Classroom Katie: Survivor Teacher Edition

The students arrive. The instructions are projected on the board, just like they are at the start of every class. Someone still comes up to ask what they are supposed to be doing. You tell them to look at the board. Three more people come to ask you where the warm up is. You point to the board where the instructions are and tell them it is on the supplies table… where it always is.

Three people need the bathroom. Ask if they have their bathroom passes. “Am I supposed to turn in my warm up?” “It says what to do on the board.” Several students have finished the warm up and are now silently reading. You reward these students with your school’s prize currency. Nearby, a couple students protest loudly that they too are being quiet and are focused and deserve rewards. Point out that by complaining they are being loud. One of these students only just realizes that they should be doing a warm up and now asks you where they can find it. A student who is not in your class shows up in your classroom. They realize their mistake and leave.

“You have five minutes left to finish your warm up.” “Wait, there’s a warm up??” Yes. It’s on the board. Someone asks if they can sharpen their pencil, bite back sarcastic comment “I don’t know, can you?” Someone else doesn’t have a pencil at all. Half the class has finished their warm up and the other half is milling around. You remind them to sit and work. A few sit down. A couple sit down and immediately bounce out of their chairs like the seat is a trampoline. “Time to turn in your warm ups.” “No wait I just need a few more minutes.” “No, it’s time to turn them in now.”

“Okay guys, so today we will-” “What are we doing today?” “I’m getting to that.” Everyone is very interested in not looking up at you. No matter how hard you try. You explain the directions, trying to be as clear as possible. In the middle of explaining the directions, someone has a question. It is a question that has nothing to do with what you are talking about. You finish the directions. You then repeat the directions in different ways as people ask variations on the exact same question. “Wait, so what are we doing?”

Let the students begin work. Immediately tell several students to lower their voices. It is in vain. There is nothing you can do or say that will make them be quiet. Circulate and watch students working. Take paper away from student who is drawing instead of working. Tell them you will return the paper at the end of class. Forget to return it at the end of class and feel guilty. Ask someone why they are out of their seat. Ask someone else why they aren’t working. They tell you they are. You point out that there is nothing written on their paper. They remain unmoved even in the face of such strong evidence.

“Was that the bell?” “No, not yet.” Get asked what a word means. Suddenly loose all ability to define words without using the actual word in the definition. A student across the room shouts your name. You tell them to raise their hand. They raise their hand and then shout your name again.

Someone is crying. You ask why and they say they don’t know. You ask if there is anything you can do to help and they say no but start crying harder. It’s hard to be eleven. Stand there in silent panic.

Part of the class has finished. They are the ones who turn their work in quietly and then sit there and read. You gaze at them lovingly from across the room as you tell someone else to pull their pants up and go back to their desk. “Can you move my seat?” “No.” Give more prize currency to the students who are finished and quietly reading. Have several students ask why they didn’t get a reward. Point out that they are not done and are not being quiet. Insist that they use the remainder of class to work on their assignment. Get told that they are working. Point to their paper and say they haven’t done anything. Student then points to the single word they have written in 50 minutes and says that they are.

“Five minutes! Finish up and turn in what you have.” “No wait I need ten more minutes!” “There are literally only five more minutes left in class.” “Can we have more time tomorrow?” “No.” “What? Why not?” “Because you should have finished today.”

“Okay, that was the bell! Make sure you turn in your assignment!” “Where?” “The bin with your class number on it.” Get a hug as someone leaves. Suddenly remember why it’s all worth it. Thank students for working hard as they stream out the door, even the students who didn’t work at all. More students crowd around your door, trying to get inside. Tell them to wait until your class has all gotten out first.

The students arrive. The instructions are projected on the board, just like they are at the start of every class. Someone still comes up to ask what they are supposed to be doing. You tell them to look at the board. Three more people come to ask you where the warm up is. You point to the board where the instructions are and tell them it is on the supplies table… where it always is.

Someone is crying. It might be a student. It might be you.

Katie and Cat

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