Saturday, February 5, 2011

Losing Control

I have been losing control lately. I have been handicapped all my life, but I really hate it when I FEEL handicapped. I am a control freak, so when I am feeling especially handicapped it makes me feel like I am not in control. This week I was feeling weak and I lost control.

When I did my student teaching thirty-four years ago, I was horrible at classroom management. The first time I was left alone with a class at one point the students were running wildly around the classroom and I was almost in tears when my supervising teacher returned. After school she had a straight forward talk with me. "Listen," she said as she stared me directly in the eye, "because you are in a wheelchair, the kids are going to think they can take advantage of you. You have to make sure that NEVER happens."

"I knoooooow," I blubbered, "but , what do I do?"

"Number 1: Learn the sixth-grade-teacher-glare. The first two weeks of school just sit in front of the classroom and glare at them. Number 2: Follow through with whatever you say. Don't say something that you can't follow through with. Number 3: Never let them see you sweat! Be in charge at all times. Don't allow anyone to think that you are unable because you are disabled!"

After that, I made a vow to myself that I would be the best at everything I did when it came to my job and working with children. I knew I had to take control. I became a strict, but respectful disciplinarian. I perfected "the glare". I can make a mouthy sixth grader drop to his knees in apologetic fear with just one look. As the years went by, I became better and better at discipline and have been considered an expert in classroom management. Unfortunately, when one is given the label of being able to "handle" anything administrators put the all tough cases with that person.  I have always been given the tough cases that no one could handle. I once had an administrator say that he called classrooms like mine " the black hole" because he knew if he put his troublesome students in my classroom, he would never see them in the office because I would take care of things on my own. I was given the gang bangers that hated women. I had one young man that refused to look at me because that would have been a sign of respect. If I moved into his line of sight, he would shift in his chair. I used to move around the room just to watch him spin in his chair. But when he was being chased by a gang of high school boys, guess who he came running to for help. Yep, me, and he was crying like a little girl. Just the other day, I had a student that I was having a disciplinary discussion with say, "You're in a wheelchair, if I run you won't be able to catch me." My reply was, "If you run, I won't chase you, but I will catch you." In the classroom, I am ALWAYS in control.

I am strict, not mean. There are rules and consequences and I follow through with what I say. Everyday when my students leave my room I say, "Take care, do your homework, READ, and I care about you." I have always given my students my phone number to call for help. I have been giving my phone number out for thirty-two years and not one student has ever abused the privilege. Eventually, every class asks, "Miss C, why do kids say you are mean?"

"Do you think I am mean?'
"No, you're not mean. You are fair and you expect us to do a lot. But you are really nice."

"Please, don't tell anyone I am nice. I have a reputation to keep. If someone asks you if I am mean, bow your head, try to squeeze out a tear and with a shaky voice say, "Yes."
Now that I am an Achievement Specialist, I don't have my own classroom. I go into up to ten classes a day. Working with so many different classes and grades, it is essential that I am spot on with my classroom management. Many teachers complain that the minute I walk into the room their students are perfect angels, and when I leave they go bananas. When I am asked how I do it, I answer, "I have a huge supply of fairy dust."

And then the other day, it happened! I lost control for the first time in thirty-two years. I was doing a fluency activity in a classroom and the teacher had to run up to the office for a minute. All of a sudden, the students went berserk. I am not a screamer. I have never been a screamer, mainly, because I can't physically scream. I do not have the lung capacity. As I have become older and more crippled, my voice has become even softer. I couldn't get the students to be quiet. I couldn't get them to stop what they were doing. I tried using every discipline strategy that I knew and it wasn't working. I felt as if I was in one of those nightmares that teachers have every year before the first day of school. I was starting to sweat. I was sure, if the teacher didn't get there soon, the students would have dragged my body out to the playground, tied me to a tree, placed sticks at my feet and  would, eventually, start the sticks on fire while taunting me the entire time. I kept looking at the door in hopes that the teacher would return soon.  When she did return, I wanted to run to her and sob uncontrollably in her arms, "Ple-e-e-e-essssse heeeeeelp me!"

In your mind, you might be saying, "Yep, fifth graders can be harsh." It wasn't a class of fifth graders. Fourth graders? Nope. Third? Nada. Second? Not on your life. Not first? No, not first. KIN-DER-GAR-TEN! I, Cathy Cunningham, the Queen of Discipline, lost control of a classroom of KINDERGARTENERS!  Kinders are not my favorite group of students to teach because they have the attention span of a worm, but I can teach them, at least, I thought I could. I was so glad when it was time for them to go to lunch. When the class left for lunch, I ran as fast as my wheelchair could move across campus and went into a fifth grade class and asked if I could teach for awhile. Ahhhhhhhh, big, misbehaving boys and snotty, eye-rolling girls doing everything I asked of them! Heaven!

Next week, I am going back. I am getting back on the horse. Over the weekend, I will be practicing my "kindergarten-teacher-glare. I will be back in control. 

Paco's Perspective

You could practice your glare on Flip. If you want to practice corporal punishment on him, be my guest.

The Flip Side

We have horses in the backyard you could ride.

1 comment:

  1. ***Sigh!*** Those kids are short enough to chase. Their legs aren't that long, and they can't run it big steps. Go for it. Or tell them about your "scary" dogs. I doubt they will reason that you wouldn't really bring them along as teacher's aides.