I returned to work this week. It was difficult, because I would like to spend some more time with Edith, but I need to go back to work before final exams, in order to re-establish myself as the teacher with my students.
There were some snags. Approximately 10 students were placed in my classes while I was on leave. Many of them did not know me before I left, therefore, I am not an authority figure to them. I might as well be another substitute. In order to remind them that I am in charge, I assigned a novel to be read in the two weeks before final exams. This may seem extreme, but I feel that all students should read at least one novel per semester, and I knew that my kids had not. After reviewing the lessons that I left for the substitute, I found out that my students read only 3-4 selections from the textbook the entire 8 weeks that I was out. This is approximately half of the exposure that I was hoping they would get.
I had my first "incident" on Wednesday this week. A student in one of my afternoon classes complained that something was "so gay." I told him not to use gay as an insult, as it is insulting to equate gayness with boring, or stupid, or whatever he was trying to equate it with. He then said jokingly "That's so homosexual," and I had to get a bit more stern. "It's not the word gay that is insulting. It's the fact that you are equating something unfavorably with a trait that they have no control over. You are insulting my friends and family members when you do that, and I don't want to hear it again." As I was finishing my explanation, a student seated across the room shouted "Fags are HORRIBLE!"
I was very angry. I told the student to close his mouth and to expect a write up. He whined a bit, but I immediately went to the office to write him up for hate speech. I was nervous that administration would overlook his punishment for more "pressing issues" like kids who are high in class, or the many kids who are fighting lately. Thankfully, the next day I received notice that the student had been placed in In-School Suspension for the next six days. This isn't ideal, as I think we need a zero tolerance policy for this type of stuff, but I am glad that my concerns were not brushed aside.