Thursday Thoughts: The agony and the ecstacy

Today, I am linking up with Jen from Ramblings of a Suburban Mom again for her Thursday Thoughts.

I actually started this blog post last week.  It was my birthday (FYI, I am old now) and I was doing a lot of very un-birthday like things... I feel like I spent the bulk of the day cleaning up baby poop and chasing after 8th graders.

But, for some reason, I didn't finish the post.  It just sat here.  I probably got distracted cleaning up more baby poop or chasing after some more 8th graders.

In the past week, things have actually settled down somewhat in the baby poop department.  We're giving Baby C less milk, so she's calmed down a lot.  8th graders, on the other hand, are a terrible population of people in general, and in the past week, they've only gotten worse.  (If, for some reason, you are an 8th grader reading my blog, I have a couple of things to say.  Firstly, you might want to consider some more age-appropriate reading material.  Secondly, if you purposely read my blog about law school, foster parenting, and European travel, you probably don't fit my general category of terrible 8th graders.)

So this week, my students have been insane.  This is a representation of what my classroom would look like if I walked out of the room for nine seconds.

I mean, the picture is probably someone's idea of what the worst possible classroom could look like, but it's probably not far from the truth.  Well, there are more girls in the picture than I have in my classroom.  Other than that.... it's pretty close.

In the past few days, we've had a epidemic of fights.  Today, one of my students walked up to another student and, without a single word, punched him in the face.  IN. THE. FACE.  Another student spit at the PE teacher as he was walking past.  I sent one to the office for sexually harassing a female classmate.  This was all TODAY.

Earlier this week, one kid hid in a bush while he was waiting for another kid to walk by, so he could jump him -- like a NINJA!

All in all, the last few days have been exhausting.  It's times like this that I don't feel much like a teacher.  I feel like I spend a lot of my time managing chaos... and badly managing at that.  I spend half of my time dealing with behavior management issues and very little time dealing with educational issues.  I do love what I do, but some days it's hard.  This week, has been some of those days.  I've considered taking up recreational drinking.

We've had more punches thrown in the past 7 days than we have in the past 7 months.  Call it spring fever, or restlessness, or simple bad behavior... but whatever you want to call it... it's horrible.

All teaching is challenging.  But, if you want to know what teaching in a behavioral program is like on it's most challenging days... it's like herding cats.  It's an impossible task - a pipe dream.

These particular cats look like they are probably easier to teach than some of my students.  At the very least, they seem focused on a specific task.  Many of my students can't even manage that.  

However, today was probably one of my most disheartening days in recent years.  I have plenty of rough days, but I'm usually able to walk out the door at the end of the day and say to myself "tomorrow will be better."  Deep down, I know tomorrow is probably going to be a better day, but it's still been a frustrating one.

One of my students has made a series of particularly bad choices.  This can be said for a lot of my students, but this student made some choices that will probably follow him around for a number of years and that will have consequences that ripple through all aspects of his life for a very long time.  He's not a bad kid, but, like many, he made terrible choices.  And no matter how much he has tried to turn his life around and make better choices moving forward, he is faced with the knowledge that the decisions he made at 16 will alter his life -- at best for years, at worst, for decades.  For a sixteen year old kid, that is a very sobering realization.

I try to be supportive of him; largely because he is doing everything humanly possible to make better choices moving forward.  He is doing everything that he's been asked to do and then some.  I try to give him a positive affirmation every single day - he's a smart kid, I'm glad to see him doing so well, he does great work... something.  He will typically smile, but oftentimes I can see the depression lurking underneath.  As someone that has worked with teens for years, as well as struggled with my own bouts of depression, I can often see that the smile is for show.  But I keep trying.  

Today, especially I could see that he was very depressed.  I asked him if he was ok, and he said he was just having a bad day.  Everything about him screamed depression.  I feel like if he had the option, he would have been laying on the floor curled in a blanket.

Later in the day, when I was going through student work, I found some really disturbing writings in his folder.  He's clearly been contemplating suicide and seems to be struggling to stay on the right side of that line.  I informed my administration, who talked to him and said he's doing ok.  But I'm sitting here tonight thinking about the weight that he is bearing and how overwhelming that must be to someone so young.  I'm also thinking about the sheer number of times I convinced people that I was ok -- just having a bad day -- when nothing could have been further from the truth.

So I sit here tonight, in agony... hoping for the best.


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