In the 5 years that I have been in my current district, this was the first time that we didn't receive an email right before a break reminding us that it was an instructional day. Instead, we were encouraged to watch Sir Ken Robinson's TED Talk about creativity in school and use today to allow our students creative expression within the bounds of the curriculum.
So, I did what I had planned to do anyway.
Geometry had another game day. As did the second pre-algebra class. The first one had a test. This was partially done out of spite, but also partially done because I want them to realize how different my class is and the activities that I'm trying to do. I feel as though I need to occasionally remind them that things could be boring.
They reminded me instead, that they don't care. They would much rather do rote assignments that require no thinking because they are easier. I have no idea how to break this barrier down. If I work with higher order thinking tasks, they refuse to participate, or are so disruptive that I can't work with the students who DO want to do the work. They don't care about their grades enough to do the work under the threat of failing. Most know that the district will move them on regardless of whether or not they fail my class.
They don't care about the knowledge, or the skills.
I watched a boy carefully aim and throw a pencil across the room at a girl. When she got up to hit him, he started screaming about how she was out of her seat and attacking him. I pointed out that I watched him start it and he had a fit, as though he was being singled out for punishment.
Another student wouldn't stop talking, and when I moved his seat, he refused to sit where I put him and refused to finish his test.
This is a level of immaturity that I don't know how to deal with. I know there are ways, but I don't know them. There is no way to contact the parents that I need to contact.
If we want the state of public education to improve, then schools need to have one rule: No student will be allowed to detract from the learning environment of any other student.
There needs to be a place where overly disruptive students can go to get their issues resolved in a way that doesn't keep other kids from learning. That place CAN'T be just a holding tank, like in-school suspension. It needs to be a place where someone can talk to them about WHY they are choosing to behave the way they are.
As many people on both sides of the gun control debate have stated, we don't have a crime problem. We have a mental health problem. We NEED to be providing our students with adequate services to get them what they need. There should be counselors in abundance in schools, especially in middle schools.
Sometimes, my students just need a minute to calm down, to talk to someone about why they are so angry and then come back in and be awesome! But without somewhere to send them for that, they simply stay in the room and disrupt the environment.
In most of the classes I've had, there's only one or two at a time and I'm able to deal with it on my own. But my 4th period this year, since the introduction of 13 new students a few weeks ago, has felt a bit like the baby nightmare from Shrek.
When I pull a student aside to talk to them, three more start in on it. They are all friends so I can't just move their seats. My room is too small to adequately separate them.
I have much thinking to do over the break. I need to reach out for some help. I don't think I can solve this problem on my own.
They say one rotten apple spoils the bunch, but I don't think that analogy works for two reasons. First, a single apple can be thrown away, saving the rest of the bunch. A more accurate analogy would be a moldy strawberry. Once it's in the package, the whole package is trash.
Second, we can't (and shouldn't) throw the students away. We need to help them to become better however we can.
I think a more accurate analogy for poor behavior and decision making in education would be the flu, or mono. When someone gets sick with either of these diseases, we isolate and help them as much as we can. We don't expect doctors to treat a flu patient in the middle of a healthy crowd. We know that the flu will spread, making others sick.
We don't throw that patient away either, leaving them to die. We help them as much as possible and stay with them until they are healthy again.
We need to be doing this for our students.
Also, I spent the day wearing this hat: