I was told walking in they were tough, but I’ve been told that before. This class, it turned out, was better described as draining, and by the end of the day, depressing.
Typical of other classes this age, I knew as a sub I wasn’t going to get them to completely stay quiet. But throughout the morning, things worse than talking were taking place. Early on, I witnessed a boy and a girl, one right after the other, walk right up to a quiet girl and laugh as they called her names and played with her hair. She just sat there and pouted. I reported them for bullying.
Getting after these students, though, began to reveal a deeper problem: how sensitive some of their tempers were. The girl lashed out at me because it was the quiet girl’s fault for staring at her. A couple boys soon after showed their hair-trigger tempers when they mouthed off to each other and then stood up and bumped chests. “Whoa, boys!” I called. “Way out of line.”
That was nothing.
Chest bumps became pushing and swinging, and when an angry boy’s target wasn’t around, he might take it out by throwing books or tipping chairs. The girls got into it, too. Initially with over-dramatic, “Girl, you better shut your mouth!” types of arguments and later with fists.
Grateful for break and lunch, we got through the morning of reading and writing, myself having only helped a few students along. (This wasn’t a special school, by the way, designed for troubled children–just an area public school.)
Things continued to escalate in the afternoon. The fights got more physical and tantrums more severe and consistent. I can’t even remember all the episodes.
One boy punched a girl in the eye during math, her wails following.
At around 2:00, other students and myself cleaned up the classroom from a desk-flipping tantrum only to have a boy storm into the class five minutes before dismissal—from, I believe, his behavioral specialists’ room—and flip over seven more desks before being contained. This incident broke the corner off one desk and left items all over the floor.
In all, I broke up several fights and had to contain several students. We had some hard-working students in there, but I don’t know if this was a good thing or a waste.
When I was dumbfounded by an episode, another, more extreme one would occur. This was school! We had reading, writing, and math accompanied with kicks, screams, scratches, punches, and crying.
Some say the teacher should do more, or that it was because I was a sub. But this class being uninhibited, because I wasn’t their real teacher, simply made their anger and fear and frustrations all the more apparent. These poor kids. What’s the matter with people and communities that these little humans are so troubled and hurting!?
By the end I wasn’t pulling my hair out or angry. I just felt low.
It might be considered normal to have these sorts of schools—especially when compared to other cities—but then normal sucks.
Just a couple minutes after the seven desk flipping tantrum, the class was in a strange limbo getting ready for dismissal when two girls started swinging violently. I got in the middle, the one walking away with the other’s weave that ended up in the garbage. (You can see the corner of the desk in the pic, too.)
Ending on a high note, the girl who was being picked on earlier came up and gave me quiet hug goodbye.