No matter how many years I teach, I am still amazed at how the addition (or subtraction) of a single student can change a classroom dynamic.
I have had classes where a new student in transferred in and, suddenly, a normally quiet student becomes loud and boisterous because the new kid is either a dear friend or a bitter enemy.
I have had classes where two (or more) students are constant disruptions. Multiple interventions leave me with no results until the removal of one put the rest back on task.
At the same time, I have also had classes with loud disruptive students and the addition of a new member, a strong leader, changes that dynamic for the better and all students do well as a result. Sometimes, a students needs a partner to help keep them on task, someone to encourage them in the right direction.
While I've been thinking about this for years, it only recently have I started to ask a certain question: Why not me?
Why can't the teacher be the one to change the class for the better? I certainly know teachers who are the negative influence in the room, either by negligence or by design. I also know some amazing teachers who walk in and do incredible things with difficult groups. The teacher sets the tone for the room by their expectations and demeanor.
Yes, there are kids who can create or destroy an environment with their sheer presence, but we don't, and can't, control them.
We only get to decide how we act and react to them.
My 3rd period has been growing increasingly difficult. There is a large contingency of young men who are good friends and very much enjoy their time together. There is one in particular who seems to enjoy attempting to rile me up. Some days he's successful and some days not.
Today, one of the young men in this group came to class late. I was already into my lesson and was deeply annoyed by his coming to the door and not knocking on it, but violently kicking it. I asked him to wait outside until I could talk to him. He refused and wandered off
When he returned, he was (understandably) surly and kicked the door again. When I eventually let him in, he sat silently with his head down.
At the end of class, I pulled him aside and talked to him about the incident. I didn't scold him and I talked to him like I would to a friend.
Me: "Dude! What was that? Why do you need to be kicking my door? Could you maybe knock next time?"
Him: "Yeah, that wasn't cool. My bad. I won't do that again."
Me: "It's alright, man. I know people have off days. If that's happening, let me know so I know and don't think you're just being a jerk."
Him: "You're right."
Me: "Alright, brother. I hope you have a great afternoon."
Him:"Thanks, Mr. Aion. You too."
I had several conversations like this over over the past few days. High school kids seems much more open to this discussions than middle school kids. I suppose maturity does happen.
In the middle of 8th period, a special gift arrived for my students!
65 Matt Damons in my room!!!
Now, to drive to Philly tonight, Atlantic City tomorrow and spend some time pretending that I know what I'm talking about.