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Trying to save the world

One of my favorite quotes is by George W. Bush. He said this near the end of a speech during which he declared war on Afghanistan. I was at the very first game every played at Heinz Field (delayed several weeks because of 9/11), and we got to listen to this during halftime. My mentioning this quote is not to say that I thought Bush was a great president, because I did not. This post isn't even about Bush. It is about how this quote relates to my tough week of subbing.

We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.

I subbed for the same class two days this week and was very tired by the end of the day Tuesday. In some ways, I felt like a failure. I had trouble controlling a few kids in the class. It was almost beyond my comprehension that I would have to tell some of them over and over again to be quiet. I get that it is late in the year. These kids are young and full of energy. I don't necessarily blame them for talking when they should not. But I should not have to keep correcting them. I am the teacher. I am supposed to be in charge! How can they be so disrespectful?! I kind of want to shake some of them, but, of course, I can't.

I had a particularly trying day with one girl. She had issues with at least four or five other kids throughout the day. Someone did not wait for her to play a game. She did not want to give back a pen she was borrowing from another student. Someone said something mean to her. Someone said she said something mean about another kid. As a result of these things, she pinched, pushed, and tripped various kids. She got in the face of a kid, giving the meanest look I had ever seen come from someone so young. Once she walked towards a kid so that the girl had to walk backwards to get away.

Each time I corrected her, telling her what she was doing was completely inappropriate. I told her we do not touch others. I said she needed to control herself better. Near the end of the day, during the last incident, I told her to try to take deep breaths, to help calm herself down. I was unable to send her down to the office for a couple of reasons, so I wrote down, in detail, her transgressions so her teacher could handle it in the way she felt was most appropriate. I am waiting to hear back from the teacher to see what the end result was. If she does not get back to me, a teacher-friend suggested I drop it.

But I don't want to. If these kids don't see negative consequences as a result of their actions, what will keep them from not carrying out these bad behaviors again?

Some days I want to save the world. Or at least a few kids. I wish I could get inside their heads or at least know what goes on at home, because I suspect that that is a big part of the problem. I have to think these problems result from the kids' lack of attention, discipline, or structure. Maybe all three. How can we change this? Sometimes both parents have to work, despite what some would say. Some parents let their kids get away with too much and/or think the teachers are too hard on their kids, but how can a teacher counteract that? Some parents should never have been parents to begin with, but they are. So now what?

I am a bit tired, and I may have faltered some this week. And I know I cannot make a difference in the lives of all the students I come across. But by God I will do my best to help some of them. To make their lives just a little bit better. Maybe I can't save the world, but I will try to help a few kids along the way.

I will not fail at that. I care too much.


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