November 23, 2011

A self-absorbed stream of consciousness about a terrible day of school

The penultimate year 10 class of the year.  Just have to ride out the wave.  First 5 minutes and one of my students, X, raises his fist at me and has this look on his face like, “I am going to smash your face.”  The hatred in his eyes scares me shitless and I immediately tell him to go outside.  Thank God he does.  The other time I asked another student to move, she said, “bullshit, cunt.”


So this kid leaves the classroom and I’m shaking.  There’s still 85 minutes of the lesson to go.  T hides behind the door and starts yelling as I stand outside wondering what I am going to do.  I put on a four minute YouTube video.  Another student asks me for a piece of catch up work and it gives me the chance to escape to my office to fetch it.  I can’t think straight.  Breathe.  Focus.  I feel like crying.  Where’s the bloody worksheet?  Print it out again.  Don’t care that the whole class is waiting.  Walk past kid who tried to punch me, he’s outside sitting in the corridor with his earphones blasted on high.  The student manager is taking a class so didn’t get to talk to him.


Get back to the class.  Another teacher comes to help out and control the chaos for the last 30 minutes. Doesn’t help that another kid puts J in a headlock.  I am trying so, so hard to be calm and not lose it.  All I can hear is Miss! Miss! Swearing/sounds of frustration/disengagement/boredom/end of year (whole year?) apathy.  “How do I do this?!”  Inside, I want to scream, ‘READ THE BLOODY THING AND IT WILL TELL YOU EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED TO DO!” but they have difficulty following procedures and simple instructions we take for granted are rendered meaningless so instead I say calmly for the 100th time, “blah blah blah blah”. 


The bell finally rings.  I keep Z back and he says, “I just can’t sit still!  I just can’t!”  K interviews me for his immigration assignment then wheels the laptops back into the other classroom. 


Debrief back in my office with other teachers.  Walk past the principal who asks, “How are you Q” automatically, and before I get a chance to reply he walks back into his office.  Catch the student manager on the way out.  “I’ll ring X’s mum tomorrow.  Think we might look at an in-house suspension.” 


Had earlier arranged to meet the vice principal of next year to discuss behaviour management techniques but couldn’t deal with it.  Get home.  Want to cry but can’t. 


Collapse into bed, hide under the covers and go into a deep sleep.  Wake up with a huge headache and watch snippets of Simpson’s and Family Guy episodes to feel better.  End up reading today’s article on The Punch titled Violence against women is endemic to our sick culture and fully agreeing with the author’s view:


… many women – often very young and therefore just beginning to define what they would like their lives to be – who have experienced the terror and unrelenting horror of rape and gang rape. It’s a struggle that goes on and on through years of rebuilding a sense of self, a world view and working out a way of being part of a society again that not only allows the vast majority of rapes to never be punished but allows constant in your face debasement and trivialization of their trauma in billboards like this.

I cannot escape one simple fact: that if we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualized and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse.

And then I think back on one of my students who wrote about being raped, and all the women I know who have experienced sexual assault and can’t get out of bed. 


Two phone calls to friends and two hours later later, I drag myself out of bed and narrowly avoiding buy McDonald’s drive through.  Make/eat dinner and race through Join the Club by Rosenberg (link to the Guardian review), a Pulitzer price winning journalist.  She discusses how peer pressure can transform the world and it helps me temporarily escape my horrible day reading about how black and Latino student’s calculus scores are raised through this idea of the “social cure”, something I hope to introduce into my (GOOD, FUNCTIONING CLASSROOMS) and then I’m full but still have a massive headache and three essays to write by Monday for University.


Phone J’s mum about work he has to catch up on and she’s supportive and appreciative.  Sit down to continue by essay, but even the Pomodoro method (basically, working in 25 minute increments with short breaks) doesn’t work and I have to get today’s incident out of my head to process it properly.  So now I’m here and there’s work piling up.  Just gotta keep on truckin’…


Am experiencing cognitive dissonance: on the one hand, I can’t believe I have to work in a job where I am continually verbally abused and put up with insane amounts of stress, and on the other, I have to keep optimistic that this is what I chose to do and will stick at it…


  1. Oh dear oh dear... I've just come to you from a roundabout late night route (it's twenty past midnight here) and I just wanted to send what little bit of sympathy I can in this disembodied form, and to say how much I admire your fortitude in getting through such a day without collapsing onto the floor of a psychiatric hospital. I also agree that there is a feminist angle to this: that boys are societally conditioned to know that they can get away with it.

    Sorry to hear this and I hope it gets better.

    1. Hi Looby, so encouraging to read your kind words of encouragement and sympathy from across the globe. Thank you.

      I hope it gets better too, and I'll be able to see my experiences as character building rather than as inducing a nervous breakdown ;)


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