From August until November, a five year old female student spent the majority of the school day sitting on the rug or at her table destroying her shoes and hair bows. Everyday. Not one or two days a week, but everyday. Piece by piece, this child would tear embellishments and rubber from her shoes while chewing on her shoelaces. Another teacher told me that she was low performing and misbehaved. When this student tired of destroying her shoes she would then turn to unraveling her hair bows, before taking her hair out of the well gelled ponytails placed by her grandmother. Every morning this child returned with a brand new hair bow and new inexpensive boots or maybe another pair of modest name brand shoes. Even inexpensive boots cost money to be replaced. Every day she arrived clean, so cleaned she shined, but by 10 AM she look disheveled and unkempt. I could not help but to wonder about her home life and why this child destroyed her clothing everyday. Oh, I forgot to mention that she would chew holes in her shirt. I just knew that something was wrong. Well something was wrong.
Because I lack the desire to play the role of dictator to a room full of 5 year old children, and because I had quite a few behavior problems, and because I refuse to use negative reinforcement for classroom management, my class was reduced to only my ESL students, with the understanding that all new students would be placed in my class. I was left with nine students. During that first two weeks, four new students arrived and they settled into newly established routines of my classroom. During this time, the female student blossomed. One day I realized that her hair was intact, and her bow and shoes whole. She begin to show interest in her work. I had time to teach her what she did not know, and realized that this student who was in a PK classroom the prior year with 34 students was not low. Last year she spent the entire year destroying bows, clothing and hair. She soon became a student who consistently made good choices or was easy to redirect. (those who know me know that I abhor the idea of redirection, because it does nothing more than delay addressing the real issue).
After the holiday, 5 new students were placed in my class, raising my roster to 18. In two short weeks she has begun to chew her shoelaces, and fail to follow classroom procedures. One morning I arrived late due to appointments and her hair bow was partially unraveled. As I write this I hold back tears of emotion and frustration because I HATE TEACHING. I hate that my day is so full of useless activities that I can't focus on what really matters. I almost laughed out loud the other day when someone said children learn social skills in pk/k. No, they are told to walk a line, but their hands behind their back and to be quiet and to wait until they are told to speak. They are called babies in a mocking way by their teachers, those who are supposedly good teachers that I have been told to observe. Good teachers are not necessarily good people. I don't want to learn anything about education from anyone who believes that shaming is the way to "command" respect and to gain compliance. I REALLY HATE MY JOB.
This is a child that is just two years older than my youngest son. I would not allow him to endure what I am required to implement, and I just want to quit. I want to walk away from it all and say fuck it, but there is another 5 year old girl who cries when she thinks that I am not coming to work. But then again I am doing a disservice to them, because somewhere in a 1st grade classroom a teacher will expect my low income, ESL students to arrive reading at an end of first grade level and my children most likely won't have that level of skill because pushing them beyond a certain point is another kind of disservice.