“Crabbit” is another great Scots word meaning grumpy.  Crabbit reminds me of my sister when she’s been woken up too early (i.e. before noon) or D when he loses a mountain bike race to his brother-in-law or Gen when I tell her to slow down though she’s only driving at 40mph.  Crabbit is me after a crappy day at work.

Frankly, I’ve been avoiding writing about school recently because quite a lot of my days are crappy just now.   The problem is that I am really struggling with the youngest of the five classes I teach: the first years.  Never ever ever have I come across such a badly behaved bunch.  And, my goodness, have I had some crackers!  Moreover, I have never come across such a low ability group before.  Despite being 12 years old, most of the kids have a reading age below 8 years old, the lowest being 6. 

It’s a chicken and egg question whether their behaviour is the source of their learning problems or whether their learning problems are the source of their bad behaviour.  And even if we could answer that question, we’d still have to ask what was causing the behaviour/learning issues in the first place.  Undoubtably, much of it stems from less than ideal home lives (just call me Queen Understatement).  It’s a heartbreaking situation and one I (and the rest of the staff, of course) are desperate to improve.

The question that’s keeping me awake at night is how?  All the strategies I usually employ with difficult classes are having absolutely no effect at the moment.  Am I expecting too much too soon?  It’s not even three weeks into term yet.  Perhaps I am.  Just got to keep on trying.  My main worry is that so much of my energy is being drained thinking about and dealing with this group that my general enthusiasm for teaching is waning and, as a result, my other classes are suffering.


If you are wondering about the photo, it’s one I took last night in the garden.  A dirty spider’s web nestled between a rotten wooden post and some garish blue tarpaulin.   Isn’t it strange the things that can cheer you up for a while?


24 thoughts on “Crabbit

  1. I don’t know this word, but I love it already.
    What a serious downer about the class. I’m sure that with enough time they’ll sense how much you care about helping them and respond? I don’t know if it works like that, but it sounds like incredibly hard, demanding work that’s immeasurably helpful to your community. I really tip my hat to you.
    May the force be with you, Wendy!

  2. I had my years with teaching difficult students and it’s very, very hard. I hope things improve dramatically and quickly. Also love “crabbit.”

  3. Maninas – Thanks! Love how onomatopoeic the word is. Can you tell I’m an English teacher? 😉

    Amanda – Thanks for the support. It’s very much appreciated. Hoping that time will help.

    Casey – Thanks to you too, Casey. Fingers crossed!

    Mainyacha – Knew I had to explain what it was. Just loved how luminous the droplets were.

  4. hi,

    sorry you feel so crabbit. great word! I know teaching can be tough, just been round to see my friend, who’s a teacher, this afternoon and she has to start back on Monday and not looking forward to it!

    I am going back to work tommorow, after being off for 3 weeks and only doing 2 days for the other two weeks, so no doubt I will be feeling crabbit with you 🙂

  5. Wow Wendy – I should not have ask about the kids. I hope I did not jinx you! Hang in there! Maybe if they finally see that you are there to help them learn, there will be a turn around. Are all the kids like that or is it just a few and the rest follow suit?
    Nice abstract photo !!!!! I like photos that make you think, like what is that? Maybe your next career forming!

  6. I would try reading them Bugs on the Brian (the war diaries of alistair fury), it always brings a class around, it is so funny! But then that would only improve their temperament and not their abilities, so I guess I can’t add anything very useful! Hope things get better!

    I had a great day on Saturday! You would have enjoyed it! I went to the < a href=””Carnegie Children’s Book Festival, in Dunfermline. I saw Jennifer Donnelly, Marcus Sedgwick and Elizabeth Laird. Boy that Marcus Sedgwick is a hunk and brimming over with charisma! I had to buy 2 of his books, so I could go over and talk to him! Unfortunately, he has a lovely wife! On a brighter note, his books are great!

    Fab photo, by the way!

  7. Megan – The funny thing is that I WAS looking forward to going back to school! Hope work goes well for you. 🙂

    Deb – Aha! A scapegoat! You jinxed me! 😉 Unfortunately, it’s more than a couple of kids. About 1/3 of the class are totally off their heads. Another 1/3 are slightly challenging. The remaining 1/3 risk being led astray. It’s the sheer amount of challenging kids that is making this particular class very difficult to teach.

    Holler – Sounds like fun! Wish I’d been there. I’m reading Anne Fine’s “The Tulip Touch” with this class. EVERY other class have read it with have been absolutely mesmerised by it. The constant disruption in this class has meant that they are not engaged with the book at all! Gah!

    KatieZ – I work in an incredibly supportive school and other teachers are having the same problems with this class so I do have people to bounce ideas off and vent to. As for the parents… Some will be helpful. Sadly drugs/alcohol/mental/other problems will prevent many from being supportive.

  8. Hi Wendy, I have no quick fix suggestions to share with you, i am writing to offer moral support and empathy. I deal with a similar group but only 7 children at a time, and only for 2 hours each week. Even then, it would really mess me up after each session. I felt drained and helpless. What I did that eventually helped was breaking them up into teams and implemented a reward system. And a few glasses of wine afterwards! I would imagine that I too would get very crabbit if I had to face them for as frequent as you have. Here’s a big hug coming your way.

    Such a beautiful photo!

  9. I’ve been there. It’s helllish. One strategy I used with some success was to divide and rule. I identified the kids that weren’t always acting up – it worked out at about half the class. I got the PT to take the other half for a whole period (she was free, and a good boss) Then I talked to the ones left with me, about the benefits of being in a “normal” class, and let them share their opinions. They decided they would like to try to work on getting the other half to conform to their norm rather than have every lesson spoiled and me crabbit all the time.

    Next period I had the disruptive ones while the others worked on their own in another colleague’s room. (I paid them back later). With no audience and the smaller number, the disruptives were less inclined to carry on. I talked to them the same way, letting them have their say – and treating them like civilised people. I never raised my voice.

    When the whole class were together again, I seated the “goodies” in the middle of the room (near me) and the “baddies” on the perimeter. Soon there was competition to be allowed to move into the centre on the grounds of good behaviour, and it wasn’t long before I could mix them all up again. It was never a wonderful class, but it made life possible and reinforced my own feeling of being in control – which you need to have if you’re going to see the year out!

    Worth a try, if you have a good department for this sort of cooperation.

  10. Oh my, this sounds tough indeed:( I hope you hang in there and with support from your colleagues in the end will turn things around. I’m sure you have every ability to make a real difference for those kids!

  11. Oh friend, have I been there! I’m sorry about your pissy students, but I also have to say that I’ve had classes that three weeks into the semester I hated, but by the end, I loved madly. Something about having to work so hard brings me closer to the kids, and when they feel it, things start to shift. I don’t know if there’s one way to deal with the situation–I do LOVE Chris’s idea though–but hope that you find the solution that works for you. Good luck with the gremlins!

  12. Oh dear Wendy, I share with you the frustration of teaching… My students are older, but sometimes I wish some of them are more matured. *sigh*

  13. Hi Wendy. I thought that photo was a painting. That’s so cool. How did you get that shot?
    Good thing you have hobbies like photography and blogging to help you when you’re crabbit. You’ll figure something out with the kids.

  14. Wendy, hang in there, things will settle down… you just have to daily, impose and implement various things that indicates to them that certain things are not allowed or tolerated and that this is how the class works… of course, I’ve only ever taught students that range from 17 yrs.

  15. I am not a teacher but I understand jobs go through low patches – hope you will get through it – I also ask that you spare a thought for the good kids in a bad class – I’ve been there and it is most uncomfortable!

  16. Holler – The kids love “Flour Babies”. I really don’t! 🙂

    Nora – Thank you for being so sweet. It’s much appreciated. The team/reward system is exactly what myself and the learning support teacher are planning!

    Chris – A great suggestion and one will definitely try out, if not with this class then in the future. The reason I’m not sure it would work with this class is that there are very few well-behaved kids in the class. And those that are are not natural leaders. Quite the opposite, actually. I could very well be wrong though. If the teams/reward system is fruitless I will definitely try this out.

    Pia – Thank you for the kinds words. 🙂

    Christina – Funnily enough my current fourth years (15 yrs old) were an awful class at first. Now when i’ve been out of school for a couple of days I get hugs from them on my return!

    Anh – I understand that sigh!

    Maryanne – Luck! It photographed exactly as it looked. Doesn’t always happed that way. 🙂

    Cynthia – Your suggestion is totally relevant and is how I try to work with all my classes. This bunch need something more though! 17 year olds bring their own problems, I know!

    Johanna – Of course. 🙂 It’s one of the main reasons this situation has to be sorted out. I’m very aware that there are kids in the class who are as frustrated with the situation as I am and I do my absolute best to ensure they aren’t suffering educationally or in any other way. It’s very very difficult though and, sadly, I’d be naive to think they weren’t being affected by the general behaviour of the class in some way.

  17. Bugger. Crabbit. Schooling those younger, disruptive ones must be impossible at times. But you’ll get there. First month or two back is always hellish.

    Great photo.

    I see you’re reading ‘The Tulip Touch’ – what a fantastic, but deeply weird book. Loved it to pieces.

  18. David – Thank you! Actually already completed this one. See the “Famous Four” post.

    Lucy – Hugely weird. Had some great nature vs nurture discussions with classes based on it!

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