There are days when I love my job. Days when I know that some students combated their ignorance with their effort and triumphed. Days when I lay my head on my pillow at night knowing that I did my very best and I changed lives.

Today was not one of those days.

Today was a “Put on Rage Against the Machine and scream at the steering wheel on the way to a church board meeting” days.

(NOTE: That video probably has some swearing in it. So does this post.)

I mean, most of my classes were fine. Kids worked hard, performed well in groups, and built on basic skills AND graphing–a quite successful day.

Except 4th period.

Like a swarm of locusts, they descended on my ramp. Already pushing, yelling, and making inappropriate jokes. I held out my hand for them to shake (as I do every day) and one student flat out refused.

I knew a storm was brewing.

I battened down the hatches and piloted a new game for them, but it was no use. I sent two students to the office before we even finished the warm-up. They made it clear they had no intention of contributing to the class, yet I felt a twinge of regret as I called for their escort–surely I could have done something differently.

The day progressed and three students earned detentions (gum, gum, and continued disruption) before we did our 6 times tables and left.

Then the real show began.

Figure 2: An orderly and respectful classroom

Ryan stayed after school to grudgingly serve his gum detention. I instructed him to move the desks into the configuration I projected on the wall.

“I’m hungry! I don’t wanna do anything!”

Deep breath. “Ryan, you have two options: You can do 15 minutes with me without complaining or you can do two lunch deten–“

“But I’m hungry! I don’t wanna do this!”

“Is that your choice then? The two lunch detentions? I can have Ms. Holwood call you out tomorrow to talk about it.”

“…no.” Ryan stuck up his lip in a perfect teenage sneer. This could have been the cover of Teenage Sneer Monthly.

Figure 3: The “Hiding Gin In A Water Bottle” Issue

“Okay, then. Your two options are 15 minutes with me without complaining or interrupting, or two lunch detentions with Ms. Holwood. What’s it gonna be?”


For the next two minutes, Ryan held a desk and wiggled it when I looked his way. Then he acted surprised when I sent him out.

He paused at the door and screamed, “I hate you!” before pounding a chair and my door with his fists and storming down my ramp.

Figure 4: How he felt vs. How he sounded

Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. My students mostly like me–even the ones that dislike me don’t hate me.

I felt like absolute shit for a couple hours, even though experts in teenage defiance (the RSP teacher, my youth pastor wife) assured me that it was just “what they do”.

Doesn’t matter. I felt (and still feel) that I could have done something different to avoid this situation without compromising the order of my classroom.

Oh, well. I have two days without Ryan in my classroom to think about it. He’s on class suspension pending a parent conference. I guess that means I win.

Sure don’t feel like a winner.

Concerned Parents Against Funfetti

UPDATE 10 October 2012

After a phone conference with dad and a day of class suspension, Ryan and I agreed on a hand signal for him to indicate to me when he is getting angry.

Today’s art project and lesson went swimmingly for all classes (including 4th period sans Ryan). Today I feel like a winner.