Friday morning began when I woke up with my husband’s sore throat and runny nose. Since teachers aren’t suppsed to get sick, I immediately took some cold medicine and proceeded with my morning routine. By the time I arrived at school, my symptoms were gone, but the cold medicine had given me a migraine. So I took some more medicine. All before 9am. As you can imagine, the rest of the day was spent in a zombie-like state. Not good when your job is to teach and tame 8th graders.
At 9:15, I found myself directing my first core into the hallway for a tornado drill. To their credit, they knew exactly what to do, even when I did not. The rest of the class went well, if a bit rushed.
2nd core went equally well, ending with a round of “Fundamental Principles Millionaire Game” to review the unit so far. It was now 1pm, time for the dreaded 3rd core.
Every day they enter, work on their “Do Now” for 10 minutes, then go to lunch for 30 minutes, then come back for the remainder of the class. Whoever thought of a split class for lunch was never a teacher. And this class in particular is my greatest challenge. In life. 16 boys. 5 girls. A nice class size, but a terrible ratio. Most days they do well coming in at 1pm – I have been able to both threaten and reward them into doing their work. Then comes the challenge – the line.
Let’s review: I have spent the last four years teaching high schoolers. They curse, throw punches, have babies, but they can walk themselves to lunch on their own. I love that about high school. In middle school, we have lines, and it’s my job as a teacher to make sure that line is single-file and quiet all the way to the lunch room. Most days I dream about opening the door and letting them run free to the cafeteria – can you imagine the administrators frantically pulling out their walkie talkies to try and get control of the situation?! But professionalism gets the better of me.
So here I was, on several different pain medications, lining up a bunch of 13-year olds for lunch because someone above me thinks they’re not capable of doing it themselves.
We made it, ate, and came back to the classroom. This is usually the point where I can feel the struggle between my plans and their plans. The petty name-calling begins, they make faces at each other, they hit, poke, and slap, they observe that “it smells like somebody farted”, causing the rest of the class to erupt in laughter. I did my best to keep us on track as we filled out an organizational chart on the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and I even got us back on track as we utilized the Smart Board to match documents with their description. Then it was time to play a game. I knew in my mind and my heart that I would regret this, so I told them that I was changing our plans. I instructed them to take out their notebooks and complete a “3-2-1” about the documents we’ve been studying. It was the last 15 minutes of class, and I could feel everything start to fall apart.
That’s when “J” threw his NY Giants hat across the room, so I confiscated it. Then he began whining and shut down for the day. Then “K” thought it was his responsibility to argue on “J’s” behalf, and “D” decided to join in. In the meantime, “A” and “J”(girl) were dancing and making the keychains on their beltloops make an absurdly obnoxious sound, so I confiscated those. “K” again decided to be an advocate for his classmates, informing me that “keychains aren’t against the dresscode Mrs. Russ”. I told him that they were against my class rules that day. Then “JT” took out his trumpet and started playing a Brittney Spears song – “Til the World Ends” to be exact. “JL” was playing with the window shades, and I found myself having to say ” ‘S’, please stop eating the chalk”.
At last, the buses were called, and like magic they disappeared from my classroom. Until Monday.