Ideal Classroom vs. Real Classroom

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Photo CC by Your DOST

First, I want to thank Dr. Ellington for giving us so much time to ask and get answers to our burning questions about teaching. I wish more of my education courses would do sessions like this. It will be handy to be able to recognize the four signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, but I’d also like to know what to do about it when I do identify it. It’s wonderful that I can give you a brief history of Walt Whitman, but I’d also like to be able to know what strategies are helpful for struggling readers. I love learning about English and education. That being said, I would like to have more real-world knowledge than textbook knowledge by my first day as a teacher.

The sad thing about the burning question session is that I want more. Even if we spent the rest of the semester solely asking questions about teaching, I’d probably still be able to think of some. Working with kids is scary. They’re unpredictable, uncertain, zealous, impulsive, quirky, nervous … the list could go on for pages. And not only do I have to watch out for their well-being, I have to make sure their being educated. As Marty McFly would say, that’s heavy. I know I’m up for the task because my experiences with students so far has already put me in tough situations that I’ve stumbled through, but still managed to handle. However, it’s still intimidating.

At the childcare center I worked at, a teenage boy came to the office kicking and screaming – literally throwing a temper tantrum. Here I was alone with him and even though he was substantially younger than me he was still bigger and not necessarily in the right mind. I was, to say the least, uncomfortable. I let him have his tantrum. I told him this was a safe area and that when he was ready, he could talk to me. He continued rolling on the floor, drowning in tears for a solid ten minutes. The whole time I sat there silently, waiting. Finally, he slowly turned his uncontrollable sobbing into whimpering. The whimpering turned into sniffling. He sat up and said, “I’m going to court today to testify against my father.” We talked for a while and he said he needed his councilor. So I let him call. I think that I was fortunate in that situation. What would I have done if this was my classroom and there was a room full of other kids when he had his meltdown? What if he would have turned violent? I don’t know how to restrain someone. Would I even be able to restrain a student without having a huge lawsuit to deal with later? What if I have a student who is prone to having these meltdowns in my class? These are all things that, I fear, may not be ‘what ifs’ when I become a teacher. And I’ll be grateful to have some guidelines to handling these tough situations before they happen. The classroom isn’t a magical realm where we delve into the wondrous world of literary masterpieces, applauding each other’s insights, and patting each other on the backs for our risky writing.  It’s just not.  I want to be prepared for a real classroom.

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12 thoughts on “Ideal Classroom vs. Real Classroom

  1. You handled this so beautifully! I don’t think you were fortunate–I think you were empathetic and accepting. Often the best thing we can do is simply sit with someone who is struggling, not try to intervene, not try to fix. Unconditional acceptance, love. It really will help. I enjoyed class too–I’ll have some more unscheduled time for us to talk too. It’s important.

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    • I’m so glad to hear you say that! Anytime I’ve been in a tough situation with a kid or young teen I always, always, always wonder what I could do better. What would an experienced adult do? I have a nagging feeling that whatever I’m doing would be done differently and much better by someone else.

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  2. It absolutely breaks my heart that this young boy was under so much pressure to testify. Who would you rather live with is a question that still haunts me. You handled this so well. You were a person who was there for him, even if that just meant getting all that emotion out.

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    • I can’t imagine the stress he would have been under. After he had calmed down he asked me if he could play some music. The first song he chose was Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”. When the line “loving can hurt” first played, he turned to me and said, “It’s true; loving can hurt.” It took all I had not to bawl.

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  3. Ya nailed it! The classroom can certainly be a magical realm, but the problem here is that it’s located within a school. A classroom can be good for students, but school can be a living hell, let alone their personal lives. We’ve spent so many years learning content, but so little learning about people.

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      • Thanks, Shannon. I don’t lie to myself. I have no grandiose visions. I accept that it is what it is. My K-12 was an exception, not the rule, and I’m slowly acknowledging that. I wanna fix things, but it won’t be easy.

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  4. It is so much easier to accept someone and their actions if you understand why they are acting that way. It seems that most of us in the class have realized that most people act the way they do because of something going on at home. A child’s home life can really affect their learning and how they act at school and some parents don’t realize that.

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    • I couldn’t agree more with the fact that acceptance is far easier to give when it comes with understanding. If I wouldn’t have known what the situation was, I would have probably dealt with it in the same way, but would have had a lot less sympathy.

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