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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.