Why My Name Is Alphabet (And Other Middle School Things)

The end of this past week was the halfway point of my summer job. The time is going by fast, and as it passes, my students are getting more and more comfortable with me. I like when my classes involve learning and getting to know each other, but I don’t like it when class is only social time. I have to figure out how to strike that balance.

As my students get more comfortable, they start joking around with me more. My orange period class knows it takes me a few more minutes to get there, so they’ve started hiding under the desks so the room looks empty when I come in. I’ll walk in and say, “Hmmm, I wonder where my class is at,” one of them will inevitably start giggling, we’ll all have a good laugh, and then I’ll make them all go back to their desks. Because I remember little things like that being what made school fun for me–I’d bond with my classmates more because we’d be working together to trick the teacher, and I’d bond with my teacher more because I’d feel like s/he got me–I don’t mind playing those kinds of games with them. It’s the moments when their learning gets derailed that I’ll get frustrated.

Yesterday, my orange period was working on writing a five-paragraph essay in class. Naturally, the students didn’t want to write a five-paragraph essay in class. I’d tell them to do their best to write a paragraph in five minutes, and they’d sit at their desks and tell me about how unfair I was being. Since they were so busy fighting me instead of writing, they didn’t get as much written as my other classes. It was a bit frustrating, since I know that class is full of hardworking kids, and now their results won’t really reflect that. However, I couldn’t lose my temper, because that would’ve just derailed the class further. Instead, I did my best to redirect them as much as I could, some attempts ending more successfully than others.

While I still wish that they would’ve gotten more written, there were some pretty funny moments in that class period. One of my students asked if I had a boyfriend, and I tried to shoot down the conversation by telling him that was personal information and he needed to get back to work. That could not have worked more poorly. For the rest of the day, he was asking everyone if he could ask them a personal question, which ranged from “Do you have a boyfriend?” to “What’s your social security number?” and finally, “What kind of underwear are you wearing?” I was appalled.

One more thing has come from the students getting more comfortable with me: I have a new nickname. A guy who used to work here, Luis, decided to make a joke out of the fact that my name is one letter short of being “A-B-C.” “Should I start calling you ‘Alphabet’ now?” Not sure why, but that name stuck. Teachers have written it on whiteboards, students have greeted me by saying, “Hi, Alphabet,” and apparently, this is my life now. Once, I accidentally mispronounced the name of one of my students during All-School Meeting, and the entire room started chanting, “AL-PHA-BET!” They enjoy doing it because they think I hate it, and I enjoy letting them do it because it just seems to make them so happy. I don’t really get it, though.

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