One of my "advanced" students yesterday was kind of a brat. I said "was," but the truth is that she IS kind of a brat. She's difficult to deal with, speaks very little English, and has a real penchant for the dramatic. One little thing sets her off, and then she shuts down, becomes impossible to deal with. She cries, pouts, and becomes unresponsive to everything.
Yesterday during class, I was trying to play this game... it involved passing an eraser. My "hot potato," actually. We were practicing "what's your name?" and "how are you?" When it was her turn to take it, she refused. Ignored the person next to her. Defiance written all over her. I tapped the eraser on her shoulder to get her attention, and oopsie! dry erase marker junk leaves a spot on her shoulder. I could see the emotions on her face: first disbelief, then anger, then the beginnings of a plot as she started to plan how she could get her revenge against me for getting her sweatshirt dirty. I didn't mean to mess up her shirt, I was just trying to get her involved in the classroom activity. Anyway, I'd seen this before, and I didn't really want to get started down this road.
Then it hit me -- what does this girl need to happen in order to feel better? Well, like I said, she's a bit vindictive. I pointed at her shoulder and then apologized, miming that I didn't know that would happen. She couldn't care less. Then I took the marker and tapped it on my own shoulder, rubbing it into my shirt for good measure. Again I made that "Sorry, who knew?" face at her, and she giggled. I went over and tried to brush off the spot on her shirt -- it wasn't gonna work. Then I looked at her and did the same to mine, shrugged, and smiled at her. She laughed. She played the game. Problem solved, I guess.
Kids are somethin else, I tell ya. Anyway, I feel a bit better knowing that I figured out how to deal with this girl. I'm fairly certain she'll present more problems (unlike Flounder), but at least now I have a starting point for dealing with her shit when it happens during class. I really believe that no one learns more than a teacher. Whether it involves how to handle unruly 10-year-olds or directing towards some form of utility the disparate thoughts of a PhD-level economics class, no one has to deal with more different personalities and opinions and figure out how to use them for the good of a group quicker than a teacher. It's amazing what you learn at this job, both about the students' mentalities and your own.