Period Two: What is it with period two?
I knew I was in trouble when I walked into the room. The teacher has the desks configured into 6 pods. The students face each other in groups of five. Remember those desks in high school? They’re not any different today. I can’t imagine spending my workday with one person facing me with two people on either of my shoulders. To work on anything with eyes focused downward almost seems anti-social. Asking the kids not to talk in such configuration? C’mon.
I did ask the kids not to talk.
They started at a dull roar. I waited. They added an occasional crescendo for effect. I warned. Three boys, in Pod 1, continued in discussion, each trying to outdo the other. A young lady closest to my desk informed me that “they do this even when the teacher is here”. I offer a grin of appreciation mixed with an internal reminder that I’m not their teacher…and it’s difficult to fire a sub.
I wait another 6 or 7 minutes. I warn again. I feel like one of those parents who threatens “I’m going to count to three…” The boys grow louder and more disrespectful. I’ve been in bowling alleys that were quieter. I’ve had it. I feel incredibly insufficient and disrespected. I make the decision to move from supervisor to parent. I engage the voice that I’ve utilized with three children for 18 years of teenage parenting. I’ve had plenty of practice.
Side note concerning parenting skills: Considering the number of cell groups, discussion groups, Sunday School classes, seminars, and teaching series I have developed over the years, I never got close to teaching a class on fatherhood. In hindsight, perhaps that’s wrong. Truth is I never felt qualified to offer such training. I’ve made my share of mistakes on my kids, most likely as many as the next father in line, but nevertheless…mistakes that I regret.
There’s have been a number of lessons I have taught for which I have no regrets whatsoever, such as…
- Sometimes you need to shut up.
- Dumb will get you hurt.
- Our family does not revolve around you.
- Drama is not allowed.
- “You can shoot yourself in the foot several times…you only get one headshot”.
That last lesson was courtesy of my former boss. Any offense should be directed his way.
Back to the classroom. I was about to go “parent”. Psychologist tell us that a voice projected in lower ranges with ample respiratory support commands more attention. Might as well put that theory to the test.
“YOU NEED TO SHUT THE HECK UP RIGHT NOW”. All of my substitute teacher training on maintaining “an attitude of encouragement” has exited the room. All eyes widen and heads turn toward the desk in the back of the room. “I DON’T GET PAID ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH THIS CRAP”. Yeah…I said it. I said something else after that…but I don’t really remember it. I believe it was something along the lines of “Shut your mouths now gentlemen…I’m done”.
There’s a reason why my eldest did so well in boot camp.
The room goes still. Total silence. When I speak of silence, I’m talking about the kind of silence that makes pencil lead application on paper audible. As I begin to pace the room, I realize, however, a novice teacher miscalculation that is going to pose a problem. A glance at the clock reveals 30 minutes left in the period. This is going to be a LONG 30 minutes.
The class remains silent for 25 minutes. Those who thought this was a lunch period, at 8:15 am, produce no work. I haven’t changed them in any form. Perhaps I made it a bit better for a kid who actually wants to concentrate on the worksheet at hand. With five minutes to go, I decide to offer an apology and a short sermon.
“I apologize for yelling at you”. This is met with one of the trifecta of Pod 1 replying, “You didn’t give us any other option”. I tell him, in front of the class, that his statement couldn’t be further from the truth and note the number of witnesses in the room…thinking, “Surely they won’t all turn on me”.
I inform the class when people ignore the rules they do so for two reasons. Either they don’t realize they are in a group or they don’t care anything about that group. I guess one could make the case that the group itself may deem the rules immaterial in consideration of acceptable behavior…but what does that say about the leader? If they don’t understand they are in a group…they’re the guy in the airport talking on his phone loud enough for all to hear. They are the person standing behind you in line that cuts in front of you when another check-out lane is opened. They are the older lady who replaces the hymnals in the pews after they have been removed to make space for a church publication advertising summer options for adult and child learning experiences. That last one probably makes little sense to you. It makes perfect sense to me.
I offer them a quick course on a Greek understanding of rights and freedoms. Freedom is not the ability to do anything at any time in any fashion as determined by the individual. Freedom is the exercise of individual rights in light of a collective conscience. Freedom is conducted in the best interest of others as much as it is self-profiting.
From the looks on their faces, I have no idea whatsoever if it connects…if it is embraced…if it matters at all. One student in the back nods her head. I take that nod as hope for the future. It also confirms that I need to keep looking for a job. 😊 On to the next class. Hope reigns for Period Three.