Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Remember Me? You Kicked Me Out!"

I think that I have kicked out more students than most substitutes in years past.

At one point, I remember overhearing one substitute proudly inform the secretary that he had not written a referral to send a student out, and that was at least five months after the school year had begun. I did not believe what he was saying, or I did not believe that the students were getting any work done. I found that I had to send out students every day. It was a rare and wonderful day indeed if I did not have to send a student out. Upper classmen were certainly more cooperative. The younger generation could really push a substitute's buttons. One of my colleagues even avoided covering certain classes, so concerned was he with dealing with chaos and calumny from young people who just as soon insult you as listen  to you.

Some subs never had to write referrals.  I had no problem writing up students, in part because I say no value, no purpose in letting students get away with disrespect. No one wins when a student talks back with nothing to follow up.

I do not write this to crow about it, necessarily, or to rub it in anyone's face. In fact, I remember how some kids used to greet me warmly on my way to the car before I left home for the day.

"Remember me, Mr. Schaper? You kicked me out last week!" one student beamed at me as I was walking home. I told him that I have no recollection of sending him out of class at any time.

"Every student has a clean slate with me at the of the day," I told him.

I really believe in that. I see no value in holding onto a grudge. Students who have practiced rampant disrespect in the past do not get away with anything, I am convinced.

One girl  cursed me out at length for a short period, then stormed out. The next time I say her in another class, she kept to herself, just hoping that I would not tattle on her. She got nervous when I asked her to be quiet, too. "I'm not talking," she affirmed, then turned around really face.

Still, I have kicked out many students, convinced that no one wins if two or three students are permitted to run a class at the expense of everyone else, who want to learn yet have to contend with the small group of misfits who interrupt at length just because they can.

I cannot forget one student, Wiseburn I called him, who always complained that the class period would get ruined every. Two or three students would just chant my name, over and over. I could not get anything done the rest of the period, as in those days I was too reticent to send anyone out.

When I took on another assignment at Lawndale High School, I resolved from the word "Go" not to put up with anything. The sixth period class was the worst, the end of the day, and a fifty minute period which guaranteed nothing but disorder. One student stood up on his desk, then another kid threw a football out the window. Security rolled up to the classroom in two minutes with football in hand, glowering at the class. Then there was one or two students who would warble like turkeys. It was a madhouse for the first week. The first day, I took out three students, right away, sending them to a neighboring classroom.

First day, three referrals, no holds barred. That approach had its merits, when I was dealing with an entire class. Not so much for another class, where a diligent minority of students decided to press their passions as much as they could, with one interruption after another. The noise, the distractions, the insanity -- what is public education coming to?

Needless to say, the sixth period started to calm down at length. I wrote up one girl twice in one week, and that was enough to get her mother's attention. Insisting that she wanted to meet with me and let her daughter share her side of it, the mother demanded a conference, a meeting that she never showed up for. Nevertheless, her daughter was much more well-behaved for the remainder of my assignment.

When students the next day found out that I had thrown three students out, they gasped. They could not believe that I would just send out so many. One kid at the previous high school had even called me "Weak" because I refused to tolerate so much on-going disrespect. I had to learn early in those days to disregard disparaging voices, especially from the students. Mr. "Weak" was not exception, a failing student who spent more time putting his head on the desk and doing nothing, he received nothing but "F's" and went straightaway to the continuation school after I left.

Of course, three referrals is nothing. At Dana Middle School, where I completed my student teaching, I sent nine kids away who showed up late, because Dana had tardy sweeps every period, and teachers were not obligated to take in late students. There was no tardy problem at Dana. One student in the next period gasped when he learned that I had sent away nine students, ""Really?!" he blurted out. I nodded simply, then proceeded with the lesson for the day. The mentor teacher was really proud of me. "You will send the message really fast on campus that you mean business, and no one should mess with you," Will confided in me.

Then again, he was not in a warm, cheerful, mentoring mood at the end of the semester, when he had hoped that I would have laid off the referrals and started finding more direct methods for dealing with students. To my credit, most students become extensively disrespectful at the end of the semester, as most of them know pretty much that they are going to fail most of their classes, but they are going to pass on to the next semester anyway. Will was not amused, though, snapping at me in front of other teachers in the faculty lounge. He never really commanded a great deal of respect around me.

Another mentor teacher told me that during his first year he wrote more referrals. The dean started giving him a hard time about it, but he plugged ahead. In his opinion, and Mr. M had at least thirty years of experience to speak from, a teacher needed to send the message early on that he would brook no arguments nor tolerate any disrespect. I kept writing referrals, then, depending on the legacy of at least one teacher who had done well as far as I was concerned.

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