Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Semester Of The Bitch


Classroom management has never been my strong suit. I kinda suck at it, in fact. It's a tough thing to be good at when you're the sort of person who thinks rules are stupid. I mean, "don't talk while other people are talking" is a pretty reasonable rule, but "no hats, caps, coats, do-rags, cell phones, pagers, iPods, or other electronic devices" is not something I can really get behind. Ditto on no eating in class, and double ditto on not being allowed to go to your locker or meet with your guidance counselor during the school day. A student (not mine) visiting my class last year observed, "Wow, you run a pretty loose ship here."

The thing about kids, though, is that if you don't enforce the stupid rules, they don't understand when you try to enforce the reasonable rules. And they walk all over you, which is a hell of a lot more annoying than having to enforce stupid rules.

I reached my breaking point last week as my kids wandered aimlessly around the classroom after finishing their mid-term in record time. "I let you kids [alert! alert! old person talking!] break all kinds of rules!" I yelled, "Half of you are listening to your iPods and the other half of you are eating ridiculously unhealthy snacks! All I ask is that you sit the eff down! What the eff is so effing hard about that?!" They sat down, but they didn't look like they'd stay there for long. They looked like they thought I might be a little bit crazy. And I've explained to them, calmly and reasonably, why I need them to sit down. They're all taller than me, and when they all stand up and clump together I can't see what sort of mischief they're getting into.

So I've mentally declared this semester, which began on Monday, the semester of the bitch. I stole this concept from my friend Eileen, who was once overheard saying sympathetically to a (high school) student, "Oh sweetie, you can't bring a knife to school," and who shortly thereafter announced that the upcoming school year would be the year of the bitch. Neither one of us can really pull off the whole bitch thing, and Eileen's year of the bitch was pretty un-bitchy (although she did tighten up her knife policy a bit).

My semester of the bitch is shaping up quite nicely, however. I've already kicked two students out of class -- one for saying "what the fuck is this shit?" in response to my introduction of a writing assignment (Come ON. Even *I* don't say the f-word in class.) and another for pointing out that in addition to persecuting Jews, the Nazis were also not big fans of "fags" (an f-word that makes me so angry I can barely think straight). I've responded to numerous queries of, "Wait. What are we supposed to be doing?" with the very bitchy, "Ask someone who was listening." I've refused repeated requests for bathroom passes from a kid whose last authorized trip to the bathroom took him nowhere near the bathroom (according to my spies) and lasted 40 minutes. "If it was an emergency would you let me go?" he asked. "No," I said, "sit down." I'm a bitch like that.

And today, when the first real snow of the season began to fall around 1:00 and my kids went crazy with glee, I simply lowered the blinds and continued ranting about the plight of refugees. The kids whined and cried and promised to pay attention if only I would open the blinds back up a LITTLE bit. And even though I was once a kid too, even though I had just moments ago whispered excitedly to my TA that it was snowing, even though I would have liked nothing more than to pause for a few moments and watch that snow flutter to the ground, I resisted.

"Have you no soul?!" one of my favorite students wailed.

Hey, it's the semester of the bitch, baby.

PS artwork courtesy of my students.

22 comments:

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Megan said...

Okay!!! I will!!! Immediately!!!

Big Orange said...

I suggest taking a 5 gallon bucket and filling it with cement. Before it hardents completely put a wooden stick with HALL PASS sticking out of the top. There. If you REALLY gotta go, you'll lug 40 lbs of cement to the crapper.

I like to call it "smokin' 'em like a pack of Winstons" when my kids loose it and I bust 'em in the chops. The other day a bunch of kids pissed me off so I kept 'em in for recess. Skaddle-ay-bob-howdie, were they PISSED! I said to 'em before walking out the door to recess myself, "You know, I AM the adult, and you do NOT ever yell at me. That's disrespectful. Think on these things while I'm outside and you're not."

Ooooh, yeah, the term of the bitch can be fun! the point is to make THEM exhausted, not YOU.

Valerie said...

you are awesome. bitch.

lulu said...

wait wait wait, back it up. You have a TA?

Frank Sirmarco said...

One of your students dropped an F-Bomb? I got kicked out of class for telling the teacher I needed to tinkle!

The times, they have definitely changed...

Melissa said...

I've said it once, and I'll say it again, "Man! I wish I could have had you as a teacher!"

Flannery Alden said...

Are you flipping the bird in that picture? If so, the resemblance would be striking. Those kids are gifted.

Amy said...

I remember teachers like you, that were nice one minute and then a bitch all of a sudden.

I can certainly understand it now, but back then we all thought those teachers weren't getting any.

wonderturtle said...

I think if your students are asking you about your absence of soul, you have reached a level of classroom management nirvana that few of us can aspire to.

Elizabeth said...

I remember when my teachers switched gears, the class knew they pushed too many buttons.

Not only are you bringing order to the class, but you are instilling a sense of respect. They'll need that to succeed in life.

blueblanket said...

Okay... I'm flat out LOVING this idea. Year of the Bitch. Okay, well maybe I'll just start with Month of the Bitch -- and work up to a whole semester. :o)

Dale said...

Why would you talk all those rotten kids on your date with some guy? You get what you pay for man.

Anon. Blogger said...

My freshman daughter asked to go to the bathroom (only asks when she needs to go, wears a halo, etc.) Her French teacher must have been fed up and snapped at her. She was soooooo pissed that afternoon and evening. The next day she confronted him, explained that she was not feeling well the day before and that he treated her inappropriately. He apologized. As I see it, even the good kids learn from those times. In my kid's case, she learned how to handle confrontation with an authority figure in a respectful way.... You go, bitch!

Big Orange said...

well, at least we don't live in Tex-ASS where your students would be vaccinated against HPV.

Dale said...

Take, not talk. I need to go back to school.

Megan said...

Orange - Well, see, that wouldn't work, as a cement-filled five gallon bucket is not an OFFICIAL destination pass and my kids are only allowed out of the room if I've filled out the appropriate form.

Valerie - Thanks! :-)

Lu - Crazy, but true. Now could you please focus on my story?

Frank - Seriously? For saying TINKLE? Yeah, times sure have changed.

Melissa - I bet you wouldn't have pissed me off, either!

Flannery - They've really captured my essence.

Amy - Generally speaking, I'm nice for all the minutes. It's just really easy to figure out how to push my buttons: just touch my stapler without asking.

WT - It's nice to know that we all struggle with classroom management.

Elizabeth - That IS the funny thing about kids: they totally know when they've pushed you too far.

Blue Blanket - Let us know how it goes.

Dale - Dude, my kids don't even know Some Guy exists. They think I'm a crazy cat lady.

AB - A good lesson, although I'm sorry her teacher snapped at her. I'm trying to be a REASONABLE bitch.

Orange - I'm a HUGE proponent of the HPV vaccine, and I was just singing the Texas governor's praises today, so. . .

Dale - Only if you're gonna be nice.

Coaster Punchman said...

I think "Oh Sweetie, you can't bring a knife to school!" would make a good tag-line for your blog.

Megan said...

Oooooh, it would. Too bad it's not mine.

Sandra said...

I quit teaching when I opened my desk and a kid popped out of a drawer like a Jack in the Box. I did not see him get in my desk I knew the class was out of control and so was I.

Unclejbird said...

Why limit yourself to a semester? Make a lifetime commitment and you could be the next lead instructor in the SIP after Cotton leaves.

Megan said...

Sandra - Things have been going swimmingly since the semester of the bitch began, actually. But I do think classroom management is one of the hardest aspects of the teaching part of teaching.

J-Bird - Baby steps, man. And if some kid Googles SIP + Cotton and ends up here, you are SO buying me beer for the rest of my unemployed life.