Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Punch You in the Stomach

Tammy was having a rough day. She's a handful, even on a good day. To her and her mother's credit, a not-exactly-gentle phone call and conference early in the year largely nipped her bad behavior with me in the bud. But other teachers still complain about her, and even though I have a fairly good relationship with her, it's not hard to see that there's a lot of anger and attitude lurking beneath the polite veneer. Nevertheless, in exchange for her cooperation, I try not to be too hard on her, knowing how explosive she can be.

Tammy came into my extended day session and slumped down in her chair. I allow the first 2 or 3 minutes of extended day to be "vent time" in which, within reason, everyone in the room is allowed to complain about one thing should the need arise. Sometimes that includes me. Bless them, I have some very sweet-tempered kids who never complain about a thing. But Tammy, after her moment of slumpage, was ready to complain.

She launched into a tirade about a nameless sixth-grader who, in her view, bumps into her far too often. "He do that one more time," Tammy proclaimed, "I'mma punch him in the stomach. Don't think I won't."

I gave her the usual spiel about violence never solving anything, encouraged her to talk to the boy's teacher about asking him to walk carefully in the hall, and then told her to get to work.

She did, to my surprise, but a little while later, one of the students at her table was apparently looking at her too intently. "Quit looking at me," Tammy snapped. "I'mma punch you in the stomach, I swear to God I will."

"Tammy," I said, "that's not appropriate. Here, why don't you come and sit over here and take a break for a few minutes?"

Like I said, she's surprisingly compliant with me, and she took her things and moved over to the other side of the room. But her concentration was clearly rattled. "Miss Eyre," she said, "those folders are driving me crazy. Can I put them in order?"

Glad to not have her threatening to punch anyone in the stomach anymore, I told her to go ahead. She seemed pleased to have this task, and she took all of my students' reading folders, arranged them by color, and stacked them neatly on a shelf.

"There," she said, "don't they look better now?"

I had to agree that they did.

"Now," she said, "if anyone mess them up, I'mma punch 'em in the stomach."
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