I stared numbly at the faces of my students. I could tell that their minds were not on the worksheet I had just handed them three minutes ago.
There were six of them, all boys and even though I only had them on Fridays, the sixty minute lesson felt like infinity. I remembered two years ago when I had just started teaching them, they were obnoxious and loud -they are still, now- but they were kids, now they are teenagers. In other words, they’re completely different species.
“I hate you, you know.” one of them said to me when I told him to stop texting.
He was waiting for my reaction so I said, “I don’t really care”. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. I told myself, he didn’t mean it, but I knew he did. He was always the most difficult in this class and many times I had wished he just quit and stop coming. And every time I felt guilt for wishing such things.
The class ended and I felt relieved. Children never told you that they hate you, they don’t understand the concept of hate and they put things into two categories: like and dislike, in which the components in each group exchanging in seconds. It was easier to please a child, sing with them, dance with them, play with them, joke with them and if you feel too tired to do each of those, buy them chocolates.
With adults it’s easier in different ways. You can make sense with them, they can make sense with you. They can see things through different layers and most healthy-minded adults filter things that they’ve received. They can easily see advantage or disadvantages of everyday behavior (though what the actions they do with that knowledge depends on each individual).
But with teens..they can make you hate yourself for disliking their behavior. Since I’ve started this job, I’ve been reading a lot of methodology books about teaching and a lot about handling teenagers and also been reading teachers’ blogs and forums that share other teachers experience about handling difficult students.
But none of those prepare you for these:
student : miss, do you want to see video of me kissing my girlfriend?
me : err.., no thanks?
me : okay, now open page..
student : why should I? (with sour look in his eyes – as if I was someone that the presence is so revolting he wanted to puke)
and this :
me: don’t play with your pho..
student : I hear you, God damned it!!
me : … (stunned)
me : okay, guess how do I feel at the moment (it was a lesson about feelings)
student : fucked?
me : frustrated (I mean it)
Rob told me that they acted that way because they are used to me. And I thought, should I change the way I am to disciplined them. How? I don’t think that I have different faces or masks every time I step inside a class. I’m just being me.
One day, I was having a bad day at the class. One of the boys acted unbelievably rude and I tried to reason with him. After the class had finished, and there were only two of us walking down the corridor, I asked him: “Why were you so angry?”
It took him moments before he answered, then without looking at me, he said “I think I’m going to be like my father. He lied all the time. That’s why my mother left him.”
I didn’t see this coming.
All I could say was, “you are you, not your father.”
He shrugged and ran to catch his friends.
Did it make me feel any better knowing he had a valid reason he didn’t even realized to act the way he just did? Maybe. Did it make my teaching hours easier? I doubt it.
But I felt something pushed me to take another step. No solid promise that it’s going to be easier, no certificates that says I passed a teaching course to certify that I can do this. And many moments I doubt myself. My adult student once asked me why I chose this line of career instead of designing. I didn’t know why, I wanted to say that there was something in teaching that you don’t get in other line of job but it sounded so cheesy.
But sometimes, it’s not about teaching which tenses you should use, sometimes it’s about learning to be more human.
I was once had a discussion in a teenager class: robot teacher or human teacher. To my relieved they chose to have human teacher compared to an android. The reason? They said robot teacher couldn’t laugh with them.