I used to be shy of going in the classroom when I taught in the Special Education section in middle school.
Not many school principals are conscious of the fact that they should first take a look at the candidate before assigning
him/her to a group of teenagers. Sometimes, the young teacher is just an easy prey for a bunch of students.
I always thought about this when I walked into any new classroom.
For that reason, on the first day of
my teaching that year, I had a serious sit-down session: I closed the door, and I asked my students a simple question:
do you think I am here?"
Answers varied from "Because you love kids" to "Because you are very clever and want us to
Kids! they are so innocent sometimes.
I answered "Not at all! Why would I love you? I don't know you and you have not, so far, been particularly
nice to me. I am here because I get paid. Now, remember this: Whether you learn or not, I will still get paid. You are the
only ones who have the power to get something out of sitting in a class with me."
They were disappointed. These kids' parents were criminals, most of them, fathers in jail, mothers loosing
it with too many children at home, no money, depending on the social worker to bring food on the table.
But, still, they
were disappointed that I did not do my job for the love of kids who insulted us in the playground, wished our death on the
way to school every day and tried very hard to find new exciting ways of driving us out of our minds.
However, they got it from the word go: I was not their average type of teacher!
The principal had asked me which expectations I had for the year.
"I guess it is best not to have
expectations, this way, I will not put too much pressure on the children."
This certainly is the only one reason why
I got the job against all the other candidates!
One more thing I always told my students:
"There will be no expulsion, whether you are ok or not, you will
have to remain in the class with me, no matter what, I never rely on the principal to solve my discipline problems!"
They thought I would never get upset, they thought I would never inform their parents, because all complaints
had to go through the principal. They thought wrong.
When I had a problem (which must have been once in that precise year), I dealt with it myself, asked the other
students for their opinion on the subject, made it a all-class problem. Then, when there were no more possible options, waited
for the Mum myself and had a word with her.
The student was floored, no one had ever treated her this way. All the teachers
dealt with her impersonally.
To my surprise, this incident gained me respect among my students and whenever something
went wrong, they would correct each other, get involved.
That was the best part of my teaching that year. I was there to teach them English as a foreign language,
but since one-third could barely write French in the first instance, another third came to school in a semi-conscious state,
and the rest was totally overwhelmed by their life condition, I actually ended up teaching another lesson: