Friday, May 7, 2010

The Wild, Wild West

I'm not sure what it is about recognizing the kid who will be the biggest problem of the day. I can I.D. him the moment I walk in the door. It always seems to be the same kid. He starts off badly and gets out of control from there.

Today, I worked a half-day assignment in a 4th/5th combination class. The kids had a half hour of silent reading, and their teacher told me she allows them to read in the room or on the grassy area right outside the door.

When I went to check on the kids outside, there was a group of them sitting together. One of them complained to me that a boy was writing on the newsletter she was trying to read. The kid with the pen tried to stare me down. I told him to put the pen away and take out a book. Naturally, there was the back-talk. He put the pen behind his back with a "See! Now it's gone!" Now, at this moment, I could have stood my ground and made him put the pen inside, but another kid told me he wasn't really in their class, and a man who I assumed was a special ed teacher was watching the exchange. He didn't say anything, and didn't introduce himself to me, so I let the pen thing go and told the student that if he couldn't find something to read, that I would find him some work to do. He very dramatically picked up his book and held it in front of his face, pulling it down every few seconds to see if I was still standing there looking at him. I stood there for a while and then went to check on the kids in the classroom.

A few minutes later, pen-boy came in with marks on his hand complaining that someone had taken his pen and stabbed him. Seeing no puncture marks, I told him that if he had done what I asked and put the pen away, it would not have been available for anyone to take from him. He demanded that I go speak to the offenders. When I told him I would not do that, his response was, "Well, I guess you're really not good for anything." A kid who heard the exchange told me not to worry, that that boy speaks to everyone like that.

I really can't stand showdowns with students. This isn't the Old West. There is no reason for it. Thankfully, this one student was not representative of the attitudes of anyone else in the class.


  1. The showdown is the worst thing about subbing. I'm way beyond losing my temper with kids, but man, those showdown kids can really make you want to kill yourself. I subbed at a school once (and, I'm pretty good!) that was so bad, and it was eighth grade to boot, and they totally turned on me. I had a bad feeling when I went in in the morning and the teacher was there and he said his kids call him Rudy (not even his name) and he found it endearing. His room was a pit and the kids came in like they owned the place. One kid threw a ruler at me. It hit me in the face. Worst day of my life.

  2. Students like that bug me. You're not good for anything? I guess he didn't see the irony or his statement nor the irony that he may have been stabbed with his own pen.

    At least the day is over.

  3. On the contrary, I love confrontation like this because I love to send kids out when they're a giant pile of crap. Not because I like getting kids in trouble, but because I like seeing everyone else in the class start working and paying attention better because they don't have to worry about that extra distraction.

  4. I always feel badly for substitute teachers in a situation like this one. These problem children all have their quirks and if you are going in blind, you never know what is going to set them off or how to handle them. Bravo to you though. Sounds like you are doing everything you can.

  5. Sarah - I've been in classes where the teacher lets kids go wild. It does no favors for anyone.

    Theresa - He was not a kind child. I highly doubt he was stabbed. More likely just written on in a scuffle over his pen.

    Chris - Sometimes it does help. Not only do the other kids pay attention without the distraction, but the next kid thinking of stretching his boundaries thinks again.

    Cheeseboy - It is definitely hard. I think this child had some huge anger issues, and I felt badly for him. Clearly his problems were caused by more than disagreements with classmates.