About a girl (part 1)

In the language of my middle school students: I <3 Nirvana.   :)

I also really like John Spencer.  He has inspired me on several occasion. This post is an attempt to tell a better story.  I hope you like it.  I am brought near to tears every time I think of Araceli.

Araceli is a loud, disrespectful, bilingual 8th grader.  Her reputation preceded her in our school and I had her in 7th period science.  I usually get along better than most with “problem” students and had no reason to believe Araceli would be any different.

During the first weeks of school Araceli was not a problem in my class…she wasn’t much of anything in my class.  She sat in the back of the room with Tatyana and the two seemed to get along well.  Neither participated much in class and were off-task from time to time, but simply looking their direction or moving toward them was enough for them to get back on task (or at least appear to do so :) ).

The few times she did contribute to class discussion, her insight was profound.  I decided to talk with her privately about getting more involved with class discussion.  “Araceli, I really like the things you say in class, why don’t you participate very often?”  With disdain, Araceli replied “I don’t feel like it.”  “I hope you’ll share your ideas more often, I think the other students in class will really benefit from what you have to say” was all I could muster.  I could tell she was uncomfortable and didn’t want to push her any further.  I assumed she was not used to being spoken to by a teacher, in private, except when she was being reprimanded.

Over the next few weeks, I noticed a sharp decline in Araceli’s attitude.  She and Tatyana were now off-task more often and she was showing up late to class.  Her general demeanor toward me seemed to have plummeted quickly as well.  I was troubled and when talking to other teachers, the things she was doing in my class had been par for the course in their classes up until this point.  Apparently, the honeymoon was over.

I decided to keep Araceli after school one day to discuss these issues.  I let her know that I would like to see her after school and she blatantly exclaimed that she would not be coming.  Near the end of the school day, I made my way over to her last class period room and asked her to come with me to my room. Grudgingly, she did.  When we got to my room I asked, “What’s up? Why have you displayed such a negative behavior in my classroom lately?  I do not want to attempt to further replicate the dialogue, but it quickly became a shouting match between her and me.  Yes, I stooped.  I stooped way down.  At one point I stopped the argument when I realized that shouting was her goal.  She was enjoying the exchange.  She may not have had a better way to communicate feelings of frustration.  I decided to let her leave and said, “I hope to see our relationship improve” to which she replied as she ran out the door “I doubt it”.

Her behavior continued to escalate.  She continued to be late, she was off-task nearly 90% of the time, and her in class outbursts disrupted the entire class regularly.  I again went to her last period class and asked her to come talk with me again.  She came to my room, but immediately tried to get me to join a shouting match again.  This time I was able to resist, but she continued to push and complain that she had to leave.  I told her that if she walked out on me, she was choosing to have the matter turned over to the office (she was very familiar with both the principal and the assistant principal).  She walked out and I (slamming my classroom door) went to the office to fill out my first ever referral.

While filling out the appropriate paperwork I entered into a discussion with our in school suspension supervisor and the assistant principal.  They tried to reassure me that what I had done so far was fair and that I was taking the appropriate action.  Yet, I disagreed and returned to my classroom, referral sheet in hand.  I decided I would try one more time.

The next day I asked Araceli to come in after school to talk.  I explained that she did not need to come, but that I simply wanted to talk with her.

(To be continued….)

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5 Responses to About a girl (part 1)

  1. [...] Over at Teaching as a dynamic activity, 8th grade Earth Science teacher Jerrid Kruse gives a thoughtful, firsthand account of teacher trial and error, and trial again, with a student that pushes back on every attempt at positive engagement. It’s heartening, uncomfortable, and highly relatable. Check out the first installment of the story, here. [...]

  2. G Bennett says:

    As a new teacher, I am dealing with stories like this almost weekly and I am always looking for new ways to resolve classroom conflicts. It is apparent that this teacher is not going to give up on this student, which may be a new experience for her.

  3. [...] Over at Teaching as a Dynamic Activity, 8th grade earth science teacher Jerrid Kruse gives a thoughtful, firsthand account of teacher trial and error, and trial again, with a student who pushes back on every attempt at positive engagement. It’s heartening, uncomfortable, and highly relatable. Check out the first installment of the story here. [...]

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