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Do They Care?

Twenty-five freshman boys and girls, ninety minutes, 2-4 grade levels below their peers, the last two periods of a 13 period day…all of these things equal one tired and frustrated first year teacher.

I’ve tried so many things. I called parents, I wrote referrals, I compromised, I gave a pop quiz, I dropped the curriculum and tried current events, I turned the lights on an off, I yelled (numerous times), I kept them after class, I started talking notes on each student, I warned them they were being graded on class work, but nothing has worked.

I keep hearing you’ll be fine, they’re just kids, but these kids can be incredibly difficult. They look at me with disgust; they glare and snicker. I have to fight to keep my cool. I’m struggling to not tell them my true opinion of them during those moments.

They are rude and more disrespectful than any other children I think I have ever met. They disrespect me, as well as each other.

After one of my best students in the class raised his hand to answer yet another question, I heard a cough from across the room; it was a cough with the phrase “your gay” underlying it. I gave the kid a look to let him I know I heard it, but let it be at that.

Two kids had a verbal argument. They threw insults back and forth as I asked them to quiet down. One student blatantly cursed over and over again while speaking to me in front of the entire class – without even flinching. Am I wrong to say that, “I remember when I was young, and I never would have gotten away with such a thing?”

I speak about these kids and I am asked, “do they care?”

Do they care?

There is so much more that goes on in my day, and so much of it is wonderful and inspiring, but this last class makes my head hurt and my spirit suffer.



  • 1 media-teach
    · Sep 28, 2005 at 6:09 pm

    Hmmm, sounds like my day, and I would have to search pretty hard to find much that was wonderful or inspiring today. The students don’t care because most of the adults don’t care enough to do anything but scream and yell at the students all day long for doing everything wrong. To say I am discouraged would be an understatement.

  • 2 mvplab
    · Sep 28, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Remember your students are not your enemy! But also, they are not your friends. You have a job to do! They are the job you have to do.

  • 3 institutional memory
    · Sep 28, 2005 at 9:01 pm

    When I was a new teacher (many moons ago), a colleague told me, “You teach 90 per cent of your kids for free. They pay you your entire salary to teach the other ten per cent, and it’s still not enough.”

    Nothing’s changed. It’s the other ten per cent that present the real challenge.

  • 4 thedude
    · Sep 29, 2005 at 12:06 am

    There are some wonderful ETP courses offered by the union, such as TEACH for the Exceptional Student, that can teach you how YOUR behavior has to change for theirs to change.

  • 5 EdWonk
    · Sep 29, 2005 at 2:06 am

    Until pupils (especially this age or older) and parents are also held accountable for their behavior and academic effort, (or lack thereof) the type of negative student behaviors described by this teacher will continue to be a serious problem throughout our country’s public education system.

    One of my many concerns with NCLB is that it puts the responsibility for students’ academic progress completely on the school, while mentioning nothing about the need for both parents and students to do their part to ensure academic success.

  • 6 Persam1197
    · Sep 29, 2005 at 4:40 am

    I feel your pain, however, you may want to reassess what takes places in your classroom. Don’t give up! If it is at all possible, develop individual relationships with your students and earn their trust. No doubt that they have not been nurtured at home nor at school. They need to see you in a different light. Also, consider different strategies such as Socratic Seminars (really!) that makes them share the classroom as co-educators. When kids see what it’s like up there, it puts a whole different light on respecting you as a teacher.

    It sounds like these kids are as burnt out as you are. Consider using educational and social games in class to develop a new group dynamic. You can find some within the UFT curriculum guide that’s available through the Teacher Center and on-line.

    I’ve been there, and even though it looks hopeless, there is still hope. Keep a mask on that shows energy, caring, optimism, and respect. Eventually they’ll turn around if for no other reason than they won’t want to disappoint you and your faith in them.

  • 7 a-realist
    · Sep 29, 2005 at 5:49 am

    I am sorry to hear that you must go through such torture.
    First, although it may not seem this way, in all likelyhood your main distractions may involve only a few of the 25 students. The rest get roudy due the the few. So, try and narrow down the few who are the worse and concentrate your efforts on those students and their parents.
    Second, try rewards for those students who behave, stay on task, and complete assignments. Shower those students with both rewards and praise.
    Third, if it is your full day classroom, change the seating arrangement. Place your teacher’s desk so that it is behind the class. When you are at your desk you want to see the backs of their heads.
    Fourth, remove or try to cover or block anything in the classroom that causes a student to become distracted. If students go to the window then block the window.
    Fifth, try to see some humor in the whole thing, if you can.

  • 8 The Education Wonks
    · Sep 29, 2005 at 10:26 am

    Teaching In Inner-City Schools: What’s To Be Done?

    My attitude toward disruptive students tends to be rather straight-forward: Edwize has more to read in the whole post, which does a fine job of showing us some of the reasons why so many young teachers leave the teaching craft during the first five y…

  • 9 overview
    · Sep 29, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    It is true that our behavior effects the behavior of our students; although we do not cause their problems, how we respond to them does effect them. Thus, breaking up the class into smalller groups, and isolating the troublemakers into a group by themselves, will enable you to show the rest of the class that it is really just a small group that is disturbing the whole. If the troublemakers are isolated, they will lose their status, especially if one or more of them is able to be asked to leave the classroom and dealt with by the administration.

  • 10 NYC Educator
    · Sep 30, 2005 at 8:14 pm

    You may want to reconsider your impulese toward anger. Raising your voice in anger signals the teacher’s defeat. Perhaps years of teaching have rendered me a heartless bastard, but when kids give me a hard time, I very quietly suggest they may not wish to do whatever it is they’re doing, all the while calculating the best way to show them their behavior will cause mazimum inconvenince not to me, but to them.

    In any case, you’re green and the kids are testing you. That’s kind of their job. With experience, you’ll be able to shrug off most, if not all of these situations.

    I think it’s good that you’re calling homes. It’s important to know what to say when you do that, and I’d like to refer you to something I wrote specifically to help folks like you accomplish that task:


    I hope this helps you.