It's now the fourth week of the term. Everytime people have asked me how the teaching is going, I've been telling them I'm going through the honeymoon period. These past few weeks have been too good to be true (pardon the cliche). I have somewhat managed to keep my feet on the ground and the reinvention I attempted in the first week of term seems to have been successful and exhausting. My Grade 8s are absolute nerds which means they are always eager to learn (and write beautiful notes in their books and answer questions in class by putting their hands up). The Grade 10s are somewhat mature (which is expected since I taught most of them last year and they think they know me well enough to get away with certain behaviour). Unfortunately, the Grade 9s are officially responsible for the end of my honeymoon phase. The problem began yesterday.
Every Tuesday I teach until 4:15pm. Granted I have 2 hours to spare during the morning because the kids are at sport for an hour hence the longer teaching day: the "graveyard shift". The first graveyard shift was a successful lesson (at the height of the honeymoon phase) and the kids were eager in spite of the long teaching day. Yesterday however, they were disruptive, sleepy and disorderly; the closest I've been to crowd control. I ended the lesson with an admonishment: that I expected better, that we all need to make peace with the graveyard shift, embrace it and make the most of the lesson. My speech fell on deaf ears.
Today, I saw the Grade 9s after first break. Their sugar levels were high so I decided to turn the lesson into a quiz. Their energy would be put to good use (nothing like elusive competition and trying to make kids work) and we would at least get through some work. There was genearal mirth and disruptiveness that comes with having a quiz in the classroom. I made bad judgements and I was accused of being unfair so I asked one of the kids to become an assisstant and help me make up the rules as we go along. Throughout the lesson I had been trying to ignore the lack of participation from some kids (I didn't have the energy to respond to the negative body language) and the consistent comments from others who were having unrelated conversations, mostly teasing each other.
At the end of the lesson I tried to make a speech about the general lack of order and participation in the lesson. While the kids were packing up I was easvesdropping on another conversation, banter amongst the kids. They were teasing each other. I decided not to butt in. I lost my cover when when S- insulted R- in isiXhosa (the politics of language in my classroom requires a post of its own) and I burst out laughing. Raees demanded to know what was said about him and S- told him without even hesitating. The class was in uproar-S- said R-s face looked like a Lunchbar-and I couldn't salvage R-'s humiliation because I was complicit in his demise.
His response was inappropriate. My response as a teacher was wholly inappropriate. I should have gained control of the class somehow rather than let the childish banter escalate to a point of humiliation. R- responded with violence. He started kicking chairs and threatening to hit the closest person who was laughing at him(not me). I had turned around to muffle my laughter from the whole incident but when I turned around J- and R- were at fisticuffs. I struggled tearing them apart. Shouted at one of the kids to call Mr Wilson next door. Eventually R- calmed down and J- went outside in a fit of rage. Mr Wilson calmed the class down and they were dismissed.
The whole incident is laughable. I have contributed to ending the honeymoon phase. The incident with R- didn't have to end as it did. If I was a teacher who could control her laughter and reactions, I would have put an end to what seemed to be innocent jests amongst the kids and dismissed the class with less drama. But I'm not good at that yet. I openly laugh at the foolish things my kids say to each other. This is mostly from shock. Sometimes they say the most ridiculous things when they think an adult isn't listening.
But as Ms Kira pointed out, the honeymoon phase isn't over...I just had a bad day!