I've been spoiled rotten.
What I initially thought was going to be a doozy of a year in 2012-2013 turned out to be my easiest group of kids to teach in the 6ish years of my career. For the most part, they never refused to do work (besides homework; that's another beast all together.), were funny and lighthearted, didn't attempt to challenge me on a personal level, and most of them were pretty darn cute.
I suppose it's refreshing and well-deserved to have years like that in my line of work, but there is a major downside: waking up to reality the next year.
Well, hellloooo reality. I'm looking at my biggest caseload to date, and growing by the day, I might add. On Day 5 of the new school year, I was told by one of my students to go away and that I was causing him to fail. On Day 12, I had an unmedicated student lying on the ground trying to write in his planner, moaning miserably because he couldn't focus for more than 5 seconds. On Day 15, a student was switching between quiet, maniacal laughter and flashing me a look like he was contemplating slitting my throat. Teachers talk about their students "honeymooning" in initial weeks of school: coming back acting like a lamb, and slowly morphing into a lion. Yeah, I didn't get that honeymoon this year.
But, I suppose I had braced myself for this last spring when I found out what I was up against. Before summer break even came, I walked around saying that the 2013-2014 school year might shape up to be a little less academic and scholarly than other years. Still, nothing fully prepares you for the first time a kid launches a trash can half way across the room with his foot in a fit of anger.
What I suppose it's got to come down to, if I'm to survive the year, is reframing. Last year was a real treat, a sort of respite from the typical absurdities this job entails, and I've had to say a sad farewell to that crew (though, I still wave fondly at them through the window of their new 7th grade class) and head into the trenches. But, it's okay. My situation isn't necessarily any worse, it's just different, and will require a different approach.
Last year, it was about helping a student combat anxiety to perform better academically. This year, it's about getting a student to stop crying hysterically and blaming me for everything when the work gets a little too challenging for his tastes...while trying to corral another student whose meds have warn off for the afternoon...and let's not forget the student who is melting down at his desk for no apparent reason in a really scary, tortured, Gollum-esque way.
Last year was a great one for diving into the content and developing my pedagogy. This year, it's a return to behavior modification strategies and crisis intervention.
Perhaps it's less likely you'll find my classroom pictured on the front of an educational journal this year (because that was super likely last year), but I'll be darned if I'm not going to make the best out of what I'm working with. And to be honest, my little darlings have been much more productive and educable than I anticipated, so that's a win.
For the past few weeks, I've enjoyed the luxuries of my first student teacher, which has allowed me to sit back and see my class from a different perspective. It's nice not having to be "on" all the time. But, the experience has also given me a new found appreciation for my crew. The inevitable difficulties of an inexperienced pre-career teacher instructing a three ring circus has me huddling in the corner wringing my hands just dying to be at the front of the room "working my magic" with them again. They're a real challenge, and I've accepted the challenge. There are no boring days this year, and the smallest of victories can be found in simply surviving a period with no meltdowns, office visits, or being told I've ruined somebody's life.
This may be the year I finally lose what's left of my sanity, but bring it on, I say!