Why are you such a butt?
Are you going to continue to be a butt?
Are you emailing them to come pick me up?
I’m going to your boss.
You think this is a game? You gonna get fired.
You a butt.
Today was the last day of normal testing, and more or less the end of my first year of teaching. I didn’t see a lot of this year’s challenges coming, though I don’t know it would have made much of a difference. I imagined some disrespect, some sly remarks here and there, but not a sustained attack like this. I’ve been working on this kid since the beginning of the year.
Seriously, though, why are you picking on me? What did I ever do to you?
It was hard not to respond. I had so much I wanted to say, especially in front of all the kids. I wanted to be shown to be in the right. But I could not. I just could not.
“Let me talk to you outside,” I said. Again. And again. And again. Calmly. Matter of factly.
That, I believe, is the difference between me as a teacher in the beginning of the first year versus the end. In September, I would not have hesitated to raise my voice and attempt to put him in his place, especially in front of everyone. Then they would all see that I was right, right? That would earn me their respect, right?
His friends enthusiastically lent him their cell phones when he asked for one. He started to make phone calls in my class.
“Let me talk to you outside,” I said again.
Matter of factly.
And he finally went.
I managed to get him removed with some help. But far be it from me to expect him to stay there. He was brought back with some minutes to spare by the same help. Why? I do not know.
Time management is much more intuitive now. I can usually tell when I’m falling behind or getting ahead, even without looking at the clock.
“Alright, it’s time to clean up!” I looked at the time. Yup, just like clockwork, about 2 minutes remained.
I quietly worked my way to the student. “Hey let me talk to you after class.” I half-expected him to stay.
But he did stay. Finally alone without other students to influence his responses and behavior, it was my chance to ask him the burning question.
“What did I ever do to you?”
For the first time this year, he had nothing to say.
“You asked me what you did to me. Here they are. You went through my personal belongings and stole my candy bars. You stole my timer. You stole my calculator. You broke my chime…” The list went on. More than $200 in damages and stolen goods. One kid. For 5 months. And he was required to be back in my classroom after every incident.
I didn’t do those things. My friend gave me the candy bar. I didn’t steal your timer, but I know who did it. I…
“No, I’m not an idiot. I know it was you. You know what, I was trying to reconcile things with you, but you’re not ready. Good bye.”
He left without an incident and the crowded hallway emptied into my classroom. About 2 minutes remained until my 4th block was to start. Just like clockwork.
But it’s funny how 23 hours can sometimes be a blur.
“Let me talk to you outside,” I said again.
Do you hate me or something?
But he went, slowly but promptly. I managed to get the class started and went to tend to this student.
Seriously, Mr. Kim. Do you hate me or something? I mean, I admit, I did all those things that you said I did. I admit it. But that’s not anything that should make you hate me.
Key, sometimes, is to maintain eye contact, respond as promptly and firmly as you can, and not get into an argument.
“No I don’t hate you. Remember what we talked about before? I forgive you. Do you remember why?” He nodded. “Because I’ve been forgiven by God for all the evil things I’ve also done. And I hope to display the kind of forgiveness that I’ve been given, and that you’ve been given. And I know you believe in that forgiveness.” He had never been the one to look away.
“Look, let’s be honest. I don’t like you. You’re not my favorite student, fair and simple, and both of us know that. But I don’t hate you, either. I don’t even dislike you. You’re my student, and I honestly don’t care as much about whether you like me or not. My goal is not for you to like me. You wanna know what I care about? What I care more about is your success. I’d rather you be successful and hate me than for you to love me and end up on the streets. That’s what I care about.”
He held out his hand.
Ok. Now I respect you.
His handshake was as genuine as his attitude was, and he worked hard all day. Finally. After all the discussions we’ve had, with one week left to go before the finals. Now, where was that other kid I’ve been working on?
I wonder if my students know that their teachers get tested every single day much more rigorously than they do.