Sunday, January 11, 2009


Keeping a straight face is essential a lot of the time. If I am laughing, it has to be on my terms. I have lost it four times this year, the first was then Hector stepped on the mouse, once was when the students ambushed me about loving Mr. M, once when there was fight in my room that seemed so outrageously ridiculous that my reflex caused me to laugh, and the most recent time occurred on Friday.

To be fair, I had taught my 2 toughest classes in a row, which required an hour and a half of angry, mean, strict me. It’s exhausting. Then I got a coverage, and had to fill in for another teacher, teaching one of the classes I had just finished with. It’s my CTT class, which means that there are 2 teachers in the room at a time with 12 special ed students and 12 regular education students. It’s essentially become a dumping group for all of the general ed behavior problems and the special ed socio-emotionally disturbed kids. Most of the students who are really cognitively low functioning get into other environments, so the issues that we deal with in this class are largely related to management.

I was in my friend Ms. G’s room, which has no windows, which makes the always enjoyable game of students turning off the lights in a classroom infinitely more entertaining to them and infinitely more infuriating to us (which, of course, only makes them enjoy it more). The way it works is this: we teach and give instructions, and walk around the room, monitoring student progress, answering questions, trying to keep kids on task, when suddenly the room goes pitch black, and you hear thumps as students pick up whatever is on their desks and hurl it across the room, usually in the direction of someone they had been plotting to get. We scream to turn the lights on, and by the time someone has locted the switch, people are diving back into their seats to avoid accountability for any of the mayhem that ensued in the dark.

On Friday, this happened 6 times in one period, which I had never experienced (my room has lots of windows, so I was caught off guard even by how thoroughly dark it got. Right before the 4th time that they lights went out, J took a pen of mine and broke it, emptying the blue ink into a water bottle. He smiled duplicitously and told me that the next time the lights went out he was going to send it flying, spattering everyone with ink. I managed to wrest it away from him, only to move on to averting the next potential crisis. On the fifth time, a staple was sent sailing through the room and shattered against the wall, which surprised everyone, given the real harm that the stapler could have caused. So when they went out a sixth time, Ms. G lost it and screamed in a voice I had never heard. When the lights went back on, people scrambled to their seats and I put my back to the class, hoping no one would notice my amusement. Of course not.

“MS K IS LAUGHING! Why are you laughing Ms. K? Awwww she’s laughing!” Of course this is all it takes for me to really loseit, and soon I have tears in my eyes I am laughing so hard, and my face is turning red as I struggle to calm myself.

I think it’s just encountering the ridiculous that gets me – those moments when I realize how unqualified I am to really manage any of the things that I am expected to handle. A child steps on a mouse and looks to me for guidance, missing the irony in the fact that the mouse wouldn’t have even remained on the floor long enough for him to step on it had I been mature enough to deal with it. Two kids twice my size fight, and I laugh at the idea of being able to separate them, or it’s one kid half my size with another who is twice my size and I laugh at the impossibility of a fight between an elephant and a mouse. Or I find myself in the dark for the 6th time in 45 minutes, and I can’t help laughing at the impossibility of determining the culprit, or modifying their behavior. I laugh, because if I don’t, I’ll lose it. If I dwell on how many answers I don’t have, or how wrong I am a lot of the time, I’ll cry. So, luckily, I laugh…even if it does at time undermine my already shaky authority…

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