Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't antagonize me!

I admit it. I like to post the success stories, the strategies that work, the hey-try-this ideas. That doesn't mean I don't have many ugly days. I do. I just ... prefer not to remember them.

I had one such day yesterday. That I need to remember.

I will not go into all the drama - if I did, I'd need to write about fresh, fragrant vomit. Who wants to read about that?

Let's fast-forward to the bitter end. There is a lesson. There is also one bright shining shimmering moment.

My drummers and dreamers class. Last period of the day. I'd abandoned all hope of the lesson I'd planned. Instead, the bell-work assignment stretched endlessly. I watched the clock more closely than the most desperate student (maybe because, unlike the kids, I know how to tell time). The caucophany was deafening. I was miserable, in every sense.

I don't often give up like this. This is where the lesson comes in.

We'd had visitors in the building all day observing how we manage behavior at our school. I'd contributed at a presentation in the morning, and the entourage had paraded through my class of resource level students after lunch. Thinking (a) they might still be in the building, and (b) they would not be back to *my* room, I opted to keep the crazies locked in with me.

Mistake!!!!!!!

Chaos snowballs. Don't, under any circumstances, let it. There's the lesson.

Here is the one delicious little story.

Of all things, the boys began arguing about the definition of the word "antagonize." Paraphrasing ...

"Don't antagonize me!"

"Oh, Dale is using big words now! You don't even know what that means!"

"You got that from Jersey Shore!"

"It means don't make me mad! So stop antagonizing me!"

"Antagonize? It means make things worse. Doesn't it, Miss?"


This spun around between a number of my roughest boys. That alone was a delight for an ELA teacher. On the other hand, only one thought to consult me as a credible authority on the issue, and even he did not stop talking long enough to hear my response.

And then ...

... a moment of heart-stopping, breath-taking, toe-tingling joy.

Al jumped into the fray and said with conviction, "Antagonize? It's like antagonist, the one who makes problems for the main character. So it means to try to make problems for someone."

Come on, now, ELA nation. That's nice. Admit it. Sweeeeeeeeeeeet.

The moment passed.

Today, order was restored. After his open response was completed flawlessly, I approached Al. Told him about how that one little line made my day yesterday. Told him that if we didn't have a touch-free zone rule, he'd be in trouble. That he'd made my toes tingle. Got a big goofy grin in return.

I love teaching.

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