Friday, May 24, 2013

Eighth Period

This year, for the first time ever, my teaching assignment was at a middle school.  I had taught 6th grade before, at an elementary school site, and I taught 7/8 grade summer school, but neither experience prepared me for the middle school environment.  I walked in confident that with 18 years of teaching under my belt, I got this.  I GOT this.

Boy, was I wrong.  I walked in to first semester MYP Technology class seven weeks into the school year.  When I accepted the assignment, I thought, "YES, TECHNOLOGY!  That's just up my alley!!!"  Uh, no.  I learned very quickly that technology, by definition, is solving problems using human ingenuity, and does not necessarily involve the use of computers.  Besides, the computer carts and computer lab were being used by the more important (i.e. state tested) academic disciplines like Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies.  My class was a mere VAPA, although why they thought Technology was Visual and Performing Arts, I'll never know...

Eighth period that first semester was my smallest class and was also the most responsive and productive.  I looked forward to 8th period everyday, not only because of the students, but because it also meant the end of the work day.

Second semester was a little more, let's just say, challenging.  Eighth period lost quite a bit of independent time due to behaviors of 6 out of 36 students.  It was also during 8th period that I learned that I knew a whole lot less about middle school classroom management than I thought I did.  It was also then that I learned I had a larger repertoire of cuss words than I thought I had, even though none of them escaped out of my mouth.  I was at my wits' end with 8th period.  So I told stories, usually on Fridays.

I told stories of my events in my life.  I told them about my high school stalking days, about why I don't eat ravioli and why I don't cuss, near-death OD of a loved one, how technology save my life through a pair of 3-inch titanium screws...I shared with them heartaches and triumphs, and somehow always tied it in to technology.

Some days I would go home in tears, feeling like I failed that day during 8th period because I had to stop in the middle of a lesson to deal with an unruly group.  Some days I wished I had THAT class first, so that the rest of the day would make up for the bad morning.  Most of the time I DREADED the end of the day.

One day during my quiet time, I told the Lord I was done -- DONE -- with period 8.  Know what HE said?  He said, "Good, because now maybe you'll let ME do MY thing..."  Then I was reminded of what Mordecai once said to Esther:  "And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?"

From then on, whenever anyone in 8th period "got my goat" I would take a deep breath, walk to the whiteboard, softly bang my head against it three times, muttering "for such a time as this...for such a time as this...for such a time as this..."  and then turn around, face the class, and calmly address the issue at hand and then go back to the lesson.  Once independent work began, I called on the offending party to the door, and discussed what the unacceptable behavior was, and then offer him or her the choice of a referral now or the rest of the period to make me change my mind about the referral. More often than not, they opted for the latter.

By the end of this semester, I actually looked forward to 8th period.  Yesterday, I received an anonymous note from an 8th period student, written on a 4x6 note card.  Instead of banging my head on the whiteboard and muttering "for such a time as this," I raised my heart in song and sang "FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS!!!"

Thank you, 8th Period!

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