I recently got my results for my year at University, I got an A – average whic was somewhat of a surprise to me. Have always been a kind of B- average kind of a guy, never had an A+ for a paper in the past, I am now a qualified High School (or secondary teacher) .
The real test of this new qualification will come when i am paid to do the actual job. Now this week I have volunteered in my local school for a couple of days. It is the end of our school year and our local school uses a system of demerits ( points) These are awarded for various misdemeanors that the students have committed during the year. Now the subject of discipline in schools is a huge matter and something for discussion in another post but in this situation if you gain over 100 points in the year you get the dubious pleasure of a catch up program . This involves very close scrutiny of behavior whilst completing tasks.
My baseline is to start from an even position that is everyone starts fresh. I prefer to engage use tools like Socratic questioning to deal with behaviors. Rather not take a deficit view of people.
I had my end point of these kids completing the program in two days rather than the three so they could also enjoy some of the alternative activities that their peers were enjoying. They had various teachers for 45 minutes at a time but I was with them the whole two days and it gave me a different perspective on them. I quickly saw patterns of behavior forming, who clearly did not get enough sleep, who was struggling who was bright. Who had learning versus behavior issues.
A number of them had a real problem with being in the program yet this consequence was not unexpected. Others were perhaps unfortunate and maybe really should not have been in the program. That is the nature of our school system however, one size fits all. It is a very industrial system but once again another time for that discussion. What surprised me was the unwillingness to engage with the reality of their situation. They know the consequences of their actions yet are surprised when these are enforced. They act like it is a new rule just landed on them and it is so unfair.
Now fair or not the one thing that really worries me is there level of reaction to their situation, what will it be like when they hit the real world. Unfortunately as an ex social worker that is not a rhetorical question. A lot of them are headed for serious trouble. Tell a boss or a policeman to make plans for sex and travel and you are likely to pay a much higher price than detention or demerits!
I believe that teaching is a work of the heart and I try to bring passion and energy to everything I do and these last two days were no different.. I poured a lot of effort into it. Well the time of reckoning came this afternoon and I was well satisfied when all bar one (and he missed the first three sessions). It was a great feeling celebrating sucess, watching them stream from the class with smiles on their faces, tidied up some paper work and then boom, like a piece of timber it hit me on the head.as I went to go out the door one of the little darlings had stolen my umbrella. Worse still it wasn’t mine it was borrowed. Dismayed, disheartened and disenchanted I slunk from the room feeling like a lab who had his head in a bowl of food and then got kicked up the bum really hard.
How could they do this to me I thought. I volunteered, worked hard made sure they passed and look at the way they treated me! I was steaming!!!! Invective was on my mind (not my lips). I had some chores to attend to (including replacing the umbrella). I had that morning been blessed with a little extra money that I was going to treat myself to coffee with, real coffee!!! Fifteen dollars in fact. Well guess what a new umbrella cost?Yep you got it 15.00!
Well a viewing of the security system identified the culprit and he will have to explain himself tomorrow. It was only a small thing really in the scheme of things but it is just so unnecessary, this young man and his accomplice (s) have wasted the last two days. They have trampled on and abused my good will, have incurred the wrath of their parents and will have now extra consequences, all because they didn’t want to get wet on the way home! Had they asked I would have given them a ride hone with pleasure. A momentary brain explosion, essentially saying they had learned nothing in the last two days and frankly are wasting their time and the schools in the New Year. the amount of time that is taken up in dealing with these brain explosions is phenomenal and so wasteful and yet how else do we deal with the issues. What is it that gives these young people the message that there is a right to take things like that?
As for me well 15.00 is not chump change, the reality is I may have bought a coffee but most likely i would have spent it on my children it is a significant loss for me, what do I do about it? Well I have to let it go and forget my ideas of saving the world a class at a time.
I need to remember to focus on the individual to celebrate success even small ones, to model behavior and to continue to wonder how to break through to young people like this young man.
I must not become resentful, revengeful or retentive! Be thankful that it was money that was not planned, not out of my budget and hope that maybe some good may come out of it. Above all else even after this incident I know in my heart, i love teaching and like working with the hard cases in the schools.
So I will laugh harder, live with more passion and pray that the love that i share will be multiplied and bring healing and hope!