Last week, I threw my unruly 12 year olds a bone of cool aunt mercy when I used the phrase “Heck, no!” during my Fourth of July lesson. That simple act might have unwittingly set off a chain of events because I found myself saying, “Heck, no!” a couple of times more this week – to my students.
It’s interesting how things change. At my old job, I said, “Heck, no!” on a half-hourly basis. I had absolutely no problem calling writers into my office and, if their work didn’t meet company standards, asking them to turn in a new draft. My bedside manner in this, admittedly, left much to be desired – I was frustrated with the job and this, regrettably, leaked into every aspect of my performance. My co-worker, Doug, lovingly called me “The Hammer,” but I have no doubt the writers called me far less affectionate things. And I get that.
It’s so different with the children. One look at their little faces and, suddenly, I bear the imprint of their little heels on my back. Precious. Adorable! Just look at that little face – that’s a face that deserves … ice cream! Please don’t let them cry!
But “Heck, no!” is a freeing phrase – perhaps uttering it in class the other week awoke a tinge of the old “Hammer” within me. This week I have put one student in the corner and kicked another out of my classroom. Both times they deserved it and both times I was pleased with myself.
Kokoro was the first to go. The most potentially reactive of my “delicate” class of 7 year olds, he has earned my scrutiny since implementing Lloyd’s suggestions to whip the class into shape. Whereas I once wondered if he might be autistic I have witnessed him behaving quite well and realized that Lloyd was right – Kokoro can behave perfectly when he wants to.
This week marks the 3rd week since the classroom makeover. Kokoro’s perfect behavior began to slip when the little rascal began to test me.
“Kokoro, sit down,” I said. He pranced underneath the white board and ignored me.
“Kokoro, sit down,” I said. He ignored me again. I stood to remove one of the “happy faces” from the board next to his name – a warning. He ignored this, too, but the other students watched, enthralled.
“Kokoro, sit down,” I said. He ignored me again. Two smiley faces gone – get in the corner, Kokoro! He went, but huddled himself into a tiny ball, sniffling, and refused to come back when his 2 minutes were up. It was my turn to ignore him – I continued with the lesson plan, pausing once to angrily remove a smiley face from Ryo who had thrown a wadded up paper at the sobbing Kokoro. Every few minutes, I patted Kokoro’s back and asked him if he wanted to come back to the class but he only wept.
Kokoro’s mother hovered outside the classroom and noticed her small son crying in the corner. The principal poked her head inside and, in Japanese, asked Kokoro if he was all right and if he wanted to come out. He ignored her as well and, to my delight, she came inside and hauled him out, his wee body and tiny bare feet dangling from her arms.
Class continued. We sang a song and reviewed our vocabulary. With 5 minutes left to go, the door creaked open and in came Kokoro, looking ashamed. He quietly sat next to me as I was explaining the homework, his chin resting on his hands and his soggy, red-rimmed eyes peering up at me.
The principal told me later that she and Kokoro’s mother had taken their attention off of him for a second and when they looked up he was coming back into the classroom. They thought he was coming in to get his back pack to leave but to their surprise, he stayed.
“He deserved to be in the corner,” said the principal. “Keep doing it!’
“Heck, no!” incident #2 came with my other “delicate” class – the 12 year olds. As one might guess, it was Seiya who got the boot.
I had been warned by the principal that Seiya was even more “active” than usual. Undaunted, I breezed into class, my arms full of class materials (the plan for the day: “Mad libs!”) and began my lesson. Seiya was indeed quite active – shouting and jostling the table on its legs. I was having fun with the other students creating a story of sorts on the white board so I ignored him mostly, apart from interjecting here and there, “Seiya! Relax!” Our story grew and finally, towards the end I realized that I was shouting to ask the other students what word came next … and I was shouting because Seiya was hooting and hollering and, as usual, disrupting my class. Hell, no!
“Seiya!” I snapped. “Get out!”
“Uh! Buh!” he squawked. Yuuki, his partner in crime, howled in laughter.
“Get out!” I said again, opening the door and pointing.
“Uh! Buh! Teach-a!” Seiya howled, pointing frantically at Yuuki, slapping at him with his notebook. Oh, hell, no!
“Get out! You are very rude!” I said. “Get out, Seiya! Go!”
Seiya went, but not without his close-up. As he turned to go, he pointed wildly again at Yuuki.
“Gay!” he declared emphatically and exited stage left.
The principal came to investigate once she noticed Seiya loose in the hallway. I excused myself from the classroom and asked her to tell Seiya that I had kicked him out because he was being very rude. We would be happy to have him back in class if he behaved, I added. The principal spoke to him – no doubt a watered down version of what I had said. Seiya followed me back into the classroom, where the other students were shifting uncomfortably.
Class was nearly over by now so I wearily asked them if they had any questions.
“Hai!” said Gay Yuuki. “Do you like car?”
“Cars are okay,” I said.
“Do you like Seiya?” Gay Yuuki asked.
“Yes, I like Seiya,” I said. “I think Seiya is great! But Seiya is very noisy.”
“Eeehhhhh???” asked Gay Yuuki.
I made flapping motions with my hand in front of my mouth. “Noisy!” I repeated. “Baa baa baa baa baa!”
Gay Yuuki hooted. Now that I think of it, if Gay Yuuki was contributing enough to the noise to earn Seiya’s vengeance then he probably should have been thrown out, too.
But there’s always next week.