On day two of middle school PE, I took myself by the collar, looked deep into my own soul, and told myself to get a grip. (And then I prayed, really hard.)
Whether it was divine intervention or bootstrap determination, I had a totally different experience. Mostly because I decided to believe it would be, I think. And… I kind of knew what was going on. Especially today–I even learned all the names of the students in second period. (Yeah, I know–there should be some sort of congressional medal of honor for teachers who do that consistently!)
I did break out the Sharpie Wednesday and post team rotations–but only on paper. This worked spectacularly, except during warm ups. I didn’t realize the incredible magnetism of a handwritten note on the wall. They were powerless to resist. It turned running warm up laps into an exercise in traffic direction. After he hollered at students for rubbernecking instead of running for about the millionth time, the other PE teacher who shares the gym with us during warm ups asked me to never, ever, post another list on the gym wall.
Today I waited until after the other class left before posting, and all was well. (If you don’t count the three almost-fist-fights that arose over trivial offenses and profanity-laced death threats. And the kid who disappeared without a trace ten minutes into class.)
The thing is, I’m no longer frightened. I am who I am; I’m not your regular teacher, I’m not a mind reader, and I don’t know how every little thing is supposed to work at your school. But I am the adult responsible for your safety, today. These are the rules, and this is why, and yes, please come talk to me about it, if you like. I’ll see what I can do.
The thing I realized is that almost without exception, teens just want to be treated like people–and most of them don’t have any desire to make waves. When I decided that no matter how bored he looks, or how far down his thighs he wears his pants, or how narrow she slits her eyes at me while I’m talking, I’m going to refuse to be intimidated, annoyed, or flustered–that was when I finally found my footing in the classroom. That cavernous, acoustically ridiculous classroom. Which I no longer have to yell to be heard in–because now I just point at the chart on the wall.
For those times when yelling is essential, I’ve learned PE teacher speak: A simple, “Nets in!” or, “Game two!” was all it took. And they did it. Even when it involved push ups. Well, except for the kid who just disappeared and never came back, but apparently that’s normal for him.
Nice that I got it figured out on the last day of the tournament. Tomorrow we’re on to something new.
I think it involves all of the PE classes at the same time, which will be good, because even the veteran teachers don’t know every kid’s name, so nobody will care if I occasionally yell, “Hey! YOU!”