My journey to shoot for the moon.

Going back to work after a snow day is always rough.  I was ready though.  On Thursday I planned for a snow day and brought home some extra work.  Didn’t get to much of it, but my lesson plan for Friday would work for one of my classes on Monday.  So, that was good.  My 5th period class is reading Crash and when I do lesson plans for a novel, I try to do a number of chapters at a time because I never know how long things will actually take.  So, 5th was good.  For 7th Administration was getting me a sub because I had to attend a meeting with parents.  Joy.  I swear that Trial By Fire could be my new job title.

In my 2nd period class we are reading Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar.  It is a great book and I’ll be writing a review of it in the next couple of weeks.  This is a great book for my SPED students because the main character is a geek and makes a ton of references to things my students don’t have experience with.  And the vocabulary.  There is a TON of vocabulary in this book.  My students need to learn vocabulary.  However, traditional “learn vocabulary” lessons are boring.  Kids will learn the vocabulary for the test and then promptly forget it.  It is tedious to look all the words up, write out the definitions and then write each word in a sentence.  I have a pretty good vocabulary, but I didn’t learn definitions that way.  I learned them from figuring them out in context.

In an effort to be an innovative teacher, I’ve had the kids do a number of different activities to work on the vocabulary from the novel.  One day they looked up words with a partner and then put the definitions in their own words.  One day they found the words in the book and had to write a definition for what they thought the word meant in context.   We reviewed vocabulary by doing the post-it note vocabulary activity.  Everyone got eight post-it notes.  Each kid wrote their name and one vocabulary word on a post-it note.  Around the room, I put up the definitions on butcher paper.  The kids had to go around and match the word to the definition.

Today, for another day of review (and since we’ve added about 10 new words), I had the kids play Survivor Vocabulary.  I made a multiple choice “text” for each of the vocabulary words.  The kids were each given cards – laminated cardstock that I created for this purpose – with A, B, C and D on them.  For ease of use, all A’s were the same color, all B’s were a second color and so on.  I told the kids the vocabulary word and gave them the four choices for answers.  I then asked them to “reveal.”  The kids who had the right answers got to stay standing and the kids who were wrong, sat.  Everyone continued to “reveal” whether they were sitting or standing.  I kept track of who got the question wrong and we kept going.  I only created 15 questions.  When I got to #15 there were two kids still standing.  They both “won.”  They earned 75 points (5 for each right answer) and then an additional 25 points for winning.  They also got to pick some candy out of my candy box.  The other students got five points for each correct answer.  Most of the kids did well.

However, they could not shut their mouths.  They talked and joked around and would not settle.  I had threatened them with homework last week when they were out of control.  Today, I had to write names on the board.  In the end, five of my students have homework.  Four of them need to write a one page essay about why their behavior was rude and disrespectful.  And one needs to write a two page essay.  I didn’t want to do it, it means that I will have to grade the essays, but I didn’t feel I had many other options.  This is the class that is a handful.  None  of the kids are “bad” kids, they are just difficult to manage.

But I am frustrated.  It helps, a little, that the other teachers are having issues with the same group of kids.  But it doesn’t help a lot.  I wanted to be different.  I wanted to be the teacher that got not to them.  Boy was I overly ambitious!

On Wednesday, when I see the kids again, I am implementing a new strategy for gaining compliance.  I don’t have many rules in my classroom; four to be exact.  But one of them is to respect themselves, their peers and me.  Making it difficult for me to teach is disrespectful.  And rude.  I picked up a copy of LouAnn e Johnson’s (the author of the book which Dangerous MInds is based on), Teaching Outside the Box..  I will be writing a review of this book (also in the next couple of weeks), but let me say, I wish I had read it 2-3 months ago.  Before I set foot in my classroom.  This would be a great present for an aspiring teacher.

Anyway, I’ve been reading her book and LOVING it.  She talks a lot about discipline.  And on Wednesday my 2nd period students will hopefully learn their lesson and I will not have to worry about rude and disrespectful behavior for the remainder of the year.

Here’s what I did – First, I got two manila file folders.  On one I wrote (in big black letters – on both sides) RUDE STUDENT WORK.  Inside  I wrote the student directions – they need to take the folder to the library and do the work in the folder, they need to have their pass stamped by a library staff member, they need to return to class around 5 minutes before the end of the period with the stamped pass and the completed work.  I spoke with the library staff and let them know what I planned to do and got their permission.  On a second folder (also in big black letters), I wrote “REFERRAL FORMS.”  inside the folder are several Referral Forms with the general information filled out.  If a student is being rude or disrespectful, I am going to ask them to take the RUDE STUDENT WORK folder to the library.  I will walk them into the hall and go over the directions with them and then send them on their way.  If they don’t return, they get a referral.  If they don’t do the work, the get a referral.  If they are disruptive in the library, they get a referral.  If they won’t go, they get a referral.

It is a little harsh, but they need to learn that they cannot continue being disrespectful.  I am hoping that I will only have to send one student to the library and that the rest will fall in line.  But if it takes more than that, well, that is that.  Hopefully, I won’t  have to write any referrals.  It involves a lot of paperwork and Administration.  But it may take one referral for it to get through to my students.  I am trying, though, to be careful and use my feelings about individual students impact who is singled out for consequences.

The best part about the new system is that I enlisted one of my “good” student’s help.  This student said that he would be fed up with the class if her were me.  He is going to tell some of his classmates that he saw me working on the folders and that I was serious about using them.

Both strategies I got from LouAnne Johnson’s book.

Unfortunately, my difficult 2nd period class isn’t the only “issue” I had today.  But, I’ll save the rest for another time.


Comments on: "2nd Period – Miserable Monday" (2)

  1. I find these posts about teaching most interesting. As a parent of a troubled student, I see everything from the complete opposite viewpoint. What I see is a kid who needs attention and to be held close and someone to take the time to figure him out instead of pushing him out the door as far away as possible…

    I know it is an enormous thing to ask of an already overwhelmed teacher. If there is anything I have learned in 10 years of watching my son struggle, it is how much kids actually ENJOY punishments like this and being able to get away from an overwhelming class and be on their own.

    I feel so awful that the need to address them being rude is such a huge part of your day and your frustration. I totally understand your viewpoint. I believe you have to command respect from day one or you are going to lose it a little bit each and every day thereafter.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to be the end of this problem and I think it may make things even worse.


    • Jessica –
      I respect your opinion and I am glad that you felt you could voice it here. I do think that in some respects you are right. For many teachers, I think that this would make things worse. However, I have built rapport with the kids and I have worked very hard to do that. When I was subbing for these kids I learned their names. This is one of the reasons the kids thought that I was a great sub. I took the time to really listen. And I’ve demonstrated day after day, that I care. I’ve tempered my “consequences” with understanding. I treat each student as an individual. And, they feel very comfortable in my class and with me. Several of my “difficult” kids are choosing to come hang out in my room before school starts – I take this as a great sign.

      I think that I can “pull this off” because of who I am. Because I care. Because I have tried everything else I can think of. Because I have some really amazing kids in this class who can step up and be leaders and really influence their peers. Most of all, these kids know that my class is like no other class they have been in. I get excited at their ideas, I listen when they talk. When they get antsy from sitting, I give them a movement break. I plan lessons that are fun and that help them learn. They know I want them to succeed.

      I think that this “plan” just might work because I have done my research, I have built trust and the kids know that I am fair. I know them and really pay attention to them. And they know me. They know I don’t have a job for next year and that I want to be at their school. They know that I have spent my money to get things to help them. And they know that I LOVE my job.

      If I hadn’t done everything that I have to this point – I don’t believe that this would work. I think that if the kids were looking for attention, any type even negative, this wouldn’t work. But these are good kids who are generally there to learn and who have gotten used to goofing around in class. It isn’t the goofing around in class that is the problem – it is the constant interruptions that make it impossible to teach.

      I don’t want to ruin the story – but I’ve already seen some wonderful results. Keep reading! I think you might be surprised. (And think of moving to Colorado so your son could be in my class!)


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