Today’s thoughts

After my very fulfilling and well-rested holiday, I had mixed feelings about coming back to school. On one hand, I was really excited to meet my students again and to see their joyful faces and happy smiles. On another, I was nervous and apprehensive too because..well, I have some very challenging kids. Kids whom I’ve tried my darnest trying to get to them, kids who test my patience every single day, kids whose parents I’ve met and kids whom I’ve spent most of my free time giving extra classes to. These are the kids I’ve paid way too much attention to but they are also the same people who are not showing progress at all.

Going back to school is daunting and scary. I woke up to the realization that I only have four more months left of 2012, and most of my kids have not shown progress at all. What am I to do?? I try my best everyday, they too have tried their best (most of the time), but none of this has bore fruit. My kids who can’t read STILL can’t read. My kids who can’t write STILL can’t write. My kids who can’t speak STILL can’t speak.

Their exam results are not improving, their behaviors are still unchanged. What have I not done?

Yes, sometimes I get the occasional ray of hope, the silver lining, but it is really not enough.

Teaching IS rocket science. There are so many elements to it and even if I’ve checked all the boxes, sometimes it’s still hardly enough. How do some teachers do it? I have passion, A TRUCKLOAD of it. I have persevered, every single freaking day. I have planned for many excruciating hours. I have invested my kids. I have reflected and have written points to improve on, and yet, it still feels like I’m back at square one.

Take today for example.

There was this boy, let’s call him A. He is usually quite defiant in class but in a quiet way. He doesn’t disrupt the class but doesn’t like doing his work. He’s alright in English, not failing but not getting As either. Today, he slept when I gave out work. This is one of the better classes, so I cannot tolerate having a student sleep in this class.

I walked to him, asked him to take out his book. He ignored me. I gently tapped his arm and asked him politely to take out his book. He ignored me. All his friends kept calling his name, telling him that he’s being rude, he ignored them. Finally, I raised my voice and said he’s following me to the principal’s office after class. He woke up, stared at me angrily and kept his stare the entire lesson.

When the bell rang, I walked to him and asked him to follow me. He didn’t budge. Everyone was around us now at this point and when moments like this arise, it really feels to me that I’m playing a very risky strategy game. In fact, I feel like I’m playing a strategy game in school everyday. Every move I make has to be thought through carefully first, everything I should say or do has to go through an elimination process in my head. If I don’t deliberate all my actions cautiously, my actions may backfire and may not have the intended outcome.

In this situation, I know I can’t back down. If I just leave him be, no one would take me seriously when I give out my consequences next time. But if I have a screaming match with him, he would win because I would be embarrassing myself. While all this is going through my head, he left the class.

He freaking walked out on me.

I’m glad that it was a good class and I have some pretty rational and respectful kids. They went after him to talk to him and asked him to follow me. Finally, I walked to him with my box and asked if he could help me with it. He just needs to bring it to the office for me. He took it grudgingly and followed me.

Yay!! Suet – 1

Ok, now, if I bring him to the principal, she’s just going to lecture him and maybe even cane him. He’d hate me after, and would only do as told in class due to fear. That’s not what I want either. So I sat him down in an empty room and told him that I want to hear from him. I want to know why he’s acting that way in class, how can I help him better, how can we work together etc. He did not open his mouth at all.

I asked him where he lives. Silence.

I asked him if he hates me. He shook his head slowly.

I asked him if he would tell me why he doesn’t want to do his work. Silence.

This went on for the next one hour. ONE HOUR. I sat with him, him with his head down, me with my gaze on him and hand clicking on a pen. After a while, the silence is beginning to bore me so I babbled on about my life. I told him why I wanted to be a teacher, where I was from, my college. I told him that there are other students who are crying for help because they’re so weak, but despite me helping them it’s still really hard for them. I talked about kids his age who can’t even spell, who can’t even write.

After a while, my stomach groaned. I haven’t eaten all day and it was already past lunch time. I told him I was starving, and that he’ll do my stomach a favour if he speaks up. Silence.

I told him I will never give up on him. Even if I die of starvation. Silence.

Then, another teacher came in and asked what happened. I told her that A slept in my class and immediately, she came towards him and pinched his arm really hard. “You’re lucky your teacher doesn’t beat you, but let me help her” she said. I was kinda glad she did this because maybe this kid really needs a spanking but I will never hit a child so it’s good that she did it haha.

Finally, I had to leave for another class. I asked him if he has anything to say to me before I let him go. He nodded slowly.

He licked his dry mouth, cleared his throat quietly and muttered “I’m sorry teacher”

“What are you sorry for?”

Silence.

“There are other kids who need me as much as you do, A, I’ve waited one hour for you to say something, anything, so better say it fast!”

Silence.

Suddenly, a tear rolled down his cheek. He took out his glasses and wiped his tears, but remained silent. I had to look away because seeing him cry makes me want to cry too T____T #weak teacher

The bell had already rung. I’m entering my weakest class after this, the class with kids who don’t even know what’s “big” or “small”. I told him to write  to me what he can’t say today, and that I will be waiting for his letter.

“Bye, A. I’m sorry too.” I said quietly when he stood up to walk out.

He didn’t look back.

I watched him walk down the stairs and back into his classroom, took my box and went to my other class.

—–

I’m writing all this down with every detail that I can remember because I’m going to miss these moments when I’m done with teaching. I don’t know if what I did with A was right but I have a feeling that he will open up to me in due time. Heck, I gave up my lunch time for him, he better! hahaha.

But today has taught me something new about myself. I’ve never been a patient person AT ALL, not to my family or friends or anyone! But there I was sitting with this kid who only uttered two words in an hour, who tested my patience greatly, but I kept telling myself that I won’t give up. He needs to know that I care about him and what he did was unacceptable. I was the most patient I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I thought to myself this while A was still examining his nails in great concentration:

“I think I’ve found my calling. These kids are the bane of my existence sometimes but I love them with all my heart. I think I want to be a teacher for good. Maybe I won’t be a great teacher for now, but I will be.”

Sounds super cheesy but I really did think that wtf. Sometimes, I drive the two hours back home from this godforsaken place and all I can think of is my kids. I think of their smiles and their stubbornness and their defiance and their jokes, and I smile to myself. You can’t get anymore passionate than this, right? So why take a different path if you already know what makes you happiest? Some people go through life not finding their passion, but I’ve already found mine.

So scrap everything I said in the first few paragraphs. I may not be making progress now with my kids academically, but I will be soon. That day will come, I have to have faith that it will.