(Disclaimer: all names changed to protect my derriere in case any parent recognizes their own demon spawn)
I had a pretty tough fourth grade class today. I knew it might be like that from the first minute I entered the classroom before the kids got there.
You can usually tell by the number of isolated desks placed away from the various normal kid “table groups”.
A desk sitting off by itself at the front of the room facing the whiteboard, a desk placed right next to the teacher podium, a back corner near the coat rack, or one off to the extreme one side usually means a troublemaker that needs isolation and constant attention during the day.
This classroom had four.
It could have used a few more, but there wasn’t enough remaining real estate to accommodate any more. I spent 70% of my time riding herd on six individuals while the other twenty-five at least pretended to work.
I don’t know how many times today, I stopped the class to:
…Instruct little Emerald, when she wasn’t wandering room, to not shove paperclips up her nose so as not to pop an eye out.
…Remove the scissors from lil’ Spawn who spent considerable class time making confetti out of his test papers, making small crayon shards from large ones or hiding under the desk when my back was turned.
…Have Brainless moved to sit on the floor facing the sink for shouting out “POOP!” several times during the reading lesson.
…Prefix every question from Darn-yell to ask: “Is the question you want to ask about the subject we’re currently talking about?” This is because she constantly wants attention by raising her hand to tattle, whine, complain or simply ask inane questions not relevant to anything class related.
…and several more examples I’d like just like to purge from my memory.
It’s nearing the end of the day and I’m mentally spent. The room is trashed with garbage on the floor and my mood almost homicidal.
I don’t want to spend any more time in this classroom than necessary but I also don’t want to leave it the garbage pit the kids generated today, so I had an idea.
I make the following announcement: “We’re done a little early today, so I think I’ll let you go out 20 minutes before the bell”
(The kids cheer!)
“But the only way I can do this is if the class is cleaned up. Everything that doesn’t belong on the floor needs to be picked up, put away or tossed in the trash. When it’s all done, everyone can go. If not we stay till the bell. It’s your choice!” as I walk back and stand in front of the door.
The kids pick up a token amount of trash and line up at the door: “Can we go now?” I look around and simply point to some trash I can see from where I’m standing: “No”
Someone picks up the item, I was pointing at: “Can we go now?”
I look and point to some more garbage while explaining: “Even if it’s not your garbage, it needs to be picked up or no one leaves for early free time!”
Now they’re getting the idea. Hoards of kids are now furiously combing the carpet with rulers scraping up bits of paper, crayon, paper clips and staples being painfully aware that 10 precious minutes of “free time” have already passed.
They are back in line: “How about now?”
It’s actually acceptable at this point, but I don’t relent. I spot a white dot about ½ the size of a spit wad and point.
“OH MAN! You gotta be kidding!!”, but there is a new flurry of activity knowing that time is slipping minute by minute.
Now they’re back and I’m finally ready to let them go.
Opening the door, “Ok, you can go…”
…just as the dismissal bell rings