The subject of bullying and distributive punishment has come up a couple times recently here at Hit Coffee. So it figures that I would see it happening on a substitute teaching assignment.

I’ve had two assignments at Clark Elementary, and they were such that the principal now knows who I am. As with being a student, it’s probably not a good thing when the principal knows who you are when you’re a substitute teacher. The first time involved a class that simply wouldn’t sit down and behave and (I’m guessing) a neighboring teacher called the main office to complain. The principal was great. He took a page out of the same playbook my father uses, guilting the kids into submission (“How do you think it reflects on your parents/teacher/me when you behave this way in front of a substitute?”). Clark is located on the most depleted part of town. I had a bad feeling going in what the day was going to consist of. And to date, it’s the only school where I have run into any real problems.

The second incident occurred last week. Just as with the first class, I was told ahead of time that this class was going to be a handful. But the day actually started out pretty well. Devin, one of the ones identified by the teacher as a potential problem, was left out of computer lab so he and I got some alone time and actually sort of bonded a little bit (he’s originally from Estacado). Then recess happened. During recess, the kids more-or-less line up to shoot baskets. At some point, a kid named Carey got hit on the head with a basketball. I saw it out of the corner of my eye, but it didn’t stick out to me. He was under the basket. It came down from an arc and so didn’t look intentional to me. It wasn’t the first time it had happened on that recess alone.

At the end of recess, another kid, whose name I didn’t know, was really strung up about something. I didn’t really know what. I cannot recall the exact circumstances, but to get him to chill out required my physically restraining him and telling him to go back to class. So I get back to class and as I am getting things settled down, I am informed that Carey is really hurt. “What happened?” “Cregg hit him with a basketball.” I had to take care of a couple other things and then I went to talk to Carey. “What happened?” “Cregg hit me with a basketball.” Oookay. So I look on my seating chart to see if this “Cregg” kid is in my class. He is, but his desk is empty. For about a minute I try to figure out what to do.

The rules specify that under no circumstances are you supposed to leave your class unattended, but as near as I could tell that was more of a guideline than a rule. So I went to go next door to talk to the other sixth grade teacher to let him know that I have a kid missing and another kid hurt. Apparently, while I was trying to figure out what was going on, Devin slipped out of the class and got into a fight with the kid I had to restrain after recess, whose name I discovered was Cregg. Devin had apparently went to confront Cregg about what he did and they got into it. Cregg was frantic because his sweatshirt was missing. So I met the principal for the second time when he was called in.

About ten minutes later, he pulled Carey out of the classroom. They were gone for a majority of the remainder of the day.

The principal walked them back to the classroom and had each one of the three apologize to me and say that it wouldn’t happen again. Not knowing all of the details (only the above), I wasn’t sure what the kids were apologizing for, exactly. Except Devin, I guess. Was Carey apologizing for getting hit on the head with a ball? Was Cregg apologizing for being possibly-wrongly-accused of doing it on purpose? So I didn’t know what they were apologizing for and I don’t know that they did, either. I just knew that all three were apparently in a good deal of trouble and it was possible that the entire class was going to miss out on the field trip at the end of the week.

All of this brought back a lot of memories of how things worked. We don’t know who did what, so you’re all in trouble (even those, possibly, with the misfortune of being in the wrong 6th grade class).

Most agitatingly, Devin, who had been great up until all of that happened, was a real pain in the arse for the rest of the day. A lot of kids were upset with him over possibly losing the field trip and then being one of the kids responsible for them not being able to watch a movie later in the day. He got antagonistic right back and then at some point when I was helping a kid with the math assignment slipped out of the class temporarily. Carey, who hadn’t really been a problem (and whom I had not been warned about being so) was fine. Cregg refused to participate in anything for the next hour or two.

At some point in the afternoon, I got an assist from the special ed teacher in an adjoining room who helped me get the kids to quiet down*. When the day was over, I apologized for the noise throughout the day. To which she said, “Oh, no, they’re never this good when they have a sub. You did great.”

So maybe I haven’t entirely burned my bridge at Clark. Then again, it’s not exactly high on the list of places I would like to substitute again really soon. Also not high on the list is Redstone Middle School, which I’ve also been called back to more than once. It’s probably not a coincidence that these are the schools that have the most urgent need.


Category: School

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2 Responses to 6th Grade: Fight! Fight! Fight!

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    Off-topic: I double-checked with a friend in Taiwan on the “non-country country” thing. She confirmed that for many, if not most, people in Taiwan, them’s fightin’ words. I didn’t give her your name, and it’s not your real name anyway, but just to be on the safe side, be ready to run if you see a cute (ethnically) Chinese girl headed your way.

  2. trumwill says:

    Thanks for letting me know. It probably is the kind of mistake I would make in person.

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