I finished out my first week of teaching with some drama in my classroom. It wasn’t a huge big deal, but I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. One girl came in late (I have a total of 6 girls in 2 of my classes), in tears. The boys had told me that she was having a rough day (it wasn’t 8 am yet). She was in tears, but trying very hard to get herself under control. Because she wasn’t the only student who was tardy, I told all the tardy students I wasn’t marking them tardy today, but starting next week if they weren’t on-time, they would be marked tardy (being tardy excessively results in detention). I told them that if they were tardy, they would interrupt me as I was teaching and be a distraction.
My student, I could tell, was struggling to control herself. I know what that is like. I asked her if she wanted to go get a drink and take a few minutes outside of the classroom (I LOVE high school because of this). And she came back in, seemingly more under control. I sent her an email telling her that I knew she was upset, I wanted to be understanding (but sometimes that just made things worse – someone being nice) and that I was leaving her be. I told her that if she needed to talk, I would be happy to listen. I also told her that because she wasn’t getting any work done in class, I expected her to work on her project at home.
Since the kids were working independently, it wasn’t a big deal to have her sitting at her desk with her computer open and not really working. My suspicion is that the project (and the pictures from her life) were making her bad day worse. About 30 minutes before the end of class, she was interacting with some of the boys in class. The kids were doing a great job of helping each other with this project – and there was some conversation, but generally they were talking about their work. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it. Next thing I know, she is yelling (yes yelling) at one of the boys, “T. leave me alone.” And she yelled it twice.
I asked T. to come talk to me. I told him that she was pretty clear that she wanted him to leave her alone. That he needed to respect that and he shouldn’t talk to her or even look at her. He asked what he should do if she was talking to him. I told him to tell her that she asked him to leave her alone and did she want him to leave her alone, or answer. He went back to his desk.
Shortly after that, my student came up to me and asked to go to counseling. She had tears streaming down her face. I let her go.
She came back right before the bell rang – I had the other girl in my class save her stuff on her computer and shut it down (so the boys wouldn’t be anywhere near it).
But, what to do? Teenage Girl Drama is not something I am used to dealing with. Boys, I get. But girls are a mystery. Do I let them go to counseling? Do I keep them in class, crying? I don’t want to even try to help with the drama, but how do I appear sympathetic when I know that most teenage drama is just that and that in a couple of weeks they won’t even remember what upset them. But how do I determine if it is just drama or a real crisis? Tears are tears.
I want to be the “cool” teacher, but it is essential that I get to teach my students for my full class time. These kids are struggling and won’t pick things up without help. So, drama takes away from instructional time. This makes me inclined to send them to counseling. But does that set me up to have them asking regularly?
Next week I’m going to pull this student’s file and talk with her case manager and find out what the deal is. I’m also going to talk with one of my co-workers (MR) who has lots of experience with teenage drama and see what she thinks. I guess that teaching Mild/Moderate isn’t going to be predictable – no two days will be the same, much like teaching Significant kids.