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Losing Classroom Control and Taking it Back

Updated on November 10, 2017
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle worked for 20 years in elementary schools as a sub teacher, eventually presenting teacher training workshops in Orange County, CA.

It can be full of surprises.

drawing by Rochelle
drawing by Rochelle

We Knew We Had Lost it When One of Them Became a Flasher

Jeremiah wasn't a bullfrog but we might have wished he was at that moment.

Though he was running around the room flashing all the other young students, HE wasn't the one out of control. WE were the ones who had lost it.

The fifteen students were screaming, laughing and falling on the floor in mock, maybe not so mock, horror.

The morning in a Special Education class had already shown us that this was not going to be easy and that our major concern would be preventing a general mutiny of six, seven and eight year-olds.

At the time I was a subsitute classroom assistant for special education groups. Usually, it was not too hard, because Special Ed teachers generally have things well in hand. What I didn't know, was that BOTH the regular teacher and her assistant were unexpectedly absent that day.

The young teacher, though doing her best, had never been in this class before either, and was as clueless as I.

The Frogpond

I grabbed the school intercom to request an intervention, trying to simulate calmness and find politically correct words to let them know we had a second-grade flasher playing havoc in the Special Ed class.

"We need to have an ...errr... disruptive... student removed from room 4..." I started.

"Is it Jeremiah? " she asked. . . . "Yes."

Her question gave me some hope... they knew SOMETHING that we obviously didn't. The principal was there in a flash... so to speak. "Sorry", he said, "I didn't know BOTH of you were subs."

I had been a substitute teacher's aide for only a short time, and since aides only had subs for special ed classes, that's where I had been working. It was very interesting work, because I was always in the room with a highly experienced and skilled teacher who knew her students very well.

As I said, this was an exception.

It takes all kinds . . .

Some classes I had worked in were physically handicapped studnets, others were mentally challenged, and others like this one, were just ill-behaved little hellions.

Yes, I know I shouldn't say that. Deep in my heart I really do know better.

After the offender was removed, things were a little calmer. I found myself trying to console a poor little girl who was in tears.

Trying to calm her fears, I said things were fine now, and Jeremiah was not coming back today. She was crying at the unfairness of it all: She didn't get to see.

Actually, I had been in the class before as a sub aide with the regular full-time teacher. We had a fairly calm and normal day. This new sub teacher did not know the regular procedures that the full time teacher used, and this particular class could not handle the sudden change in circumstances.

We decided that we needed to spend our lunch hour together making a "solid and foolproof " plan for the afternoon.

The regular teacher had left some general lesson plans, but these were not working for us. Two strange people in the room were just too much for these kids. We decided that plans would be scrapped in favor of surviving the afternoon with no casualties-- including, and especially, us.

Survival plan

We agreed that the best strategy would be to get them all doing the same thing at the same time. There was a piano in the room and by great good luck, the young teacher could play it. I would lead the class in songs to which we improvised motions and exercise movements, with all of them following my example. We could keep their attention.

We wore them out for the rest of the day and no one was bruised or bleeding when the final bell rang. This, we decided, was our definition of success.

When all of them were on their way out, the principal came in and congratulated us. He also mentioned that Jeremiah was moving to Oklahoma at the end of the week to live with his grandparents.

I could barely move. The teacher looked at me, slumped against the piano, and asked,"Do you think we should call Oklahoma and warn them?"

Action Songs


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    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks Marquita-- This is probably good news for someone. Don't think a loan would have helped in this situation :)

      The classroom flasher probably got at least a brief suspension.

    • profile image

      Marquita26PAGE 7 years ago

      According to my analysis, millions of persons in the world get the personal loans at various creditors. Therefore, there's a good possibility to get a financial loan in any country.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, Eddie-- I think I know what she really meant, but you seem to have turned out to be a fine human bean.

      I have a cousin who was just a terror-- and smart enough that her parents rarely knew how much mischief she made. She turned out to be an excellent teacher-- and it was partly because she KNEW what all the 'troublemakers' were thinking.

    • profile image

      Eddie Perkins 9 years ago


      Very entertaining hub. I’ve always been thankful for teachers who put up with me. One liked me so much that she wanted to adopt me. I overheard her say; “I wish that kid was mine for one day”. 

      Thank you for the great story. ~ eddie

    • Glenn Frank profile image

      Glenn Frank 9 years ago from Southern California

      Shadesbreath, with your comments about unteachable monsters you should check out this website and see what this teacher did with a room of unteachable gang kids...

      My wife and I just watched the movie they made about this amazing Long Beach school teacher (another thing to put on your netflx queue) and it was pretty amazing. especially considering that it is based on the actual events of this teacher and class.

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 9 years ago from Australia

      Great narrative Rochelle. Don't worry about Shadesbreath, he was probably one of those little buggers in an earlier life.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      The book is excellent, the Disney Movie is a classic. Well worth putting on your Netflix.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      I'm glad you were there, too.  And I agree that Special classes are a good idea. I have seen some amazing teachers take on these classes which usually have fewer kids and more helping hands. They really do help a lot of them that seem absolutely  hopeless.

      I didn't know Old Yeller had rabies. Maybe I never read  (or saw) that one.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      You're lucky the principal took that little monster out, and you're even more lucky (well, mabey not you personally that time) that there was a special ed class.  Most of the time the districts (and state) try to pretend that these awful children can be mainstreamed and normalized, and they put them in classes with healthy, normal kids. 

      See, I'm an a-hole by reputation so I can speak the truth outloud.  Nice people can't.  But the fact is, some kids are just broken, and sad as it is, traumatic as their childhood is, putting them in a classroom with regular kids only makes it impossible to teach regular kids stuff.  Furthermore, it makes for angry, bitter teachers, cynical "normal" kids and an overall dumbed down student populace.

      Old Yeller was a sweet wonderful dog that everyone loved, but they didn't try to pretend he didn't have rabies either.  They still loved him even then.  But they recognized you couldn't keep Old Yeller in your bed at night.  Now I ain't saying we need to shoot these cretins(although frankly some of the gang kids might be past saving anymore), but I am saying we should recognize the truth.

      Just my opinion, I'm sure others will show me the evil of my pointing out reality.

      Either way, as always your hubs are interesting to read, Rochelle.  Glad I was poking around when you put this one up.