Today I faced my biggest fear of the last two weeks: the return of the dreaded second graders. It's not that they were particularly horrible as first graders last year, I guess (although some of them definitely were), so much as I've had such a firm grip on my third graders so far that I really wasn't looking forward to going back to a semi-chaotic situation where I didn't feel fully in charge.
There are too many little people in our school at the moment, and as a result, they've opened an entirely new wing that I was completely unaware of until today. I ended up being about five minutes late to class because I was running around trying to sort out where the classroom was. As I crossed over the bridge between buildings, I saw a second grader climbing into a classroom through the window from outside. Somehow I just knew....
I motioned to him through the glass, the universal sign for, "What the hell are you doing?" He stopped, with one leg nearly swung over the window ledge and somehow managed to bow. What the hell was going on? Was there no coteacher in the classroom? I've seen a lot of things in the last five months, but I've yet to have a student actually go out the window.
As I approached the classroom door, I could hear them being terrible little monsters inside. To my surprise, when the door swung open, there was a terrified young Korean teacher standing at the podium, looking thoroughly fucked with. Great.
What I've learned in recent days is that there's only one way to properly deal with these boys: you've got to walk into the classroom with your hand on your balls. Not literally, of course. But if they're fucking kids -- if you walk in like you own the place, they follow your lead. Shouts of "Elizabeth! Elizabeth!" began, as the frazzled Korean teacher scurried to a back corner, relieved. I put my books on the podium and moved my glasses to the top of my head, slammed my palm down on the podium.
"Good afternoon, guys! How are you?"
To my utter shock, the class went amazingly well. We went through all of the exercises, explanations of vocabulary, etc. etc. with absolutely not one word of assistance from the coteacher, who stayed in the back trying her best to be invisible. They got a little rowdy at one point, but I just slammed my hand on the podium again. "Hey guys! Listen to me. You are second graders, now, right?"
"You are in grade two, right? You are older. Next year, you will be seniors. You will lead the school. Right?"
"So guess what? Time to act older. You need to be quiet. You need to stay in your seat. You are too old to act the way you are now. Do you understand?"
They may not have caught all of it, but they got the gist. And were mostly angelic for the rest of the period. Every time I called them to order from the chaos of an exercise, they settled down more quickly than the time before. Follow it up with a, "Wow. You guys are getting good at this," and there you have it.
What can I say? They're like dogs: you cannot let them smell fear.