Fifth grade made me mad.
The problem is, in those moments I have to react on my feet. I cannot go on the defensive and I need to think carefully, but also incredibly quickly, to diagnose how to handle the situation without making anyone cry. Myself included.
Three girls of 5-6 sat in their seats while their classmates flitted around practicing. It took four separate reminders to get them to actually get up and talk to each other, and another several minutes before they admitted to me that not one of them had kept their scripts from last week. They needed further prompting to rewrite it.
There were also two girls who had their cell phones out. That was a strange sight—most teachers lock up phones in a special cabinet so they don’t become a distraction.
Once presentations got started the usual boys were talking and making noise while the phone girls darted back and forth still planning their presentation. Another group that had already presented still sat together talking and I had to shoo them back to their seats, which they should have known.
By the fifth group, the disruptive boys were such a nuisance that I could feel anger beating in my chest. I stopped the group and raised my voice, the first time I’ve ever had to do so.
While the students at front stood on standby waiting for the restart signal, I asked the two boys in a voice they’ve never heard from me, “Am I happy?”
They looked like two deer in headlights.
“No, I’m not happy. You and you. Don’t talk.” They quickly shut up after that but became chatty towards the end of class.
I then entered Protected Use Mode where I do exactly what I have to do at exactly the required enthusiasm but no more.
The last group, the three girls who initially refused to practice, put on a subpar performance where I had to read their script for them.
I was so frustrated. There are some good kids in that class but it’s so hard to make the right environment when at least five of them every week make me want to pull my hair out.
5-5 was slightly better, aside from the two fistfight boys asking to go to the bathroom every five minutes. They’ve made it clear they think they’re too cool for class but after the fiasco that was 5-6 I couldn’t find it in me to care.
Luckily, one boy saved his class from me diving into a worse mood by telling me “I saw you by Lotte Mart on my way home from English academy.”
I asked him why he didn’t say hi. He pulled in his reluctant friend to say, “he was there, too!” I looked at the two boys and told them, if you see me next time, say hi!
That cheered me up a bit and we all made it through class, though these two fifth grade classes are notably less involved than the other four.
By the time I breezed into 6-2, I felt a huge sense of relief. 6-2 and 6-1 historically wash away the sour taste of the previous two classes.
“I’m really happy to see you,” I told them genuinely. Before explaining that their younger peers were crazy, the whole class yelled at me, “we’re happy to see you, too!” Wow, okay! I like it!
That class has a great sense of cohesion. The girl who wrote me a note for teacher’s day and lived in Canada made a remark about Kim’s Convenience Store and we had a brief chat about the comedy before I got back to business.
“But the dad’s Korean accent though…” Girl, I know! That was the biggest turn off for me the first time I watched the show. Having spent two years in Korea, I know what a real Korean accent sounds like and the fake one threw me off.
Despite the cheery sixth graders, I found myself flagging after lunch.
The fifth grade debacle had just worn me out and if I had been alone in the office, a nap would definitely have been taken.
As it was I kept my head above water and worked away on lesson plans with the occasional foray into Korean language YouTube videos.
Some days are about surviving!