“Ms. Kim, we could tell you were mad”: A Case Study with No Answer

I was pretty stoked.  Finally, after 4 months, I was finishing up our first class novel, and had a pretty nifty review tool: jeopardylabs.com.

In my first, more difficult class, I had a few obstacles in first just explaining the game, and then dealing with one drama-queen team that literally moaned, “I want to quit,” “Can I go to the office?” “I hate this game” *every time* they lost points.  Then they would get all goofy-happy as soon as they gained points.

It was so tight seeing kids explaining why the stories they picked fit different themes, and how engaged they were in opening their novels and pulling out textual examples of figurative language.

Also, my vice principal, my principal, AND the classroom support person all happened to be doing a walk-through today.  How fantastic.

So, I was excited to do this with my second (calmer, more engaged) class.  The instructions went well, and.. I felt that things were moving.

Then, Gaston… oh, Gaston (that’s actually the perfect pseudonym for him), was not on his meds today.

He was going crazy when we were going over our grammar rap (thank you flocabulary), but I just thought he was being expressive and excitable.

During the jeopardy game, he was super wired.  And then he writes, “Wassup sexy” on the back of my whiteboard.  I wonder why he’s making suggestive facial expressions to other students, until I see it too.  I pull him and another boy aside (because that boy also had been using the red pen).  They both deny it.  Gaston calls me sexist and makes pretty rude faces and postures.  I can feel my body getting hot.  My face normally never gets hot.

At this point, I stop the game.  I tell them to sit.  I don’t give them a reflection.  I just put them in different, empty seats.  Some students complain, “It’s just two kids,” but I am not in the mental frame of mind to continue.  I quietly explain the rest of the study guide, and then start us on the homework.

I feel awful.

After school, I make both boys sit:  “Cut the crap, and tell me what happened.”

“What did you say?”

“Cut the crap, and tell me what happened.”

“Are you allowed to say that?”

“Crap? Yes.  Isn’t this what it is? Crap? Lies?  Who did it?”

“I did.” Oh. okay.. then.

I let the other boy go, and we talk.  It’s interesting to see how much more accustomed I am to being calm.  This whole time, I kept my voice under control and I even spent the first few minutes establishing that 1) I know he’s not “bad”, 2) that he’s a “tryer” (“Do you know what do I mean by tryer, Gaston?”), and 3) I know he didn’t do what he did to be mean or hurtful.  Then we talked about what he did wrong.

After school, a girl nonchalantly remarked, “Ms. Kim, we could tell you were mad.”

“Oh you don’t know the half of it, Braids, I almost cried, I was so mad.  I mean.  I felt bad.  But we’re not perfect.  I couldn’t go on, I couldn’t just put it to one side and keep the game going, you know?”

“Yeah.. it’s just, I guess we’re used to Gaston and everything.  Anyway, we could see you were mad.”

“Yep! That I was.”

I am at my wits’ end.  He didn’t take his meds. I called home and used my broken Spanish to explain what happened and then to say that until we reach a more permanent solution, he needs a written confirmation saying he took his meds before he’s allowed in my class.

But you know, as I write this and think, I feel a bit more accomplished than I did a few hours ago.  I am better at controlling my temper, students are quicker to listen to me, and I make solutions work for me.

Ugh. Silver lining, the necessity of anyone in the teaching profession.

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