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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Feeling Stymied

Today A came to class and plopped down in her usual seat. Her friend, MK, was not in school today.  Often A and MK play off each other chatting, laughing, and cutting up creating a major distraction to any attempt to teach or learn. 

Yesterday, I had to have MK move to a different desk because of this, and then, when she continued to disrupt, had her removed by an administrator.  MK has now been referred to the 11th grade administrator and likely will be suspended for a few days, probably in-school. 

So not only was A missing her ally, she found out that I developed a new seating chart.  She had to move from her accustomed spot to a new one. Student typically resist this, as they do most anything that takes them out of their comfort zone or seems to make them cede power to any adult authority. 

A, at first, said that she would not move. I told her that if she did not, I would have to have her removed by an administrator as I did her friend.  Probably mindful of this, she responded by getting up, moving to her new seat, and putting her head down on her desk. Her head remained there despite my efforts to get her engaged in the lesson.

This kind of passive/aggressive behavior is typical of many students at our school.  If they cannot refuse to cooperate overtly, they find other ways to refuse cooperation. It is very difficult to counter this short of getting administration involved. I decided not to do so in this case.

One reason I did not goes to the fact that I am uncertain, in many cases, if this was passive/aggressive behavior against me, or if this was some other problem either psychological or physiological. Another student, who I have found to be sincere, told me that A had not been feeling well today.  As a male teacher, I am hesitant sometimes quiz female students too closely as to why they may be unwell. I am quite familiar with the problems association with the menses and the reluctance of female students to discuss them with me. Also, our students sometime fall victim to depression or other emotional maladies.

In any case, I was stymied by A's refusal to participate in this lesson. During my planning period, I tried to call her parents, but I reached a dead in there.  I had two numbers available to me, both were "no longer in service." This is a common problem for households in poverty. Despite the best efforts of the federal government and others, many of our families lack available means of contact.

So, I could not do much with A today. I sent an email to her administrator asking for help with her. Perhaps between us we will come up with a creative response.

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