Monday, September 22, 2008

Peace in the classroom

Today was one of those tough days at my school that you just can't get out of your head.  My students were fine and I was fine all day...well, sort of.  You see, their little faces didn't come in with smiles this morning.  They were tired and sad (the deep kind of sad).  I had to wrangle them in, build them up, and at the same time impose strict order.  Yeah, there was a lot of imposing order today.  It's amazing how when one kid has a breakdown, others follow.  After lunch a sweet little girl got a nosebleed.  Not a big deal, but I had to attend to her for a moment.  Forget it!!! Everyone else started acting up.  All of the sudden, nobody seemed to remember their line partner.  One partner hit another, and upon our approach to the classroom, one of my kids fake collapsed.  I was so angry.  I sat them all on the rug and had them drill the alphabet with my student teacher (that is a whole other issue) and attended to the bleeding girl.  Then I totally reemed them out.  Not in a corporal punishment sort of way, but a strong way and in a low voice. In a quiet voice, I said "How dare you!"  and then I looked around.  They were scared and silent.  "Your lovely classmate has a medical EMERGENCY (I love being dramatic) and you can't do anything to help?  I can't help a BLEEDING child?"  "What?  I need to be staring at you so you'll behave, so you won't HIT your line partner?"  Of course, they all answered "No."  "Thank you!" I replied.  "I want each an every one of you to apologize to your line partner for not acting in kindness and for not helping your fellow classmates to follow the rules."  They all turned and apologized, even the ones who weren't guilty.  "And next time, when it is time to line up, I want to see you greet your partner with friendship and a pleasant expression.  Who can show me that?"  This is where they fell right into my scheme.   The partners who had hit each other raised their hands.  The came up to the front of the class and smiled at each other and held hands.  A cute first grade teaching moment in social skills.  Ahhh!

But that's not why I'm blogging today.  It's not so much the violence itself that comes out in first grade, it's the foundation of a violent future.  I have to work so hard every day to convince the children that they are better than that, that they had the power to work it out without violence and that kindness conquers all.  I have to teach them a polite way to speak to each other.  I have to directly teach them how to think of others.  I have to constantly compliment excellent examples of friendship and kindness.  

Today, at my school, a teacher in the upper grades was taken away in an ambulance.  She was trying to break up a fight and was seriously injured herself.  Even though her students were never mine, I still feel the burden of my students future reflected in incidents such as these.  I can't tell you how DEVASTATING it is to see the police walk by my classroom on their way to the office twice or three times a week sometimes.  It makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry for the world, cry for the children in my room who have to see this, for the children in the classroom where the incident occurred, and for the teachers who have no choice but to try harder against all odds.  


miss brave said...

I love it when guilt and shame work better than yelling!

OK, that's a weird way of putting it, but it's true.

Teacher said...

How interesting that you posted this blog! I was just planning a blog on violence in the school as well. The fights that take place daily and the simplicity of curse words rolling out of these children at 5th and 6th grade truly breaks my heart.