07 Feb This means war
This past week has been a roller coaster of ups and downs. Never have I been so dependent upon the power of prayer. Never have I been so aware of my desperate dependence upon the Lord.
I entered Monday terrified. I was drained, I was exhausted, and I cried after school for the first time. Tears slipped down my cheeks, and I picked up the phone to dial home, wishing I could just forget any of this ever happened. Over the phone, I admitted to my mother what has been my biggest fear since joining Teach for America. “I don’t know if I can do this. I just don’t know if I can make it.”
Of course, I did have a more manageable number of kids that day — 24 — but the dynamics of the class hadn’t changed. Chaos. True chaos. I spent the entire day putting out fire after fire with absolutely no control. No authority. I couldn’t get the kids to do anything. Unless I snarled at them like a half-crazed monster, and even that was becoming increasingly ineffective. One girl remarked while I was dragging another kid to the carpet, “I hate this place.” My heart sank.
By the time I got to the end of Wednesday, I knew something drastic had to change. I packed up my centers and stored the toys in the cabinets. No more playtime. I was in charge, and my kids were coming to school to work. No more shenanigans. As far as I was concerned, my kids wouldn’t so much as breathe without permission.
I grabbed the other corps-member in my building, and the two of us lifted our hands to the heavens. We prayed for the miraculous. Our faith was being stretched to its breaking point, but I found myself filled with fresh resolve. I stopped praying for generalities and began praying for specific, measurable requests. I wanted the fighting to stop. I wanted the screaming to stop. I wanted the chaos to stop. I didn’t want a single child to even so much as talk without permission. Oh yes, that’s measurable.
The next day I was a tyrant. I marched the kids into the classroom with whip cracking and guns blazing. I put the foot down, the thumb down, the hammer down, the law down. Anything that could be put down, I put down. During recess, half the class was either walking lines or sitting crisscross with hands folded in their lap on the side of the playground. Before recess, the entire class spent 30 minutes walking lines up and down the hallway until I didn’t hear a single peep out of anyone. During gym, I sent 4 kids into the motor room, the rest of the class sat in silence while I stared at them in the hallway. During the last hour of the day, I opened our centers for 15 minutes, but sent only 7 kids to play. Everyone else sat in the dark on the carpet. No fun. No games. No nothing. I ended centers and one of the kids on the carpet started to cry.
I reprimanded him, and he stopped, whimpering quietly but otherwise fine. I picked up a book and began to read, but the nurse interrupted halfway through, and while she was talking, Coach popped in as well. They talked for several minutes then left. Turning to resume the story, I stopped short and gazed around the room in shock. Every eye was on me. Every hand was folded. Every voice was off. Not a single child had even whispered while I was talking. I looked at the class in dumbfounded silence for a second then whispered breathlessly, “Listen to the class, guys!” They all looked as dumbfounded as I did. “The only voice I hear is mine!”
I saw my fellow corps member after dismissal, and we gave each other one big, enormous hug. We did it. We were in charge. No more games. No more playtime. No more fun. I collapsed into a chair in her classroom, and we laughed. We’d gotten our miracle. We were teachers.
from September 2, 2012.