I Won't Back Down

What's the number one reason students fail classes, according to them?

"My teacher doesn't like me."

Last year, I had a conference with a parent whose son J told her that he felt that I discriminated against him in class. This is because I banned all mention of Star Wars or anything remotely connected to Star Wars in my room.

"But she lets other people talk about stuff THEY like," he said. "She just doesn't like Star Wars, so she won't let us talk about it."

And I said to him, in front of his mother, "J, whether or not I like Star Wars is immaterial. But the fact is, you never just 'talk' about Star Wars; you YELL about Star Wars, and you will not STOP talking about Star Wars, and then I cannot teach my lesson. I do allow other people to interject, but they MAKE THEIR POINT, and they do not SCREAM their opinions at me, and when I tell them it's time to move on, they SHUT THEIR MOUTHS and let me do what I need to do."

In fairness, the mother did not exactly believe what her son was telling her, but wanted to talk with me, just in case. So that was settled, and he got his act together. Though I did NOT lift the Star Wars ban.

This year, against my better judgment, I cast J in our school play. Rehearsals have been going well, and the kids are (mostly) ready for the performance, and I am just looking forward to it all be over.

Last week, J missed rehearsal. I said something to him, and evidently I made him mad or something, because he skipped Monday night's rehearsal as well. One of the other actors told me it was because he wanted to get back at me; he wanted to "teach [me] a lesson."

Welp, I learned that lesson WELL. In fact, I learned it so well that I gave J's part to his understudy and canned his butt from the play.

Yesterday, J came in and tried to convince me to give him his part back.

"You missed two rehearsals," I said. "That means you're out, and you signed a contract that stated your agreement with this policy."

"But but but," he said, "Lots of people have missed more than I have, and you haven't kicked them out."

"True," I said. "But those absences were EXCUSED, and they told me about them ahead of time."

"But that's not fair! I only missed twice and they missed more than that!"

"I'm not going to explain it to you again," I said. "But you can bring me your script any time."

And he stomped out the room, muttering to himself.

Last night, we had another rehearsal without J. And I have to say that these past three rehearsals have been the most organized, most relaxed, most CONTROLLED, most PROFESSIONAL of any our our rehearsals. Because, just like he did in my theatre class, J had a tendency to hijack; he gets some bug in his craw and he will not SHUT UP about it, and people start to pay more attention to him than to me, and then we have, essentially, a wasted rehearsal.

So ... no, I do NOT feel bad about replacing J.

Today, one of the assistant principals came in my room. "I got a call from J's mom and she wants to know why J can't be in the play anymore." So I told him, straight up, exactly why J couldn't be in the play anymore. And he said, "Okay," and left.

I fully expect, tomorrow, to SEE J's mom at school, and I know I'm going to have to explain to her IN PERSON why I am not going to reinstate J. I have no problem with this. I'll tell her just like I told J, and like I told the assistant principal, and like I'm telling you.

And there are NO circumstances under which I would let him back in, or even cast him in another play.

First, I think that an EIGHTEEN YEAR OLD person should have the maturity to accept the consequences of his actions without running to his MOMMY to fix things for him. I would LOVE to be in the room next year when he accuses a professor of giving him a bad grade because "he doesn't like me."

Second, as I mentioned before, there has been a vast improvement in our rehearsals now that J is not there. I see no reason to mess that up.

Third, if I let his absences slide, if I excuse his behavior and let him back in, what message does that send to my other students? "Oh, don't worry about Ms. Flower's rules; she doesn't really believe in them anyway." I am not going to allow that to happen.

Fourth, the play is an extracurricular activity. It falls totally under my purview, and I get to make all the decisions. And I have decided that I do not have the time or the patience to put up with J and his antics.

Fifth, J has--through other students--threatened to vandalize my house. That does not make me want to do anything nice for him, ever.

So, and I will tell his mother this, if J decides that he wants to GROW UP, if he decides to apologize, if he decides to act like a professional, if he decides to accept the consequences of his actions, I MIGHT cast him in the spring play.

(I wouldn't count on it.)

title courtesy of Tom Petty


Lady S said...

I went to school with J, only his name was A. He is the reason our theater teacher stopped doing the debate club. He seemed to think that debating meant yelling louder than everyone else. He actually said to me once (after I had expressed my opinion about a character's emotions) "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black."

You should read Sex Ed in Higher Ed to find out exactly what happens when J goes to college.

lorinda said...

A teacher with a backbone, yay! What would be lovely is for you, J and mom to sit down and for you to have J explain to mom why he's not in the play--including the contract he signed.


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