About a month ago I substituted for an English teacher and had a horrible experience with one of her classes. It was my worst subbing experience thusfar. I've never even come close to having a class that awful. I had to leave her a very long note about many individual students and the class overall. I had students that were giving fake names, blatantly refusing to cooperate, and had to send one student down the hall. It was a learning experience, and after that day I have spoken with their regular teacher as well as many others about what I could do differently next time and what discipline options I do have as a substitute. I had come to believe through my student teaching experience that sending students to the office is a last resort, but I'm learning that as a substitue, and maybe even specifically at this school, it is encouraged to send students out when they are disruptive, since I have no other leverage.
Yesterday I had the same class again.
And though I didn't think it was possible, it was even worse than the first time.
As soon as I received my assignment and learned I'd be subbing for this teacher again, I had to mentally prepare myself. I knew I needed to be strict and firm from the beginning of class. I was nervous, and was even shaking a bit at the beginning of class. (If that surprises you, it just goes to show how much this class had gotten to me the first time).
I began class with clear, specific instructions to be on task. This didn't happen, and as I walked around the room, students were just sitting in groups chatting. About half the class was working diligently, but the other half were loud and obnoxious. Eventually I asked a group of students to move back to their original desks, and they refused. Soon after, another group of students began to throw pencil shavings and paper dots from the hole punch at each other. Kids starting yelling "Fight! Fight! Fight!" I immediately delegated new desks for the students to sit at, and as expected, one student involved in the shavings-dot fight refused. I told him that I would send him to the office if he refused, and he said, "I don't care if I go to the F****** office." "Fine," I said, and I called security to have them escort this fine young man to the office. In the mean time, my investigation into the fight led me to conclude that another student was equally involved, and when security arrived he was sent to the office as well.
This calmed the rest of the class down for 5 or 10...seconds. I regrouped the class and proceeded to lead a class discussion about the article they were supposed to have been reading and answering questions about. As I did this, one student literally stood up and began walking around the room, talking to her friends. Another student continued to poke the boy in front of her with her pencil, which caused him to over-dramatically start screaming and asking to see the nurse. Pure chaos, yes. So, I told the girl to move seats (this being a girl who earlier had blatantly ignored my request to move and at least pull out a piece of paper and look like she was working). She looked up at me, and said, "I'm not moving anywhere." I just stared at her. Really, I was speechless. This whole class just moved me to a mixture of anger, frustration, and speechlessness, and left a knot in my stomach that lasted until I left work at 2:30. Even as I write this my stomach is slightly turning.
I walked over to the teacher's desk to look for a Referral, and couldn't find one. With only a few minutes left of class, I told her to stay after class.
I informed her that because I couldn't find a Referral, I would be leaving a note to the teacher regarding her blatant disregard for my instructions. A student absolutely CANNOT refuse to follow instructions that explicitly and not have any consequence. In retrospect, I think I should have actually sent her to the office as well, because in truth, her teacher may not do anything about it.
This morning I had mixed feelings: What if I get to school this morning and I am assigned to this teacher again? Should I request to not substitute for this teacher again? Would that be showing some kind of weakness as a substitue? What would I do if I have them again? Then I started thinking, Maybe I do want them again...and I can lay down the law even more. I think I'd require no talking, only working, and I'd send out uncooperative students. A new meaning for Zero Tolerance. Either way, I arrived to find a new assignment and a sense of relief.
But I think I'm ready to face this group one more time this year. Maybe I'll get that chance. And if not, at least I can say with confidence that even if the students didn't learn anything yesterday, I did.