Today was the second day that I left school without feeling exhausted.
I didn't write that yesterday was the first day because A) I didn't want to jinx it and 2) Wal-Mart wore me straight out, and I forgot that I hadn't been exhausted only 90 minutes previously. My rage exhausts me.
It didn't start out so great today as I was greeted with some drama when I showed up for duty outside at 8:00 AM, but things have gotten progressively/sort of/knock-on-wood easier. There are a certain number of days until teenagers learn that, as a teacher, I can care about them but still not tolerate their B.S. Every kid has a different number, so I count victory when the majority have seemingly tapped out and surrendered to the fact that I don't give in easily. During those days, there are many, many, many repeated conversations that reinforce my expectations. There are many, many, many times that I have to remind someone that I'm not their mom and therefore not legally, morally, genetically required to put up with nonsense. My love is not unconditional. It is earned.
I estimate that I say "no" at least 150 times a day.
I estimate that I say "thank you" at least 100 times a day.
But those numbers have started to even out a little this week.
"Thank you" is much less exhausting than "no".
We have started a "points card" at school this week. Students can earn points from teachers for good behavior and choices as well as strong academic showings. They can use their points at the end of the six weeks for a celebration. There is something to be said for the competitive level of my students so far. I had one of my most trying classes begging for 5 points this morning. They were not successful.
Naz Rule #1: Begging =/= earning. When it comes to reward, "if you ask, you shall not receive".
I also had one of my most challenging kids announce as he came through my door, "I already have 15 points today!" It is the first time he's smiled at me. I made sure to find him successful at something twice more. He got 10 more points, and I got one more smile.
It's also impacted in other ways. A student in my "inherited" class this week came up with a really great Essential Question on Monday. When I shared her success (and my admiration of it), another student called me over to suggest I award her 5 points for "great EQ". I was shocked that he expected nothing in return for his kind gesture, and he might have left my room with a pocketful of Jolly Ranchers to say thank you.
Naz Rule #2: Kindness will always be rewarded. Mightily.
And in each class, there's something the entire class struggles with -- 1st period can't seem to remember their library books, 3rd period can't get to class on time, 4th period can't be quiet and/or follow directions, etc. -- so whatever I need them to get better at, that's what I award points for. Of course, they think everyone is getting the exact same thing because a 7th grader can't see past his or her own nose.
Naz Rule #3: You will not outsmart me, 13 year old. I am a wizened vet, rookies, and my mind is a steel trap, spring-loaded to slam shut on your face.