A few minutes after the beginning of 4th period, a brand new student walked in, class schedule in hand. She was tall, pleasant-looking enough, and morbidly obese. Within a few seconds of her entrance through the classroom door - she was still standing in front of it - the murmur of male voices began: "Whoooah" "Daaaaamn" "Hee Hee Hee Hee" "No Waaaaay" "Beeeep Beeep Beeep". That last sound effect is supposed to be a large vehicle backing up. I was livid. My jaw clenched, and I had to fight the urge to dress down the class right then and there. However, I thought that to do that would just embarrass the new student even more. Instead, I ushered her into the side computer lab that is attached to my classroom through a door; as much to give me a chance to cool down as it was to have the opportunity to talk to the new student about class procedures and expectations. To make matters worse, she told me she was home-schooled, so I really felt like she was being tossed into a snakepit.
I assigned her a seat, and we went on with the day's lesson. At the end of the period, after the students had packed up, cleaned up, and straightened up, I waited until about ten seconds before the bell was to ring and then I told the class I had some information about one of their assignments that I forgot to mention. I told the new girl that since she wasn't here for that assignment, she could go ahead and head out to her next class. After she left, I told the entire class to sit back down in their chairs. I can't remember exactly what I said to them, verbatim, but I will try:
Ladies and Gentlemen - and I stress the gentlemen part, because I only heard male voices - I have to tell you that I am ashamed, embarrassed, and shocked at what happened when that new student walked through the door. What in God's name were you idiots thinking? "Daaaamn!" "Whooooah!" I take it you were trying to let everyone know that she is OVERWEIGHT? That was stupid, stupid, stupid! And I am so ashamed that you would treat anyone that way, let alone a brand new student who hadn't been in the classroom more than five frickin' seconds! I hate to break this to you all, but none of you are frickin' perfect either! Now get out of my classroom - go!The students got up, and for the first time I can remember, a entire class of students departed from my room without saying a word. They were in total silence. Maybe it was shock at my uncharacteristic outburst, or embarrassment at being a part of the misbehavior or for laughing at it. After having a few hours to reflect back, I am sure that I could have controlled my temper more and used some more mature words to express my displeasure (at least I didn't drop any full-blown cuss bombs even though I wanted to) - however, I hope that the severity of my rebuke will establish an understanding among those students that further mocking of this girl will not be tolerated.
During my lunch, I sent out the following email to the administration and the other teachers who are on this new student's schedule:
Hi All,So fellow teachers/readers, how did I do? What would you have done if that had happened in your classroom? Was I out of line? Did I overreact? Could I or should I have done something differently? Any input - positive or negative - is appreciated.
I got a new student today at the beginning of 4th period named ******* ******. She is noticeably overweight, and that caused an issue in my class of which I wanted to make you all aware.
The second she walked in the door, some of the boys in the classroom began uttering things under their breath: "Whoaaa" "Daaaaaamn"
I was mortified, I'm sure ******* heard it, and I was embarrassed for the class and for the school. To make matters worse, ******* told me she is a homeschooled student, so she is basically being thrown to the wolves here.
I ushered ******* into the side computer lab to brief her on my class procedures and ask her some get-to-know-you questions, and also to give myself a chance to cool off before I said something to the class I could regret.
At the end of the period, I came up with a ruse about having to speak to the class about a previous assignment and I dismissed *******, while keeping the rest of the class there.
In my ensuing speech, I kept my language PG, but I definitely was barely keeping my temper under control. I was talking to the class as a whole, but I was directing my comments at the students (all boys as far as I can tell) who found it necessary to mock ******* like they did. Like I said, I didn't curse, but the class knew I was extremely angry and upset because I rarely if ever get that emotional when talking to my students. The students then filed out of the classroom without saying a word.
Based on what I witnessed in my class today, I wanted to make you aware of possible problems that ******* might face on this campus in dealing with other students who have apparently never been taught to keep their rude thoughts to themselves.
Good Day to You, Sir