|Joan L. Cannon.|
Maybe I subconsciously remembered something an old hand at teaching told me years before I began myself. She said, "If you expect nothing, that's exactly what you'll get." Thank goodness I was a substitute those first months. Sometimes a little ignorance is a wonderful thing.
There was a girl in my sophomore English class whose behavior was carefully calculated to distract her peers and me almost equally. She was bright, and I suspected easily bored. I would ask her to pay attention when she insisted on whispering to her neighbors, but it didn't make a difference. After a couple of weeks, I got pretty shirty with her in front of everyone, and she changed her tactics. She took to passing notes.
Like most teachers in those days, I usually stood in front of the blackboard (remember blackboards?). In an effort to disrupt my unruly pupil's latest ploy, I began to stroll up and down the aisles formed by the neatly aligned seats. On one of these passes, I managed to arrive at the place where a note was changing hands across my path. I intercepted it.
My teeth were clenched; I'd made up my mind not to continue this performance. I had a textbook in my hand, and I slid the folded note into the palm of the hand holding the book and proceeded with whatever I was reading or discussing.
There was one of those silences that can fall on even a quiet group, as if everyone had stopped breathing. I looked up from the page in front of me when the note passer's voice rang out, "Aren't you going to read it?"
Something made me consider in an instant my husband's and my principles in dealing with our own teenage children. I looked her in the eye. "We're entitled to your courtesy; you're entitled to your privacy." I went to my desk and dropped the note in the wastebasket.
Within the next week or so, I was in the faculty room when there was a typical discussion of problem students under way. Someone mentioned the girl whose note I had appropriated (and with whom I had not one problem afterwards)."My God! Didn't Guidance tell you? She's dangerous, if she gets mad at you. We've all been cautioned about her since she went after Mr. W____ with a pair of scissors!"
Not only did she stop disrupting the class, she finished the year with excellent grades.
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