Friday, June 18, 2010

Your FACE is boring.

I'm not sure what is worse: Art-0n-a-cart or Music-In-The-Gym.

One of the districts I sub in has recently converted a lot of old catholic schools into public elementary schools, and these schools are really not adequate. Today I subbed in a school for a music teacher, and I was directed to his "area," a corner of the gym. I mean, he had a chalk board, a TV/DVD player, 25 folding chairs (which I had to set up), a small table and red tape on the floor indicating his "classroom." In his plans he left instructions that the students are to come in and stand on a line until they are all quiet. The first class that comes in has a few students that just can't keep it together. Everytime I think that the class is going to quiet down enough for me to invite them to sit in chairs a few kids freak out. Instead of wasting the whole class's time, I decide to separate the kids who are giving a lot of trouble. I put one little girl on the stage (this is a gym auditorium sort of deal) and I left another little girl sitting in the center of the gym. The rest of the class begins a sort of mum-ball game that involves listening to drum patterns and responding accordingly (as dictated by pre-established game rules). I grant the little girl in the middle of the floor permission to join the circle, and I go up and sit next to the little girl on the stage, who has a lot of forehead, who still keeps yelling and calling out. I quietly and calmly tell her that I'm just waiting for her to stop so she can join her classmates. As I talk to her I notice that the reason her forehead appears so large is that her braids couldn't possibly start any further down. And for that matter, she couldn't really have many more of them, as hair doesn't seem to grow evenly all over her head. I wondered what sort of thing causes a little girl to go bald in patches. Does alopecia effect children? Stress?

When I asked her what the problem was, she responded: "This game is boring!"
To which I automatically responded: "Your face is boring." And then immediately retracted: "Your face is not boring, I was just kidding."

The game is boring? I mean, does she seriously expect me to believe that THAT is her reason? She couldn't calm down before the kids even knew what they were doing in music class.

I went back to monitoring the game, and I had gone up to double check the game rules on the plan sheets when I accidentally knocked my copy of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the floor. At least half of the class started to laugh, mock, and point, which seemed so cliche and ridiculous to me. "Grow up," I told them. No one is in the mood for any nonsense at this point of the year. I am no exception.

At some point the little girl on the stage relocates herself to the other side of the gym. Her moving reminds me that she is there and that I probably should let her join the game, as she has been quiet. I say some words to her but she doesn't respond, and I walk over to talk to her directly. She is crying, but the tears aren't really coming. It really seems more for show. When I ask her what's wrong, she tells me that she is crying because I said her face was boring and I told her to grow up.

Granted, I did say these things, but if they weren't worth crying about immediately, there is no sense decontextualizing them and crying about them later. At some point she ran out of the gym and my attempts at calling down to the office to let them know I had a runner were thwarted by the fact that neither of the two phones sitting on the stage were working.

When the teacher came to pick the class up, I explained about the missing student. Immediately several other students jumped up and started giving the missing girl's excuses for why she was upset.

"She was just mad because the substitute--"

The classroom teacher cut them off saying that it doesn't matter because I am the adult and she is the student.

I really appreciate when there is solidarity. For the longest time after she ran out of the gym, I kept picturing having a meeting with the school administration in which they reprimanded me for joking with a child. I should probably work on not responding to everything with "Your FACE is ______." or "YOU are ______." Just maybe.


Sarah said...

Oh man I love the automatic, "your face is boring line." Not that I'm an expert in the slightest but you deal with children how I hope all teachers deal with children, fun but no nonsense.

Eric's Every New Day said...

I remember this one time in gym class we were playing this lame game that no one liked. Our teacher sat us down and asked us why none one was playing and this kid said, "because it's gay and boring" and without a second to think our teacher said, "maybe you're gay and boring." It was the one of the funniest things that happened in high school. Just thought I'd tell you're not alone and your slip wasn't the worst I've ever heard.