Monday, May 19, 2014
Day 161: At A Loss
I don't know what to do. I have three classes of students. One of those classes is consistently respectful of my classroom and the learning environment. They have days when they are energetic in age-appropriate ways and need to be reigned-in so that we can have a productive learning environment. They understand what I'm trying to do and, for the most part, go with me.
In my other 2 classes, 25% of the students fall into that same category. They are consistently respectful of my classroom and complete the tasks that I ask.
25% of the students are "popular" kids and control the dynamic of the class. I know how taboo it is to admit that student control how the class runs, but every teacher knows that there are always a few students who will dictate the mood of the class, either intentionally or otherwise, by their actions and behavior. A dynamic and effective teacher can usually pull these kids over the side of education, giving them roles as leaders. This year, no matter how hard I have tried, no matter which tactics I've used, I have failed to win these students to my side. At least, I have not done so for any significant length of time.
The remaining 50% of the students are fence-sitters. When the "popular" kids are not in the room, they are productive members of the class and help me to build a learning community. When the "popular" kids ARE there, they are swept up in the middle school herd mentality.
I know that there are numerous valid reasons for the poor behavior and I don't blame them for being children. At this point, however, I must admit that I don't know how to help them. Worse, I don't know how to get them to NOT destroy my class when there are there. With one exception, all of these students are VERY reasonable when I talk to them one-on-one, but as soon as they come into the room, that all goes out the window.
I don't know if I'm not getting through to them, or if I'm being played.
In addition, with only 16 days left, I'm having tremendous trouble resisting the urge to throw them out at the first sign of a spark.
With that said, Geometry went VERY well. Today, 7 of the 8 groups gave their presentations on their game ideas. Several groups had rough sketches of their boards to illustrate their concepts. The rest of the class listened well and made good suggestions to help them improve.
As with last week, I was VERY impressed by the ideas that they came up with. I think there are several legitimate game ideas, not just for math class, but for greater manufacture and distribution. I plan to do everything I can to help make that happen.
I was worried about having this be the plan for the remainder of the year, but watching the enthusiasm that I see, I think this was a great idea.
Here are two of the presentations. Please excuse the shaky camera and crappy sound...
In pre-algebra, I reverted back to my old tactics from previous years. Students who were talking were immediately redirected. Students who were standing or facing away from the board were immediately redirected. The redirection was done without patience, humor or anger, but swift, matter of fact and polite.
"Turn around please, sir."
This is how I speak with students who need redirection during In-School Suspension. After the first 15-20 minutes, the "popular" kids realized they were not going to be able to have conversations and gave up trying.
Then the rest of the class was able to learn, and did!
Questions were answered with patience and understanding, even to kids who had previously messing around. I think it's VERY important to draw a distinction between the student and the behavior. When a student makes the choice to re-join the learning environment, I try very hard to welcome him or her with open arms.
It's a difficult task, but I see success with it. They seem to understand that what I'm stomping out is the disruptive behavior and not the student. The few who don't realize that, continue to make the same mistakes.
"I came in 10 minutes late, didn't bring my materials, have been talking from the moment I got here, refused to sit in my assigned seat, interrupted the learning constantly and now he won't let me go get a drink?? Why is he against me??"
The same situation happened in period 8/9. After several students were removed, the rest of the class worked and learned very well. There were several cries of "this stuff is easy!"
It's encouraging to know that I can actually teach once those students are removed.
Now I need to figure out how to teach without removing them.
I think this is going to be a long process.