Category Archives: defiance

First Tuesday in Advent: Thankfulness

How can we thank God enough for you…?
1 Thessalonians 3:9

Paul, the writer of the letter to the Thessalonians, is addressing people he loves. Even though he has never met these people face to face, he and they share a common faith, so he finds it easy to be profoundly thankful.

But what if you don’t have much in common with the people you work with every day? What if you are a teacher and your students seem to go out of their way to be rude, rowdy and rebellious?

Today was a difficult day for me to be thankful for the kids I have in my classes.

As I was taking attendance, F-Boy and T-Boy jumped out of their seats and began racing around the classroom, ignoring my command to stop. When T-Boy crashed into the wall moments later, grimacing in pain, the “fun” stopped abruptly. (Later in the day, a very contrite F-Boy came back to my room and apologized to me, promising never to cause such a disturbance again.)

C-Girl and J-Boy got into an argument after J-Boy called C-Girl a certain farm animal. C-Girl, outraged by J-Boy’s name-calling, dismissed him with an icy “F**k you!”

Despite their learning contract with me, which includes coming to class with their tools (pencils, paper, books) prepared to learn, at least three students begged to borrow pencils from me.

How can I thank God for the nonsense that interrupts precious instructional time? The truth is, I can’t—and I shouldn’t.

But what would happen if I looked beyond the veneer of nonsense that many of my students present to me, and see the precious human beings beneath? What would happen if I started practicing thankfulness, even if I don’t feel particularly thankful?

How can I thank God enough for you, F-Boy, and for your apology after you disrupted my class?

How can I thank God enough for you, C-Girl, and for your willingness to work even when nobody else in the class wants to?

How can I thank God enough for you, T-Boy, and for your invitation for me to come watch you play basketball?

Advent is not only the season of waiting, but also the season of change. I may not be able to change my students, but I can change the way I think about them by thanking God for them every day.

No-Fly Zone

My seventh-graders with IEPs will do almost anything to get out of work, not only in my class, but in other classes as well. The social studies teacher e-mailed me:

I am wondering if it is part of F-Boy’s IEP to be allowed to wander around the room at will?? I told him several times to sit down and simply watch a movie, part of a mini-series “Into the West” He insisted that he did not have to sit more than a few minutes at a time. I challenged him to get back to his seat (4 feet from my desk) and give it an effort. I also told him I was going to check to see if this wandering thing is written into his IEP. He is currently sitting and seems to be getting into the story…

I replied immediately and assured the teacher that F-Boy has no such accommodation written into his IEP.

Nice try, kid, but it won’t fly.

Parental Fallout on the Way?

There are two of us special ed teachers at our school. We co-teach a seventh-grade life skills class. Today’s lesson was on test-taking skills. The kids weren’t interested. Some of them refused to open their test booklets. Some of them opened their booklets, but sat and stared at me. Others kept asking, “What page are we on?” even though I had repeated the page number at least half a dozen times, and walked around the room to make sure everyone was in the right place.

After more than 30 minutes of their defiance and indolence, I’d had enough. “You’re on your own, guys. The rest of this assignment is due at the end of the period. You have about 20 minutes to finish.”

I went to my desk and began entering grades in the online grade book. My co-teacher was sitting at another table in the room, where she had been grading papers. Two or three of the boys moved to her table immediately and asked for help. She read the questions and possible answers to them so they could choose the best answer.

For about 10 minutes, the room was fairly quiet except for some giggling coming from the table. All of a sudden the quietness was shattered by my co-teacher’s declaring to one boy: “If you’re going to be an asshole, then I’m not going to help you. Go back to your seat.”

I kept my head down. I didn’t dare look up. I knew I’d start to laugh if I did. Fortunately, the bell rang a few minutes later and the boys left for their next class.

These kids can try the patience of the proverbial saint. My co-teacher and I aren’t saints. She’d finally had enough of their antics and said the first thing that came to mind.

We’ll see if there’s any parental fallout from this incident.