I love it when my assignment is within walking distance. Twenty minutes away is great. Dixon is the school my kids went to and that all my siblings went to except Ben (we were both in high school when my family moved to Utah).
The assignment was for a resource class: two double-block reading sections and two basic writing classes. I loved teaching the first two classes, because we used the Read180 program. The class is set up where there is a rotation between three different events: independent reading, small group reading/writing and individual computer instruction. Each rotation is twenty minutes long with between six and three kids.
The small group section covered scorpions. The passage was a non-fiction informational piece instructing the reader how to keep a pet scorpion. The kids found it interesting and had no problem reading out loud and then writing a short summary following a bubble-map like worksheet. The kids liked the subject matter, understood the reading and wrote well about it.
In the other rotations, the kids were self motivated and stayed focused.
The problem happened in the second writing class. This class exploded. I found out after the class that this class had been especially set up so the section would include all the behavior-challenged kids in one with a para with specific resource training. The para was absent. There was another adult there, Kevin, an undergrad observer from BYU.
I never got a chance to begin the lesson plan without a fight. The bell had not even rung and I had started rearranging the seating plan, moving desks, breaking up cliques, locking the computers, calling the class to attention and rotating between the various arguments and confrontations between the students (I at least got the roll called within the first five minutes). I got the kids going that wanted the lesson, 5 of the 23, and made sure they were sitting together. We did fifteen minutes of silent reading and then started a white-board based writing exercise. The previous writing class had no problem with the same material and really had a lot of fun. The remaining seventeen didn’t care. They knew they had a powerless sub that was not willing to break or be manipulated and so they tirelessly kept needling me and the others like starving arachnids.
Finally: Bang! Two kids started talking about drug-use and the firearms they had protecting their family’s stashes. I asked them to keep it down and to change the subject and they refused. That’s when I put my foot down, explaining I had no remaining options and had Kevin escort them both to the office. In hindsight, I should have known something was about to happen right before it did when most of the class fell silent and the tension ratcheted up. The scorpion stilling for the strike. Ten minutes later, Kevin came back, but by then only three kids insisted on making a ruckus. Five minutes latter, however, a counselor showed up with the two-malifactors and tried to help. The explosion started to happen again. None of the kids had any respect for the counselor. Eventually the class ended and I then gave a full report to the counselor. I also then relayed two incidents of racism and one where a kid had accused me of confronting him because he was brown (nothing new here, I simply replied that I was confronting him because he refused to be quiet).
Ten minutes later, the teacher walks in. He had been at a state-training for resource teachers. The counselor and I explained what had happened and the teacher revealed I should not have been alone in even the other classes with only an undergrad observer to help. The para should have been in at least two of the classes for sure and that the teacher and the para had planned on a possible explosion in this class in particular. They knew the class was a barrel full of scorpions ready to pounce.
The teacher explained that sometimes, with other adults there, he still had problems like this. This is a problem. Resource teachers:
- need full administration and district support
- should not be saddled with a class concentrated with known discipline problems
- should not have to teach a problematic class with more than ten kids
- should always have a para when there are possibly dangerous kids in a class
I have now taught many such classes in both middle and high schools and really think Dixon and/or the Provo School District defecated on this teacher and because poop rolls downhill, I got splattered as well . . . at least stung.