Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mama told me there'd be days like this...

Today has not been the best day ever.

I am going to warn you ahead of time that this post may not be entirely coherent, because I have had a rough day and I just needed to get the words out.

I've been in this country for almost two months, and this is my third week teaching, and apparently this was the day when all the little stuff, combined with a couple of bigger things, just got to me and I found myself trying not to cry in front of a room full of high school seniors.

I've actually be really loving it here in Leone, and I mostly enjoy teaching. It's funny, because I went back and read my last post, and it was all, "Oh, today was awesome, I only have ten kids, and they are just so great."


The kids kept on coming, and soon I had almost 40 in three of my classes (Marine Science and two Earth and Space.) As if the number were not enough (it's hard to control that many kids), I got saddled with some real characters. In fact, whenever I would tell other teachers the names of some of my kids, I could see them trying not to flinch with every name I listed. It seems I got a good chunk of the "bad kids." And look, I know that even the bad kids have a good side, and that there's a psychological reason they act like little punks. But it's sometimes hard to remind yourself of that when you literally have to refrain yourself from just kicking half your class out and telling them you never want to see them again.

So, anyway, but the end of week one, I had more kids in two of my classes than my roommate Abby had in all of their classes combined. Also, American Samoa divides their kids up into "Mainstream" and "proficient", with the proficient kids taking the higher level classes and speaking better English, and the mainstream kids taking the other classes and also their English is not always very good. Well, the last two weeks I've been teaching two Proficient Sophomore Biology courses, two Mainstream junior Earth and Space classes, and one Mainstream senior Marine Science class.

I had heard rumors that Proficient kids were a lot better behaved, but I figured it might have been an exageration. But I have to say, every day I look foward to the two periods of relative peace that my Bio kids bring me amidst the chaos of my three Mainstream classes.

To be fair, there are only 8 kids in each of my bio classes, and almost 40 in the other three. And of those 40, there are way more than 8 kids that are terrific and well behaved. But kids feed off of each other, and the more you add, the rowdier things get. Throw in a couple of punks, and it's insanity.

That all sounds kind of negative, and I really should stress that I really do like teaching, and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on controlling my kids. And I keep thinking, "this is the hardest thing I have ever done, but my experience is going to be so much rewarding than someone who never had a challenge."

Also, I love my bio kids to pieces, but as the weeks go by, I find myself growing extremely fond of a lot of my "problem children" as well. Some of my mainstream kids are super smart, they just don't speak English very well, and it impedes their learning in an environment where English is the language of instruction. And they have never been forced to learn, because half the teachers teach in Samoan even though they aren't supposed to. So maybe, just maybe, having me will help them with their English, even if right now they can't understand everything I say.

Like I said, I pretty much love every single one of my bio kids. They are so amazing. But there are also some kids in my mainstream classes that just make my heart happy. One of my kids in Earth and Space thanked me for treating them with respect, and not acting like I was better than them. His English isn't the best, but he managed to find the words to ask if I was coming to see him play in the football game last Friday.

Last Thurday, I mentioned I wished I had a green Leone shirt instead of a yellow to wear to the game, but I couldn't find one anywhere. Friday morning before school started, a different Earth and Space kid came to my class to give a me a green shirt he had brought for me. The shirt was gigantic, hung down to my knees, had stains on the side, holes worn through it, and obviously had been taken right out of a drawer somewhere, but it was the sweetest thing ever that he brought it.

One of my kids confided in me that he wants to be like his dad when he has kids, because his mom hits him. I could barely keep from crying when he told me that.

The point is, even though my mainstream classes often make me want to rip my hair out, there are some kids in there that are the best ever. Last weekend, I was feeling really positive about my whole situation.

And then this week happened.

Yesterday I was informed that due to the small sizes of the bio classes, they were taking my bios kids and combining them into another bio class. While I'm okay with no longer teaching Biology (not my fave), I am heartbroken to lose those Biology kids. And if that weren't enough, I was told that I would now be teaching 4 Earth and Space classes and 1 Marine Science. That's mainstream, all the time.

Then they told me they would be taking some of mY earth and Space kids and moving them so that my classes would be smaller. And while I was really excited to not have 40 kids in a class (I only have 27 desks), I have actually grown quite attached to a lot of my Earth and Space kids, and I didn't want to lose them either.

So, today I got to school, and all was chaos. Basically, I wasn't teaching Bio anymore, and they had added Earth and Space classes to those periods where I used to have Bio. Unfortunetly, they didn't have anywhere to put the bio kids yet, so the whole day I had half bio kids and half earth and space kids in class together, which basically means I could get absolutely no teaching done, since they are totally different subjects.

And then I had to inform my Bio kids that I wasn't going to be their teacher anymore, and they were really upset, which both made my feel good (that they liked me that much), and made me sad to see them go.

I did lose some of my good Earth and Space kids, but I also lost some of my awful ones, so I'm calling it a win. Plus, my two above mentioned sweethearts are still in my class.

And then, my 4th period Earth and Space kids decided they were going to act like little shitheads. Like, the worst they have ever been. I almost sent every single one of them to the office. I have NO idea what was up with them.

And then, the kicker. Marine Science. Seniors. My worst class. Last period of the day.

I know many teachers have a few kids that just cause trouble. My Marine Science class has about 28 of those kids. I cannot stand that class. Forty kids, over half of them troblemakers. My roommates hear my complain about them, all the time. I dread this class. Somedays, I want to cry when I am done with them. They are that bad.

I have been trying so hard to make things fun for these kids, and not the usual boring lecture. But with some of them, if you give them an inch, they take a mile. You let them do one unstructured, fun activity, and the next thing you know they are throwing things at each other and acting like little shits. Today I had them make little paper boats and we were going to put them in water to show how currents work. It was a really fun activity, and they seemed to enjoy it. But first, they had to sit through an explanation of how currents work, and they just Would. Not. Shut. Up.

At one point, it seemed like every single one of them was talking when I was. One of the kids that was trying to pay attention was trying to ask me a question, and I couldn't even hear her question because the rest of the class was so rowdy. After about 20 minutes of this (plus the previous two weeks of dreading this class), I just lost it.

I stopped talking right in the middle of a sentence, threw my notebook on my desk, sat down in my chair and said, "Well, I'm done."

They all just stopped and looked at me, surprised.

I say, in a calm voice, even though I am actively trying not to cry, "I. Am. Done. I see no reason for me to be up there wasting my voice when you are obviously not listening to me."

Still they are silent, but they are starting to get guilty looks.

I say, "I'm sick of this. I try to make this class interesting, and you act like idiots. EVERY SINGLE DAY I wish I didn't have to teach this class, because you are awful. You show me no respect. Because of the way you act, I dread this class. If your goal was to make me wish I never came to teach in American Samoa, congratulations. You have succeeded. I am done."

There is just absolute silence for a good ten second after I finish my little speech, and they all look really ashamed of themselves. And then, finally, I hear, "I'm sorry, Miss Amber." And then another, "Sorry, miss." And so on, from the whole class.

It is the main culprits of idiot behavior that apologize first, and I may be grasping at straws, but I really think they were sorry. They looked absolutely ashamed and miserable.

I said, "Okay. Now would you like me to actually teach you this stuff, or do you just want me to put in on the test and watch you fail?"

"Please teach us, Miss."

And so I did, and the rest of class went amazingly. I mean, they are still little punks, but I think today might be the day they became MY little punks.

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