It is almost a year that I have been working in a local school district and I am a much better parent for it. I have definitely learned how to raise my voice. You have to in a room and hall full of middle schoolers.
Currently I have been in the Middle School after working a temp position in the Elementary School. Leaving the Elementary School after a few months was hard because I felt that those kids, the K-3 really needed me and they made me day so bright.
I was tying shoes, opening milks, holding a crying child, and hearing about their days. 5-9 year olds love sharing and I love listening.
Heading to the Middle School meant, bigger kids, with chips on their shoulders, full of posturing and anger, full of angst and hormones but still young kids. At first you don't realize this. They are big, most are over 5'2" and some are over 6' which means they are all bigger than me. At 4'11" that is not hard to be. On my first days there, I was quiet as there is a lot going on in my personal life but I wanted to be professional and talk to my co-workers while smiling at the students so I would be approachable. However, when you take the time to really talk to them alone. They are just little kids.
Over the first few weeks, I felt like I took a lot of cellphones (there are no electronic devices allowed), I asked many to sit down, take their hats off, let go of each other, stop throwing, pick that up, leave him alone, leave her alone, get to class, stop running, etc. Over the last few days I feel that many have started talking to me, sharing with me and looking for me. The ones who are, are the ones who are the most trouble. They are always in the office, being spoken to, being sent to the principal, etc. These are the kids I gravitate toward, they are the ones that gravitate toward me.
These kids are looking for attention. They don't care how they get it. They just want someone to see them. I visit the office daily to see if any of my little buddies are in there. They are. I ask why, they tell me. Before leaving I tell them that I hope to see them back at lunch the next day and I mean it.
I have heard, "You are the coolest aid I know", "How are you doing today Ms. Maria", and "wait, you are writing something nice about me?" over the past two days.
The first one was from a boy who was sent to the office on my third week there. I had called him out on a pencil he threw. There was a group performing for the kid during lunch one day and he threw it at a performer who had jumped on the table to sing. When I asked him why he though it was OK he said he wanted to. When I said it was disrespectful, he told me it was disrespectful for the performer to stand on his table. He had an answer for everything in our 3 minute conversation. He was sent to the office by another aid. When I stopped him in the hall and asked why he thought he was being sent to the office he said that he didn't know, he is always sent to the office. I told him to stop and talk to me. I told him that I wanted him to know why he was sent. He leaned against the wall. I leaned too and said, "you were sent because you were disrespectful to me, an adult in the room. He said, "I am sorry." I told him that I accepted his apology and was giving him a get out of jail free card but he would not get another one from me. I expected him to treat everyone the way he wanted to be treated. We now speak daily.
The last one was from a boy who is a problem everyday as well. I spotted him picking up an orange peel during my hall monitoring hour. I watched people step around it, kick it and walk over it including me and teachers. He picked it up, walked it over to a trash can and threw it in. When I asked him for his name because I had started writing up a report on his "good deed" he was surprised. I explained why I needed it and he said"Wait, you are writing about something good I did? That never happens" was his reply. I told him that I thought it showed respect for his school and respect for his fellow students and that the school should know he made the effort.
Over the past few days I have spoken to some teachers who are happy to see me monitoring the hall. They didn't know about the report we can write for good conduct. I have told them that at the elementary school, we do a principal award and give it to children who are spotted doing good things and that these kids are young enough to benefit from it. That they need an incentive to want to do the right thing. So many have asked where they can get the forms and I hope more kids get good conduct awards. So far I have written 3.
My hope over the next few months is to see less kids in the office. More kids being accepting of those who are not like them, and overall respect to everyone the students deal with. It's a big mission but I hope that in some way, students are changed before the end of school. I know I have been!