Friday, September 17, 2010

Nickelback Omens

It all started when my radio alarm clock went off at 6 AM (I have a radio alarm because that beeping sound makes my blood pressure double and causes anxiety attacks.). The wake-up song? Something by Nickelback. No joke, this immediately pissed me off. I quickly shut it off and got up, muttering at My 99.5 for waking me up with that horrifically iconic growling voice of adult alternative rock.

After taking a long shower with my first time using John Frieda's Brilliant Brunette shampoo, I got out to finish getting ready. Today's Friday, so naturally I wanted to wear jeans and a shirt that'd make me stand out among junior high kids. What better shirt to wear in red U-territory than my BYU blue alumni shirt?

I have this thing lately where I can't find anything. It's kind of weird because I usually remember where I put things and try to stay pretty organized, even if I get cluttery. I searched all of my drawers twice. I searched my t-shirt drawer four times, not joking. Actually pulling out the piles of shirts and going through them multiple times. To no avail. I checked my closet and tried to remember the last time I wore my shirt. I couldn't recall. A little frustrated after spending like ten minutes looking for that shirt, I decided on something else.

For the past several days I've had a clogged pore turned sort of zit turned red area on my face. The last time I had my concealer was in my work bag on picture day last week. I went to get it and couldn't find it. I checked my church purse. I checked my regular purse. I checked my makeup drawer. No concealer.

At this point I could tell it was going to be a rough day. I mean, you can't start your day off with Nickelback and think it's gonna be a good day.

Nevertheless, I tried to call these omens silly. I prayed especially for patience and love for my students today, not knowing why. Silly me. Never ask for those things.

Period 1A was a beast. It sucks because half of those kids are really good! And the other half are not so much. I have these two boys that always have to be next to each other, won't stop talking, won't sit in their correct seats, and won't follow directions. It's getting very annoying. They're darling and funny and clever, but I can't take anymore. That period was a disaster.

But it was OK because I had period 2A to cool off. And I did. I started 3A feeling quite chipper and happy to see them. They were really good, again! This is the class that started off as my beast class but has proven me wrong. (1A took their spot)

On to 4A, my reading class. Always a cinch, right?


Cue Cristobal Kristoffersen. Not her real name. I made it up. Do you like it? Me too.

Cristobal gave me some trouble in the first week of school. She has serious insecurities due to being born with a cleft palate. She also has anger issues. After a couple days, I kept her after to make a deal with her. She improved the next period and was awesome ever since. Problem solved, right?


Cue fluency practice. Partner work. Reader reads for 1 minute, grader marks incorrect words and calculates Correct Words per Minute and Expression scores. I look over, and Cristobal's partner is marking her own passage for her own reading. Uh?

"Cristobal, why aren't you doing your job?"

Cristobal: *ignores teacher*

"What are you supposed to be doing right now?"

Cristobal: *looking away*

"I need you to help your partner, you can't grade your own reading. You need to mark her mistakes and where she ended, please. I'm going to start the timer again, ready?"

Cristobal: *ignore*

"Cristobal, please do what you're supposed to do."


"OK, you can cooperate, or you can call your mother."


"Alright, let's call your mom."

Keep in mind the whole class is having to wait and watch this because they need the timer for fluency. They're watching her completely ignore me, and I'm trying to make sure my face isn't turning totally red.

She stands up, lets out some angry exhalation of "Oh my f-ing gosh," or something along those lines, pushes her desk a little, and storms toward my desk. Given this totally absurd and somewhat violent reaction, I asked her nicely to please step outside.

Are you seeing how patient I am, people? Anyone who accuses me of not being patient will be shot on sight. I repeat: shot on sight.

So I start the timer for the class and step out to see what's plaguing my angry, insecure student.

Breathing heavily (and possibly steaming out of her ears), she informs me that she read perfectly, but Chanel told her she made three mistakes, and Chanel's not reading loud enough, and Chanel put a different expression score than what Cristobal told her to do.

I explain calmly that fluency is not something we do because we're perfect. And we need to take our partner's scores seriously and write them down. It's not to criticize each other, it's to improve our reading. I ask if she's ready to come back in and cooperate, and she comes back in.

I'm ready to start the timer, and it's Cristobal's turn to read. Chanel's ready to grade her. When I start the timer, Cristobal flings her passage over at Chanel and lets out a huge, angry sigh.

Teacher is really frustrated by now. But all the kids are watching! I can't let them see that students can beat the teacher. No sir. must. maintain. control.

"Cristobal, what are you doing? Please knock it off. Can you please pick up those passages off the ground?"

Chanel picks them up. Cristobal takes them, I'm asking her to please be a good partner to read, asking her what the problem is, asked her to please look at me when I'm talking to her, and she starts walking away. Just walking away. Being deliberately disrespectful.

Then she threw the passages down on the back counter. They belong in a color-sorted manila folder. She flung them. FLUNG!

"Cristobal, please put those where they're supposed to be."

*ignore teacher and walk back to seat*

"Please go put those passages where they belong. Why are you throwing my stuff?"


"OK, that's enough. You can get a detention, or you can call your mother now. Up to you."

Cristobal: stands up in a rage, screams "OH MY GOSH!", throws her desk sideways toward Chanel, and stomps toward the phone.

I'm done with her violence and defiance and rudeness at this point. DONE. 

"Please step out of my classroom."


"Step out of my classroom."

"OH MY GOSH!" slams the door, hits some lockers, walks halfway down the school hallway, and sits on the floor.

I do my last round of fluency with my kids, trying to keep it together, meanwhile instant messaging the principal, telling him I'm having an issue with the student.

I walk down the hallway while my kids are copying something out of their vocabulary books. The principal is meeting me there (I didn't know, but that was lucky!).

I tell Cristobal softly that she can come back to class, or sit in Mrs. Wilson-Wright's class (next door), saying it's up to her, if she doesn't want to come back to class that's fine.

*ignore teacher*

Then the principal walks up and asks her if blowing up and acting this way has gotten her anywhere before. She ignores him, and he takes her with him.

I'm relieved and upset and emotional and ready to cry, but I hold it together because I have ten minutes left of class.

Two or three of my students start telling me some things that briefly comforted me.

"Oh my gosh Miss Balibrea, I don't know how you did that!"

"Yeah, you were SO calm!"

"Man, I would've punched her. Did you want to punch her?"

"I would have been like, 'Get the (silence) out of my class right now!'"

And from one of my most challenging pupils whom I'm fortunate enough to have in two classes, "Man, Miss Balibrea, I have so much more respect for you now." And it was a genuine compliment from him.

Another student stated his accordance.

I told them thank you.

Then I called my dad. Then I went to 45-minutes of faculty meeting, rubbing my eyes and my temple and my forehead the whole time, breathing and trying to keep it together.

Then I went back to my classroom and sobbed for twenty minutes.

It's really hard to hold your own in front of that many kids, showing them that you are the boss without being mean. Showing them that they don't have any control over you. Showing them that it doesn't hurt your feelings when they pretend they can't hear you. Showing them that it's not totally rude and hurtful that they walk away when you're talking to them. Showing them that you don't get upset at their complete defiance and mistreatment of you. Showing them that they have the choice in determining their fate.

All the while wanting to be mean, wanting to scream at them, feeling hurt, feeling annoyed, feeling upset, and feeling like you are ready to determine their fate with your hands around their necks.

I feel that I held my own today. And it took more strength than I ever knew I had.

Good thing I prayed for it.

I mean, when your day starts with Nickelback, you have to pray for some help, right?


Rheanna and Doug said...

I shudder everytime I hear a Nickleback song, just wondering when something bad is going to happen. Kuddos to you in handling that like a champ. You're a good teacher to those kids!

April said...

Wow Janae! You were VERY patient! I think I would have called the principal long before you did, but way to hang in there! Wonder if you can threaten kicking her out of your class, permanently, for being so unruly? Can't students still get suspended for insubordination? I'm thinking she needs a harsh punishment real quick to put her in her place! (Good thing I'm not a teacher ha?!)

Tamara said...

Janae...two words, you rock!!! :)

StacyB said...

Nice name you gave her...insightful. As much as you & I have in common (sarcasm, silent criticism, humor, spelling, writing, educational kind of intellect, etc) you are certainly more like your Daddy. That's a good thing as I could never, ever have handled this situation as you did.
Thus, a good reason I did not become a math teacher as I had wanted to in my younger years. It's obvious that you handled the situation with utmost control and gaining respect from the other students. You may be small in stature, but you are huger than life itself. You ARE making a difference in so many lives who need it. You got a job there for a make a difference. This is only one of the many trials which await you in your line of work. You will learn from and conquer them all...because you are Janae Balibrea. The newborn who amazed the hospital staff and visitors by raising her head to look around at one hour old, the baby who had conversations at two, the toddler who picked out and changed her clothes like twenty times a day, and "speaking for Mom & Dad". The teenager who never, ever procrastinated anything ~ and beat herself up if something didn't go as planned or a grade she got was a bit lower than expected. My Janae who grew up to be more than any mother could ever ask for. I am grateful. Thank you. Thank you for the help you have given me over the years with your difficult brothers. You have handled them way better than I ever could have.You are a blessing, and I have always told you that you were sent to me so that I could learn. I am trying. I love you.