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The good, the bad, and the ugly

September 2, 2010

Ahhh.  The weekend.  Better yet, it is a long weekend!

This week was so much worse than last week, and it was so much better as well.  Confused?  Me too.

Monday.  Students were to present their poem projects in their groups.  When I began class, one group had one person, and it is hard to present to yourself.  So, figuring people would trickle in, I did a quick lesson on note taking so they would know how to do their homework.  For their homework, I used one of Christina’s essays.  I also included a paragraph I wrote for one of my graduate classes, and the “afterward” from Strategies That Work.  All three pieces defined a part of reading, which would be their task the next day.   I had many late comers.  It was very disruptive.  I also had to stop teaching to tell them to find their folder and sit by it, because I had put their folders out so they would be sitting in their groups.  It was fairly obvious that I was irritated, and I did announce that it was very disruptive when people came in late.  Luckily, some people filled in the group of one.  The presentations went well, and once they were done they got out of class early.

Tuesday.  One of my students had not come to class the day before.  She told me she was sick, and I asked for a Doctor’s note.  She didn’t have one, so I told her it couldn’t be an excused absence.  She got defensive telling me that she was “just telling you where I was.”  I began class with the task of writing a quick definition of reading using the notes they took from the day before’s homework.  This same student flagged me over there, and she was holding the homework, that she didn’t do because she was absent.  I interjected that I couldn’t help her with that, I taught that lesson the day before.  And she said that she “was just trying to ask me a question.”  So I went over to her and she told me she didn’t understand how to do the homework.  I said that I couldn’t teach it to her right then, and that the assignment was up on D2L (our classroom web page) so she could have gotten the assignment from there.  She then said “Will you talk to me with respect please.”  And I said we need to talk outside, now.  She then said, “Don’t say ‘now’ to me like I am a child,”  and I walked out of the classroom.  She followed me and yelled at me in the hallway.  I listened.  When she stopped, I asked her if she was done, and she said, “Are you going to speak to me with respect?”  I was shocked, and I told her that she was being very disrespectful to me, and she said, “you have to give respect to get it”  I countered with “exactly.”  I can’t remember everything that was said, but she had missed other days, including the first day of school.  I explained what it said in the syllabus and that it was really on her to get her assignments and if she was having trouble that I had office hours to help her.  But she was so angry, and it was not a productive “conversation.”  I told her we would have to figure it out after class.  And she said she would go to someone over my head and figure it out now.  I told her that she absolutely could do that.  Then I had to go in the classroom and teach, knowing that everyone had probably heard every word, since she was yelling at me.

Class went fine.  And, I went straight to the Head of our Department and told her everything after class.  She heard my side of things and then this student showed up with the Dean’s secretary.  So, we had a meeting.  She called me “unprofessional” “disrespectful” and was upset that I treated the class “like children.”  Oh, and that I “was not patient.”  She never apologized to me.  I apologized to her (again, I had apologized when we were “talking” in the hall as well, saying “I apologize if you think I have been disrespectful, it was not my intention, but you are being extremely disrespectful to me right now.”).  We ironed it out with The Head of my Department’s help and then I had to leave because my babysitter had to get to soccer practice.  She and I walked out together.

Wednesday.  I had fretted all night because I thought I was going to get fired.  I didn’t know what The Head of my Department was thinking.  So I decided to bring in all of my lesson plans and show her what I had been doing.  I also let her know that not everything this student said was the truth.  She had never emailed me, and she kept saying she didn’t know how to get on to D2L, but she had logged on before, so I know she could have done it.  The head of my Department seemed impressed with my lessons, but she said that I was going too fast.  (!)  She said I needed to pick one thing and then let them have time to process.  She asked what my lesson was for that day, and I told her.  She told me to do half of what I had planned, and if I had extra time let them go early.  She totally backed me, and said that she thought this student had a chip on her shoulder, that she was defensive because she was in the low reading class, and that she picked up on the fact that she had a history of tantrums like this.  The Dean also told me (in an email) that I shouldn’t worry about this.  This stuff happens all the time, and he thought I handled it well. (!)   But, I had to go and teach.

I took the advice to slow down, and since I had been obsessing all night I think I came to an important conclusion.  I was being a brick wall.  I was enforcing my syllabus to the letter.  This isn’t like me.  I was trying so hard to be “a college professor” that it was like I was playing a part.  I was also trying to pack as much into the class time as I could.  So, I wasn’t being myself.  I was not being responsive, or patient, or nurturing at all.  I was trying to be “tough.”  I was being bitchy.  So, I guess I am glad that I got yelled at.  I still think she should have apologized to me for talking to me like that, but it is over and done with and I am willing to let that go.  Wednesday’s lesson went so well.  I had time to show others how to get into D2L and answer questions.  I was so much more relaxed.  I also didn’t assign homework.  Relief!  Plus, the student showed up on time with my teaching notes that were on D2L.  She was pleasant and she participated.

Today.  Another relaxed lesson where I switched gears in the middle based on student’s questions.  I may even learn to like teaching college classes.  I was putting so much pressure on myself, that I wasn’t enjoying it at all.  I did forget to hang my parking permit on my rearview mirror, and got a ticket though.  Argh.

I am so happy that it is a long weekend!  Four days off!  Yippee!

***I think my RSS feed is not working because nobody has written in days, even those who post daily.  I will reboot soon and get caught up this weekend.

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6 Comments
  1. September 2, 2010 2:31 pm

    Yay! Yay yay yay! So glad to hear from you. Last night I almost left a whiny comment saying, “I miss you. Why did you have to start working? I MISS YOU!!” But I didn’t want to seem unsupportive. Still, I am selfish and I do miss you!

    Anyway…holy freakin’ moly, Meg. I am shocked that this student tried to pull anything on you. I cannot believe she told YOU to show HER respect…YELLING…that is unbelievable! I am simply shaking my head. She is lucky she didn’t get her ass kicked out of class! I am so sorry you worried about it, because I am sure the Dean knew (as she obviously indicated later) to take the student’s complaints with a grain of salt. It sounds like you handled things super professionally. What’s great is that you got some feedback on your syllabus, and maybe now you can take a little pressure off yourself.

    I have heard plenty of my friends who teach say they have to play the bitch card, especially in the beginning of the year. So I understand the need to be tough, but it’s great that you can look at this as a learning opportunity. Another way to play it is to be
    easy and relaxed but not so much that you’ll do anything to help those who don’t make an effort. Still, I can’t imagine EVER treating a professor with intentional disrespect. I mean, as a student, even in college, I was slightly in awe of my professors.

    YAY for a four day weekend! It’s bliss! We are going to the BEACH! And Beaux has worked nights this week so it makes it even more special…I have missed him! Hope you get some good relaxing in…

    • September 5, 2010 9:40 pm

      Oh, it is so nice to be missed :) Now you now how I feel when you do a NaBloPoMo and then you’re done. And, yes. Why did I start working? I had important work to do right here! Like Facebook and Blogging!

      I can’t wait to hear all about the BEACH. It sounds like heaven!

      Thanks so much for all of your words of support. I really think that it will be okay. I just have to get through this semester, and I bet I will learn how to enjoy this job. I just haven’t found my way yet.

  2. September 3, 2010 3:30 pm

    I think it’s great that relaxing a bit helped you with the teaching AND the (extremely rude) student, though I’m really sorry you had to deal with that. I think you handled it REALLY well. I can’t imagine my response in a situation like that!!

    • September 5, 2010 9:42 pm

      I can’t hardly remember MY response either, I was just so shocked. It will get better. I will find my footing. I WILL. Really.

  3. September 18, 2010 7:51 am

    YES. Meg. Yes, yes. It is all about being responsive and going slowly. I totally believe that especially for students with reading difficulties (and ESPECIALLY as adults) everything is going at a way-too-fast processing speed all of the time (I was pondering a bit about that overwhelm at htt://linesandsparks.tumblr.com) If you can do anything it will be to get this group to like learning. Who cares if you finish half the syllabus. It’s about discovering that they are learners. YOU are totally an inspiration…let your enthusiasm and nurturing and sparkle be the thing that drives every lesson…:)

    • September 29, 2010 12:11 am

      Thank you Christina,

      I think I have lost sight about teaching the love of learning. It is a difficult thing. When I was teaching Kindergarten and First Grade, and even Third Grade, my students were motivated. They wanted to do all the school stuff. They were wanting to learn. I just needed to fuel the fire. Now, I am dealing with people who have failed over and over. They know they are not good readers, and they have no idea how to get better. It is a steep hill to climb for them to get out of the failure rut. I am doing my best, but it may not be good enough.

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