Well, that was fun

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to observe a fellow newbie's classroom on Friday, and let me tell you: Everything I've written about my students now has to be re-examined. This poor teacher had just about the worst group of kids I'd ever seen, and that's saying a lot.

The thing about it was, the students were not blatantly bad. None of them cursed her out, none of them was defiant to the point of being cruel or mean, none of them really DID anything wrong. It was just an amazing accumulation of attitude and asshole-ery that undermined the entire classroom structure.

For example: A student was supposed to come up to the front of the board in order to do a problem. Most of the students in the class have some sort of behavioral disorder, whether it's ADHD or FAS or anything in between, I really don't know. The second another student came up to the front of the class and got the teacher's attention, there was nothing she could do to control the rest of them. They were shouting across the room at one another--nothing rude, nothing mean, just yelling random statments across the room that had zero relevance to the problem on the board--and once they started to lose focus it was nearly impossible to get them back on track.

I talked to the teacher afterwards, and she knew what the problems were. Since most of the students had either a behavioral disorder or, in some cases, a learning disability, them getting kicked out of class really didn't have much effect on them. In addition, she has yet to refer a student down to the office, so they know that they can get away with murder--well, maybe not murder, but at least a kidnapping with request for ransom--without getting sent to the office.

We actually talked about what she should do within our big classroom group, and the technique was basically to be sure to send one of the students to the office the next time it happens in order to show them you mean business. This struck me as odd, however, because then you're basically premeditating a dismissal for a student, though you don't necessarily know which student the dismissal will fall upon. Someone else mentioned this in class, and the explanation we got seemed satisfactory:

You oughtn't to decide that a student is going to get kicked out of class, but you must leave yourself open to that possibility. When it gets to a point where the students are no longer learning, that's the point where someone needs to be sent out to send a message. Give a warning, such as "the next person to do X will get kicked out." But what if the person who does X is actually behaving better than other students, but mistakenly does X at the wrong time? Then you should take that student aside and talk to him/her while waiting for another student to do X, because another student, invariably, will do X, because students are dumb like that. When a worse stduent does X, you can send that student down to the office without feeling bad about sending a kid who wasn't acting THAT bad down to the office.

Lesson learned.


lencioni said...

I once got kicked out of class (in High School) for basically asking a question of our substitute teacher who was acting in what I decided was an entirely inappropriate manner. I immediately set up a meeting with the principal and described the situation in great detail and asked that she not be allowed to teach in the district again. That happened. That's right, I made that happen. It was awesome.