Do you remember the teacher you had, maybe in about the seventh grade, the one your class took pride in driving crazy? We had one. She was our Home Ec teacher, Mrs. Bell. In the middle of the year she suddenly left, ostensibly having had a nervous breakdown. Today you really don’t hear about nervous breakdowns, but back in the sixties they were fairly common. I guess today we have antidepressants. Anyway, one day Mrs. Bell didn’t come to school and we never saw her again. Nervous breakdown. We attributed it to our rotten behavior in her class. I don’t really remember what we did, and I do remember learning to sew a shift and make a grilled cheese sandwich from her, so it couldn’t have been complete chaos. Still, we took some pride in having driven our teacher crazy.
I have one of those classes this year. I’m not going crazy by any means, not yet at least, but I do not have a close connection with them, and they take advantage of that by behaving badly, every day. For example, today I was explaining a project we were going to be doing, and one kid got up and walked around the room to talk to another one. I told him to return to his desk, and he looked at me and proceeded to walk as slowly as possible back to his seat while we all waited for him. Later on another kid put a label on one of his friends’ backpack that read, “I am Gay.” He thought it funny but I was mad. And he knew I would be. Demeaning anyone with that term is off limits in my room, and he knew it. When I called him back to scold him he could barely keep from laughing. He and the boy with the backpack walked away snickering.
As he walked away it occurred to me that I have become “that” teacher to this group. I try different ways of connecting with them, I help them with anything they need, but nothing (including phone calls home) makes any difference. They are the class that has me counting the days until the end of the school year. I have never in my eighteen years of teaching felt like “that” teacher. Ever. It doesn’t feel good, and changing it seems beyond my reach. And at this point, I’m fine with that. There are ten days left. Only ten days.