Yesterday was such a day, particularly during one class period. During this hour we do stations- the students rotate around to different centers and do reading, writing, vocabulary, computer work. This can be challenging, because it involves a few transitions and kids remembering where they are supposed to go.
At the beginning of this hour yesterday, everything that could go wrong was going wrong and then some. Two kids were arguing, a few had disappeared without permission into the hallway or bathroom, one trouble-maker was writing a mean comment about another student on the board, the kids who normally challenge me had upped their game to a new level, and worst of all- the students who are normally angelic were acting a little wild too.
For a few moments, I surveyed the scene with panic. I felt confident that if a principal walked in at that moment, I would likely get fired on the spot. I actually wondered if perhaps I was on some sort of show like "Candid Camera" or "Punk'd!" and the producers had instructed the kids to act as bad as they possibly could and see how the nice teacher would react. For one low and paranoid moment, I even glanced at at the corners of the ceiling to see if I could spy any hidden cameras.
So, I did the only thing I could do. I took a deep breath and started to deal with 1 catastrophe at a time. First, I got the normally well-behaved students under control, guilting them a little about how I needed them to do their work and be leaders in this particular moment. I got the two kids to stop arguing and start their work. I gave the student at the board one of my best lectures of all times about being nice to others and imagine if someone had written that about you on the board, how would you feel, etc., etc. He was sufficiently chastened and retreated to his work station. I then located the escapees and delivered another stellar lecture- I need to know where you are at all times. I'm responsible for you. Then I threw in a few dramatic flourishes about what if we had a fire and I got all the kids out of the building, and I didn't know where you were- I would be forced to risk my life and go back into the building for you..... I said those last few things in a funny,sarcastic way that these kids understood- in case you think I'm completely heartless.
What happened next? Everyone got to work, more or less. Some even learned a little in that hour. My principal didn't visit, so I still have a job. Ashton Kutcher never did burst through the door, yelling:
In short, we all survived. At the end of the day, I vented to my colleague and she vented to me- turns out her morning across the hall had some pretty big bumps too. We recounted our stories and made each other laugh, which is really the best medicine most days.
When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would write about the bad days as much as the joyful days, so there you go. I want this to be an authentic and real space, and since every day in teaching, and for that matter life, is not stellar, there will be more blog entries like this one.
At the end of the day, I packed up, got on my coat, locked my door and headed out, reflecting on the wise advice a volunteer had given me earlier in the year on a similarly bad day.
He said, "Do the best you can and then go home."
So, that's what I did.
Do you have any good bad-day stories to share? How did you cope?