Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Expletive Deleted

It is my first class of the morning, after what has been two exceedingly draining schedules the last couple of weeks, after a weekend involving two consecutive 10 hour days for my own education.  The first class comes after I've already had to hit the ground running by collecting and checking in books from nine classes and helping herd 600 students through breakfast in half an hour.  It's morning and I am already tired.  I'm drained.  I'm spent.  I'm exhausted.  I feel like I have little left to give.

The class enters in jumbled, tumbling wave of preteen vexation.  I hear a torrent of profanity.  Oh no you didn't!  I stop them all.  I'm damming the damner.  Everyone is silent. Who was spewing that filth in my library?  Denials swirl.  Fingers point.  One confesses.  The teacher enters at the end of the line.  She asks what was going on.  I inform her.  She begins to remind the class of expectations as I walk to the reference wall.

I return with a thesaurus and dictionary plopping them on the table in front of the offending student*.  Do you want books today?  Yes.  Good.  Start with these.  When you can give me a list of ten appropriate words you could have used in this situation you may go find books to check out.  He is stunned, amazed, incredulous.  He is confused by the results of his confession.  The teacher says, "You heard her.  Go sit over there and get to work if you want books."

The other students come and go checking books out.  He sits against the wall paging through the books.  It was a gamble in this building full of defiant tweens who know the administration doesn't back up the teachers.  He is not displaying stubbornness, passive aggression,  obstinacy.  I ask if he's ready.   He says he is still looking.  Okay, keep at it.  He looks chagrined, humbled, small, unsure.

When everyone is gone I walk over seeing he has his fingers saving pages.  I ask him to show me what he has found.  He points in the thesaurus to the word "calm."  I ask if that is how he felt when he said the foul words.  He shakes his head.  Ok, it's a good word but it's not how you felt at the time.  What are appropriate words to describe how you felt?  I was angry.  Good.  We all get angry.  Now find ten words that mean the same as angry.  Do you know how to use this book?  He admits he doesn't.  He is embarrassed, fearful, disturbed....yet receptive, open, willing.

I show him the guide words, tell him to find the word "mad."  He pages uncertainly until he finds it.  Now read what it says.  Mad, angry...  Is that how you felt when you were cursing at the other boy?  Yes.  Okay, what other words mean the same?  Annoyed, upset, furious, incensed.  Were you annoyed?  Yes.  Were you upset?  Yes.  Were you furious and incensed?  What's incensed?  What do all these other words mean?  Mad.  They are all the same.  So it means mad?  Yep, that all mean mad.  Yeah, I was incensed.  Good.  Pick one of those words and look it up, find some more.  Angry.  Look it up.  Read it to me.  Angry, mad, irritated, bothered, upset, irate.  What's irate?  Think about it.  What do all the other words mean?  Angry and mad.  What do you think irate means?  The same thing.  Yep.  So you know a lot of those words, right?  Yes.  And some of them are new to you, right?  Uh-huh.  Which ones of the words you know do you like best for describing how you felt? Upset and furious. Ok, which of the words new to you do you like best for describing how you felt?  Irate and incensed.  Those are good words.

Guess what?  What?  You're allowed to be upset, furious, incensed, and irate.  You're not allowed to be nasty because of it.  You talk about what made you feel that way. "Ricardo, it makes me furious when you push me away from the chair I want."  You don't say, "Get outta my way you blankety-blank blank!"  That just makes more people angry and starts more fighting. Now tell me how you can say things better next time with some of these words.  I'm irate because you took my chair.  Good, that's a start.  Am I going to hear that other filth from you again?  No.  Good.  Go find some more books to improve your mind and your mouth.


*God knows my internal kneejerk response was to want to unleash a flood of invective on the offending party but that's probably all he hears at home hence his own colorful repertoire. 




31 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

I think you handled this situation extremely well. You turned a nasty situation into a teachable moment. Job well done.

joeh said...

I'll bet that would not work on a lot of kids, I'm thinking you know how to handle different kids as well as different situations.

I concur with Stephen - Well Done!!

Craig said...

Mrs. Lime, you are such a Boss. . .

;)

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

It's as hard to unlearn all those inappropriate words...
...harder still not to use them, particularly as frustration builds.

Tabor said...

OMG. You handled that so super super well. You are a great teacher and I wish I had you as a mentor during my school days. Whether this works in the future with this dude is not as important as the fact that he now has a chestnut of truth that will follow him his whole life.

Bijoux said...

I agree with Tabor!

Anvilcloud said...

You probably didn't change him, but he now knows how to use a thesaurus, and that is a good thing,

Kat said...

You are my hero (icon, role model, ideal).
I love you.
I adore you.
I have great fondness for you.
I care very much for you.
I feel deep affection for you.
I like you very much.
I idolize you.
;)

haphazardlife said...

You so totally rock!

haphazardlife said...

You so totally rock!

Cat said...

Excellent. I was an aide at one of the local schools, and a teen I know personally came in. I asked what he was coming into detention for. "Oh, swearing." I murmured that was too bad, whereupon he replied, "Yeah, isn't it the s***s?" This is one of the times where I had to decide whether to laugh, yip at him, or just sigh and do a face palm...

Cat

Jocelyn said...

I don't know if it's the wine at work, but this whole thing made me teary.

My heart flipped over right at this point:

"Do you know how to use this book? He admits he doesn't."

Logophile said...

They are getting a treasure at bargain basement rates and I doubt the admin even have any awareness of it.
I am so glad you have enough respect for yourself and your students to be all that you are, the full-price you, even though it is not remunerated or recognized.

I hope you made a difference for him but even if you didn't, you handled it with your best self showing, and that makes it worth having done even if he never remembers it happened.

Once again, I just love that I know you. So glad you are my friend, Madame Awesome.

Suldog said...

GREAT job. Some day, when that kid amounts to something, he'll look back and acknowledge a debt to you. I guarantee it. You have improved the world!

Hilary said...

The really good teachers who taught my kids.. you are in a class (so to speak) with them. Those kids.. that school.. they're so blessed to have you. You make a difference.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Hell yeah! ;)

Nicely handled.

joeh said...

much deserved POTW!

Glo said...

Wonderful way to teach him how to acknowledge his feelings and express himself - a life lesson!

Michael Manning said...

Here via Hilary and Congratulations on the POTW! Stephen stole my thunder. So well done, and shared!

Michael Manning said...

Here via Hilary and Congratulations on the POTW! Stephen stole my thunder. So well done, and shared!

messymimi said...

Wonderfully, masterfully handled. Congratulations on the POTW, it's well deserved!

Out on the prairie said...

I like your method. I often quoted it was a brain error not being able to have the appropriate word.

Gail Dixon said...

What a wise and wonderful way to handle this impressionable boy. The next time he is filled with anger towards another, perhaps he will stop and think first. In my day the punishment was writing lines. This is so much better.

Ahsan Afsar said...

World Most Popular and Top Amazing Speedy Cars
TopAmazingCars.BlogSpot.Com

Kamao Poot said...

Find best Home based Business without any work, just invest and rest with your profit
EarningsClub.com

Ahsan Afsar said...

Online Jobs of Data Entry and Copy Pasting with Jobz Corner
JobzCorner.com

Asif Ali said...




Find best Online Jobs on Facebook...
JobzCorner

Asif Ali said...

Best Free Earning Website where you can earn with just playing games and view some ads, join now
PaidVerts.com

ahmedraza moon said...

Get Facebook Likes on your fb page, likes on your facebook pictures, followers on your facebook id, shares of your facebook posts, every thing is available here, visit for more details
www.jobzcorner.com

adnan khan said...

Find Best online home based jobs, data entry, copy pasting, facebook and clicking jobs
JobzCorner.com

Ahsan Afsar said...

Find best business plan from home without any work, just invest $1 and get 120% Total Profit within a week
EarningsClub.Com