So many kids, I don't know what to do.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Snarky Kid

I generally like the vast majority of my students.  Sometimes it takes a while to get to know some.  Some just aren't pleasant, but they usually have a reason.
Everyone once in a while though I just come across one that I don't like.
At the beginning of the year I try to give students a fresh start every day.  I try to pretend they didn't say something hateful the day before or refuse to wake up.  By about the end of February though I have run out of nice.

This year I had a student I didn't particularly like.  He was a tall, good looking, middle class kid.  As far as I know he didn't have a reason to be snide, condescending, or irresponsible, but he was.  He came in from another teacher about six weeks into the year because of a scheduling snafu.  It is amazing how one kid can change the tone of a class, even when there is already twenty six kids in the class.  He was one of those rare kids who had the ability to make me feel self conscious while I was teaching.

Suffice it to say we went round and round.    Routinely I  called roll and he purposely didn't answer.  I counted him absent.  (Which was cutting off my nose to spite my face.  I just had to go make corrections at the end of each six weeks.) One day I was fed up with his snarky interruptions.  I mean really if the students are going to disrupt the lesson I prefer them to at least be funny.  I kicked him out. (I rarely EVER kick a kid out or send one to their dean.)

By the end of April I had not only run out of nice, I had run out of fake nice, and then patience.  I just tried to avoid the kid.  Maybe I too became snarky.

I went to my box one morning last week.  There were a few thank you notes in there.  One of the health teachers requires her students write a letter to their favorite teacher and thank them for what they learned that year. Here are some excerpts:
"Thank you for treating us literally like we are your own kids."
"I appreciate you for being interesting even when you were irrelevant."
"You scream a lot, but you are a lot of fun."

Then I opened on from my snarky student.  It was long.
Basically it said that he had learned quite a bit of history this year and he was sure his TAKS scores would reflect that.  He said he wanted me to know that I was a good teacher and that he did like me.  He explained that we just butted heads because we were both sarcastic.  He hoped I had a good summer.

I nearly cried.  I felt so terrible.  I had looked at this kid and only saw someone who didn't have any obvious excuses for being a pill.  I tried for a while to give him a fresh start and then......I gave up on him. I didn't give up on his learning as I always thought he was getting the lesson.  I didn't think he was struggling with or worried about his grades.  Apparently though he was worried about his scores.  He came into my room that day and smiled at me for the first time all year and told me got commended in social studies.  I was shocked that he even cared, but he did. 

I don't have any ending to this story.  I would like to say that I will remember each kid has needs and I will never forget.  I would like his note makes up for an entire year of snark, but that would be a lie.  I will say though that things are not always what they seem and I am not perfect, but I will try again next year.

 Did any of you ever give any of your teachers a hard time?  Why?  Would could the teacher have done differently?


  1. I love this. I too have had children that in my daycares that have made me say "if I had to spend the whole day with that child...". It is hard.
    I went to a workshop one time and the facilitator said that most of the time we try to get children to fit into our circle when what we really should be doing is trying to expand our circle to fit the child.
    It sounds like whether you knew it or not that is what you did!
    Stopping by from PYHO.

  2. You touched him (obviously) and that is the most important thing.

  3. I think I was hell on teachers, to the point where one or two used the nickname "Sarcastic Leauxra", mostly because I was miserable in school. But I was also willing to help the kids that were struggling and tutor them for free if the teacher asked (and they must have talked to each other, because a lot of them did), and helped one student pass Earth Science class (she'd failed 4 times and was pregnant and it was the last class she needed to graduate). And that teacher HATED me until then, because apparently she told him if it wasn't for me, she wouldn't have graduated.

  4. I used to tell my students "I love all of you... but some of you make it a little harder for me to do so."

    Still, there was one 8th girl who I just couldn't like. At all. She was awful. A total bully. And when I conferenced with her parents about it, they said that it was the other kids' problem and their daughter was allowed to treat people however she wanted.

  5. You know I am homeschooling my son but you, Heather, would certainly be a teacher I would hire to teach him and his friends.
    If you have the time read Madame:

  6. I'm not sure what to say about this one. From my own experience as a quite sarcastic being, it always seems to hurt someone that I don't intend it to hurt. Most recently, my husband. I think I'm saying something hilariously sarcastic and he walks away thinking I'm a b*tch...but this goes all the way back to high school and hurting friends that I had no idea I was hurting. Friends that were afraid of what I might say, so they kept their thoughts to them selves...but I never even knew it at the time. So maybe this kid just thought he was being funny. IDK.
    I DO know I could NEVER be a teacher. You are amazing!

  7. As punishment for saying snarky things, I am "blessed" with the ability to remember every hurtful thing that I ever said to anyone. Mind you, I'm sure I said some things that I din't mean to sound hurtful and those things I don't remember. But I think that remembering those mean comments keeps me a nicer person now. I have four kids. Two wouldn't dare to be "snarky". One, we believe is on the Autism Spectrum. So, uncalledful honesty comes out of his mouth. And then one of my kids is just plain mean. ha! What, you want me to lie? Alright then, he's alright but he does know how to irk my nanny!
    Great post! And it was also heart-warming.
    Your Friend, m.

  8. I always butted heads with my English teachers. Always. Today I am an English teacher. Go figure. :)

  9. Oh, man, I can relate! I teach an anger management class and last week, they were horrible. One kid in particular. I was dreading it last night. I really actually prayed that I would have a better attitude. And the kids were awesome!

    He came up to me later and told me how much he liked being there and how it's really helped him.

  10. I love this post!


    Also wondering if you would be willing to relocate and be my kids teacher? Pretty please?

  11. adrienne @ storiesJune 1, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    I loved this story. You will probably always remember him, and he will you too!

  12. I had a handful of teachers that I just didn't get along with. One that I had a running 4 year feud with that nearly got him fired. Made even more awkward by the fact that I was friends with his daughter. Yikes. If the rumors are true he was fired the year after I graduated for some inappropriate activity with a student.

  13. Wow. That's a neat story. Neat insight into classroom dynamics.

    Do teachers have a trade publication? You should submit it.

  14. We are only human and you can't like everyone, but most of us are in the business because we like children in general. You can be sarcastic and still be respectful and it sounds like he wasn't... like maybe he forgot you were the teacher and he was the student.

    That said, I wasn't much for giving teachers a hard time, but I had a math teacher in high school that I struggled with. He wrote me off as a dumb blond cheerleader and then one day he really laid into the kid in front of me. I thought it was really uncalled for and I stood up and said so and even went as far as to report it to my guidance counselor. Oddly enough, that seemed to earn his respect and five years later, when I was student teaching in 1st grade, his daughter was in my class and he was thrilled!

  15. Wow. I almost cried reading this because I expected the note to be something mean and it was not. It was pretty heart felt coming from a student. It's hard to change our feelings about people, or students in your case after long term issues with them. It's life and it was a lesson you learned.
    It doesn't make you a bad person.

  16. Aw, that is really sweet.

    Im the mom to a smart ass kid who likes to give his teachers a hard time. Its so embarrassing. In second grade, to his favorite teacher, he stood up and basically told her she didnt know what she was doing and I quote, "I dont need to do this work, I'm the smartest kid in this class!!"

    Yep, thats my kid. And yes, he used to spend a lot of time in the principals office.

  17. I was always the teachers pet... I craved approval.. Now that I am 40 -not so much. This story was awesome. It taught me a lesson that I have been dealing with Thank you!

  18. I was totally the snarky one. Back of the class, I thought I was a bad ass, but I totally wasn't!


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