Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 112: Thin Patience

This picture was so realistic that I was instantly depressed. I blame this picture for how today went.

I am not a patient man.

One of the reasons I often doubt my ability to be a good teacher is because the patience to explain something to students who are not paying attention.  Students who put the effort in, I will go over the same question 50 different ways.  I deeply value effort.  Students who were sleeping, talking, singing, dancing, drawing SpongeBob, passing notes, etc. while I am answering a question and then expect me to explain it again? Absolutely not.

When my patience runs out, I am not a nice man.

I respond to these students in ways that aren't nasty, but are certainly not nice, tolerant, understanding or kind.  It is one of the traits that I dislike about myself and have been trying to change.

Ignoring student behavior that distracts me, but not other students, has helped a little.  Repeatedly singing "Let It Go" from Frozen and "This Too Shall Pass" by OK Go has helped.  But some days, they don't help enough.

I lost my temper in all of my classes today.  In geometry, one of the students was going through the papers on my desk and my response was disproportionate.  Later in class, a young lady who sits in the front row, who has not done adequate work in a few weeks, didn't bring her materials and was talking while I was trying to explain a concept.  She was literally 2 feet from me and didn't seem to care at all about how rude she was being.

In pre-algebra, I was doing very well keeping my patience in check.  I handed out the assignments to the students who were not in class yesterday.  One student knocked the paper from the hand of another and every time he went to pick it up, she kicked it further and further from him.

I lost it.  I managed to not use profanity, but just barely.

On top of that, after two days of teaching students how to use a ruler, I ran out of patience to continue teaching that skill.  Two groups of students were working very well on their drawings, although doing them poorly with a constant need for help.  I worked with them patiently and kindly because they had been putting in a sincere effort.

The rest of the groups either sketched faces with total disregard for the measurements, or didn't draw anything at all.  Several other students, seemingly with the inability to keep their hands to themselves, broke the folders and binders of students who, foolishly, left them on their desks while they worked.

I understand that they are children, but I am constantly shocked by how nasty some of these kids are to each other.  They seem to go out of their way to anger each other and not in the playful joking way.  The students that they poke at aren't usually their friends, just their victims.

Not being a nice person, I don't know how to teach them to be nice.  I don't understand how to combat this level of nastiness.  I don't even know how to address it without asking "Seriously!! What the hell is wrong with you??"

Maybe it's just a bad day.

Maybe I'm just tired of my efforts to make the class interesting being rebuffed day after day after day.

Maybe I'm tired of hearing "that's too much" to every single assignment.

Maybe I need to take a deep breath and enjoy the students who are enjoyable.

Maybe they will help me to maintain the energy I need for the students who are challenging.

Student will work for a teacher they like or respect, even in a subject that they hate.  I truly believe this.  While I don't mind not being liked, I try to treat my students fairly.  Many of my students have seen that over the year and have come to like me and their effort reflects that.

There are, however, several students that I seem unable to reach in any way.  I work with them as much as I can, boosting confidence and celebrating success.  The willingness to put in any effort, however, seems to be missing.  This creates a vicious spiral for me where I get annoyed and they shut down, so I get more annoyed and they shut down furthers, etc., forever and ever amen...

I don't know how to break this cycle.  I feel as though I have made monumental strides to meet students where they are.  I feel as though I have been pouring my heart into this year.  If I look at my successes objectively, I don't see that my "good" students are any better in my class than they are in other ones.  My challenging students are just as challenging for other teachers.

If that's true, then have my efforts been in vain?  Will they continue to be in vain?  If so, I still don't believe that means I can give up.  Even if I'm bailing a ship with a thimble during a thunderstorm, I'm still bailing.  No matter how much despair and frustration I may feel, I can't stop bailing.

Even on days when it feels like the kids are drilling more holes in the boat.

I can't stop bailing.

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