getting their work in, to completing a fun online activity. I actually had a student ask me to take their test for them in class. I do not understand where they come up with that. I mean, I have graduated from high school, I have multiple degrees and certifications, and I’ve done my homework the entire time. No one has ever done it for me. Why should I do anyone else’s homework?

I had another student today ask me for a favor. It happens often and usually it’s something simple. Today, this student wanted me to lie for her so she can go to prom. She was with a teacher during some class period and left with a pass to go to her next class. Somewhere between point A and point B she lost the pass. Her teacher wouldn’t allow her in class, excused, without the pass and told her it would be an unexcused tardy unless she went back and either found her pass or got the teacher to write another pass. The teacher wouldn’t re-write a pass stating, “you shouldn’t have lost the first one” and sent her to her class for her unexcused tardy. The situation is, if you get 3 unexcused tardies in a certain timeframe before prom, you can’t go and this was #3. She wanted me to call her teacher and lie and say, “Oh, So-and-so was with me, can you excuse her tardy”. I told her in no uncertain terms would I lie for her or for anyone. I am not going to get myself in trouble for any reason. She was so pissed and told me, “but I already bought my dress and now it’s your fault I won’t be able to go”. How is this my fault? Because I won’t lie for her. Not her fault that she lost the pass, not her fault that she can’t get to other classes on time, not her fault at all…

Someone just keep reminding me we just have one short month left before summer.

 

Spring Grumbles

Do you ever sit back and wonder how today’s teens are going to make it through life? They all want the easy way, all the answers with none of the work. They want it their way or no way. I’ve been listening to teenagers since I turned 13 (nearly 30 years ago) and it just seems to get worse. I know every generation blames the one before and weeps for the future ones but from speaking with many of my colleagues all over the country, we are all having the same experiences.

I belong to a page on Facebook with teachers from all over the world who teach the same subject I do and this post came up yesterday. You could almost read the tears and frustrations of these very professional people about what happened to them. This one post almost negated the positive posts that usually occur daily. Yes, I know, misery loves company and all that, but this post felt different.

One teacher from Iowa wrote “that’s how I felt yesterday I wanted to cry not for sadness but cry because I was so frustrated with the attitude and disrespect.”

Another from Georgia wrote, “It is scary to see their lack of work ethic and laziness. I’ve had some very trying days this year too.”

The one though that best described all of our days was this one from a teacher in New York. She wrote, “Is it just me or do too many students seem not to care; do their own work; and treat teachers with terrible disrespect!? I don’t want to be negative but, today was such a trying day. I put so much time and effort into my lessons only for some students to stomp all over it.”

So why is this generation so different than the last? Why do they always look for the easy way out? Is it the blame of the parents? Of society? Of technology? A combination? This is something that can’t be easily answered. I have noticed that since technology and phones have become more prevalent, I have had more discipline issues. Students have an online persona that isn’t who they really are but that online persona has become them. They feel if they act a certain way online, that is how they have to act in person because they have to keep up the appearances. For example, I have a student who can be the nicest and sweetest kid. I’ve met the student’s mom and know that she is a good kid for her. Yet, in class she’s loud, brash, obnoxious, talks about fighting, and generally can be a “shit stirrer” in the worst way. I also know she is this way online because we have developed a trusting relationship where she will confide in me and show me if something is going on. Why does this online persona have to be out all the time? Why does she even have this online persona? Why can’t she be confident enough in herself to just be who she is. I guess that is the million dollar question.

As for my day yesterday, 4 out of my 5 classes were awesome. Sure, some issues here and there but no day in a classroom is ever perfect. That other class though, WHOOOO MAN! It’s a class that is immediately after the freshman lunch hour. The majority of the class are freshman students. There are some very strong personalities in there and yesterday it all came to a head. I was giving new vocabulary and practicing it with the class. Three girls in the back of the room were holding a very loud and lengthy conversation about who knows what. I asked them very nicely to stop talking and to pay attention. I asked again. I asked a 3rd time. At that point I stopped the class and took a assessment about what was going on. Of the 14 kids who were in class, only 3 were paying attention. Beside my 3 girls talking, I had 3 boys goofing around, two kids sleeping, one on his phone, and two girls who were half paying attention to me and half to their phones hidden in backpacks. I just about lost it. It really was not my best teaching ever, actually close to my worst. I knew I didn’t have a strong lesson plan for this activity but I didn’t realize how weak it really was. I again asked the entire class to put away phones and to focus on the vocabulary and to stop talking. Apparently my 3 girls took offense to me telling them a 4th time to stop talking and they proceeded to become angry she-beasts. Mouthing off, getting louder, pointing out what everyone else was or wasn’t doing, how dare you call me out, making snide jokes and laughing at me, etc…. I finally told them, we have 5 weeks left of this school year. You can tolerate me and my rules for 5 weeks or you can drop to a study hall and see me again next year to enjoy the same rules and lessons again. I then said, “I am done correcting bad behaviors that you should have learned were unacceptable in a classroom back in kindergarten, If you continue after this, I will be forced to write a referral for you each day that you choose to break the rules”. I then went back to teaching and it was more productive for the rest of the class except the 3 girls just kept talking. I wrote referrals for them and put it out of my mind for the day. The stress isn’t worth it.

This whole thing got me to thinking. What would have happened in my days of high school learning if this happened in a classroom. Then I realized, it never would have. We were taught from day one by our parents how to respect teachers and adults. We were taught to question authority but in a productive and polite way. We learned that the teacher had the ultimate authority in the classroom and they were to be listened to. Now, it’s opposite. Parents tell their kids, “You don’t have to listen, you do what you have to do.” and “I don’t care what the teacher just said, you tell me what happened?” What happened to standing up for the teacher? The person with multiple degrees and years of experience? Sure, teachers do make mistakes but if I tell you your kid is doing something wrong in class, I would hope that you would believe me.

This makes me think of this cartoon:

1969-vs-today.jpg

Why is it always the teacher’s fault? The students and the parents blame us for allowing phones, for allowing them to talk, except that we don’t. We clearly have stated our expectations, we have consistent follow up, constant reminders, but we are still met with more phones, more talking, more disrespect. As I was addressing the class yesterday, I asked one of the girls who was the most rude, “would you talk to a judge, a police officer, or your parents like this? Would you question how they do their job?”. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “I did and I would, I don’t care who you are, I will tell you what I feel and do what I want.” I now see where some of the problem lies. No one has ever said “no, don’t do that” to this child. No one has ever corrected her behaviors and just let it go and brushed it off. The problem is that she feels she is the ultimate authority in her world and she can do what and how she likes without consequences.

There in lies the problem. I listen to my students talk to each other and they have no filter and they feel they can do the same with adults and so they do. I had one student before homeroom today talking about how she’s “gonna beat her bitch ass”. I had other yesterday say, “I’ll just make my mom pay for it” in regards to another app he wanted on his phone. Another girl came into class today swearing up a storm and yelling about how “some stupid ass hoe in this class narked me out to the principal and when I figure out who, I am going down”. No regard for anyone.  It’s all about what they want.

Today, as two of the three girls from yesterday came into class, one asked me “Why did you get my friend in trouble?” Not, “Gee, I’m sorry for being rude yesterday and I won’t do it again” but why did YOU do this to her. Like I was the one in the wrong. I then informed them that their referral hadn’t been dealt with and they need to go see the principal just like their friend did. As they were walking out of class, one of them told me “You are irritating as FUCK”. UM WAIT WHAT LITTLE GIRL? You are 14 years old, what makes you think it’s ok to talk to a teacher that way; someone who is doing her job? You guessed it, she got a second referral. I am sure that will be my fault also. If my daughter (or son) said this to anyone someday, especially a teacher, I am pretty sure that grounding and punishment at home would be my first call and they would be apologizing left, right, and upside down to the person that they said it to.

I know from my years of experience that this isn’t an isolated incident. When you give your young teen (or any child for that matter) anything they want and never say no, you are helping to create the “ME ME ME” world we live in. When you 14 year old has a brand new iPhone 6S Plus, designer clothes and bags, and can’t be bothered to do his/ her work, and feels he/ she can mouth off to any adult in their way, I know it’s the parent that causes this to happen. It’s time to step up as a parent and be exactly that, a parent. Not a friend. You can be your child’s friend when they are an adult.

What is frustrating is that when you read research on how to combat this, so much of it states “Teens are acting out due to stress and anxiety” or “It’s seen as cool for teenagers to mimic what they see their friends do and act with an air of aloofness and disregard”. Please tell me how that is different that any other generation. Teens have been stressed and aloof for 100’s of years. This is something beyond that. It is a disregard for anyone but themselves, non-compliance, rudeness, and lack of discipline from parents. The same attitudes they have toward their parents are now being seen against teachers and principals. (Quabazard, 2010)

So, as a teacher,  I will continue to do my job. I will continue to correct, to urge, to inspire. I will not allow students to bring me down. However, something needs to change. Somehow, someway, there needs to be a dramatic shift on how parents deal with their children and how teachers are allowed to handle when things happen in their classrooms without fear of retaliation or disbelief. We need support from parents and principals to make our schools better. I know it has been said before, but it all starts at home.

 

 

http://teenlife.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/10755/teenagers-lack-of-respect-for-adults/

 

 

 

One of the not fun things about teaching

Today I had to refer a student to the social worker. This is not something I enjoy and I wish it wasn’t part of my job. This poor kid is a freshman. Student’s mom has passed away, student lives with dad and dad has been in and out of jail. Student says that dad works nights and comes home after midnight most nights. Since student has to be at school very early, I’m sure there is little interaction between the two of them.

Student lately has gone from being bright and pleasant to being wild eyed, goofy, a constant distraction and off the wall. I started to piece together things and it’s all become quite clear. Dad isn’t home, mom has died, student says there aren’t many groceries in the house, student has been losing teeth and eyes have become more and more yellow, and hair is not as well taken care of as before. It’s obvious that something is going on. There are health issues and there are also other social issues.

The social worker was alarmed when I brought this to her attention. She immediately said, we’ll get student down here and we will get student the help they need. I hope that I’m the adult that started the change in her life that student needs.

First day of school!

I always love the first day of school. They kids are all so quiet in class. The optimism is like static electricity in the air. Everyone is so excited.

This year I am only teaching level one of my language. It’s going to be interesting to say the least. I have A LOT of freshmen and it’s always an adjustment from middle school to high school for them. So far, my response has been “leave your drama back in middle school!”

I’m starting a new way this year. Instead of following the curriculum and then saying, “Ok, we should have covered that earlier”, I am teaching the basic 100 most common words and 10 most common verbs to start and then going into the curriculum. I will be able to do so much more without teaching something and then saying, “Crap, I have to teach this verb now to have it make sense instead of when it shows up in the curriculum in 6 months.” Our curriculum isn’t the best designed in the world.

I am also covering basic English grammar like what is a verb and what is a noun, etc… You would be surprised how many kids get to high school and don’t know the parts of speech! I discovered that last year when my kids were saying “What is second person, you keep talking about it and I’ve never heard of it”.

In all, I am super excited! This is going to be a great year!!

One of the sad things about teaching.

It’s really applying to a grad level class I am taking right now on Alternative Education and what the author of the book we are reading calls “Shadow Children”. Shadow Children are the children that live in the shadows of your class. They are the ones that act out, can have discipline issues, but can also be the quiet, never makes a peep kids. They are the ones who have so many struggles in their lives that you couldn’t even imagine.

I have many “Shadow Children” in my classes but one is standing out. He’s the baby of his family. S is a very bright young man. He’s funny, he’s smart, he’s fairly well liked by his peers but he’s awkward. He tries so hard to fit in and often times he becomes the butt of a joke. He takes it all in stride though and will crack a joke back. S started out the year really strong. He was getting A’s in all of his classes. He was respectful and polite. Sure he did dumb things as all freshman boys do but he was always remorseful and apologetic. Around the end of the semester though, things started to change. There was a subtle shift in attitude that I didn’t see coming until it was too late.

See, S has befriended some students who are less than desirable in my class. If these particular kids were my son’s friends, I would be quite concerned and probably have him switch classes if not schools. They are the dealers of the building. They are the ones that cause the trouble with crime and drugs. Their attendance is atrocious and they just don’t care. I get support from home but it’s little to no avail. S has tried to fit in with these students and he’s succeeded. He’s become one of them and they have embraced him.

It’s so sad to see him go down this path. I have referred him to his counselor and to his principal and they promised they would have a talk with him but I have not seen any effort to do that. S is becoming a Shadow Child. One who will be lost to the courts and the system if we can’t, if I can’t, help him. I do what I can but it’s impossible without support and when frankly he doesn’t see a problem with what he’s doing and how he’s doing. His grades have dropped from A’s and B’s to D’s and F’s, he’s potentially come to class under the influence (as far as I can tell but without proof there isn’t much I can do), he’s talking about drugs, he’s carrying cash in his socks, he’s not paying an ounce of attention, and he’s a constant distraction. His peers in the class that used to be his friends have made comments and have stopped talking to him.

I guess my next step is the social worker and perhaps the police. I do what I can but I don’t know if I’ll ever do enough.

–“Shadow Children” is a term coined by Dr. Anthony Dallman-Jones who wrote the book “Shadow Children: Understanding Education’s #1 Problem”