Monday, January 17, 2011


Last Thursday my homeroom students hit a new low. Our class, as a whole, suffered from self-inflicted wounds.

A little back ground...

I have my kids for about 45 minutes first thing in the morning. Then they go to Social Studies. after that they come to me to organize and be taken to their specials. After specials they rotate to Math, Science, and Reading. They move as a group so they are known as my class and I am responsible for them. After Reading we go to lunch and recess. The rest of the day they are with me. 

It has been hard, but I have gotten them to the point where they follow procedures in my room and they have blended into a more cohesive group. I moved Noodle out of my homeroom, but still teach her English. After Noodle left I was able to "go military" on them and not feel as terrible.

Last Thursday there was a  sub in Science and all h*ll broke loose. They were still riled up when they crossed the hall to Reading and my teammate could not get them settled down. She finally made them write the entire period about everything that happened in science.

When they returned to me for lunch she brought me the letters and my jaw dropped as I read everything that had happened. I was stunned. Some of the boys sexually harassed the sub. Two girls were listening to their ipods (we have a strict policy here of no electronics), there were two scuffle/fights. Students were yelling, running in the classroom, using bad language, leaving the class without permission, and one boy got kneed in the privates so hard that the kids thought he passed out. The sub never buzzed for assistance or asked the teachers next door or across the hall for help. 

After lunch we began our 4th day of indoor recess and all my kids had to lay their heads down on their desks and not say a word while I wrote behavior referrals. I wrote eight in all. I usually do not write referrals. I normally do not need to after using my classroom procedures. But I have a group of 11 kids who are always in trouble with the other teachers and the reason I wrote only eight referrals is because one of the 11 was absent, one was already suspended, and the other has just returned from suspension and was trying sooooo hard to be good (yay!).

The principal finally showed up (I had left her a note in the office during lunch) and I was able to talk to her and give her the referrals. Then I began pointing out those kids who were not written up and dismissing them to another teacher's room who was showing a movie for indoor recess. Four of the kids I dismissed told me they had been part of the problem and not the solution (I always remind them to choose to be part of the solution) so I sent them outside to the hall. Once the others had I left, I went out to the hall. Those four students told me they felt bad and wanted to apologize to the sub in science. We talked for a bit about what had happened and I felt they showed real remorse. I told them they could apologize and then go watch the movie or if they felt they needed to sit it out, then they could sit outside the room and work on their math. They all chose to work on their math.

We finished out the day with no events and that evening I wondered if I could take the unruly eight wilderness hunting and leave them to their own devices? 

Friday morning went well. They behaved for all their teachers. They all knew I was seriously disappointed. At recess the assistant principal took the eight outside and made them walk the track, silently, for the entire 25 minutes. Two of the students received in school suspension for next week.

After recess I decided to open up our time to honest discussion. I asked them why they were good for me and got in trouble with the other teachers. It wasn't a bashing session, it was an open and honest discussion and we all learned a lot. It comes down to expectations and immaturity. This is an immature group. They know they are doing wrong, but they are selfish and don't really care. Some of them do feel badly about the things they have done. I did not absolve them from any responsibility. I just wanted to see it from their eyes. They are confused in some of their other classes because the expectations are not clear. They get yelled at. When they said that, I said "I have been known to yell." They replied that I only yelled when they deserved it and when I did yell, it was directions and instructions and they knew exactly what to do. I didn't just yell to yell or threaten.They also said that I don't threaten and the other teacher do so they know they can usually get away with things.

We talked for nearly an hour. We talked through our English time. As we talked I felt the bonds strengthen and the trust grow. Maybe, just maybe, I can get them to take this growth outside the safety of my room. We will see tomorrow.

We finished the day with a short lesson about civil rights and created this mural and I felt we were beginning to heal.


Elaine said...

Those students certainly are a challenge for you - I admire your positive attitude.

Hopefully after the long talk with them, things will improve for you.

Cathryn said...

I confess that I had to read this a couple of times. First--I think what you did was pretty cool in letting the students vent and discuss this situation--instead of "sticking to the curriculum." Sometimes students need to work their brains around certain experiences. This is helpful.

Second, I think the substitute needs a clue about class room management. Why didn't he or she ever call for assistance? The sub did more damage by allowing this behavior to get so far out of control!

Finally, I'm glad to see some of the kids actually did understand what was wrong and where they needed to rein themselves in. That's a good lesson that may not be on the state-approved curriculum but will help them in real life later.

Territory Mom said...

I love the mural, it made me cry. Praying for your class and you.

Okie Book Woman said...

Wow. I am impressed by the way you handle your class, Joan. I'm hoping that this will be a turning point for your class for the year.

Cheeseboy said...

Holy crud!!! Everyone asks me why and how I can teach first graders. This is exactly why. I don't have to deal with any of that nonsense. People wonder how I can do it, but I wonder how you can do it. But I know you are a great, great teacher, that is how.

Intense Guy said...

Its so very unfortunate that these kids don't seem to have effective parents and you and other teachers are "wasting" time trying to "civilize" them instead of having kids motivated to learn things.

I can't help but to feel badly for you - I am impressed by how hard you work and how hard you try - but you don't seem to get any help from where it should be coming from...

A wilderness training / boot camp or even a well run scout troop might help these kids.. or not.

Teachinfourth said...

Getting the kids to talk it out and try to come up with solutions is always a great option when they're not behaving as they really gets them to buy into the solution and own it.

I think you're doing a great job, girl. Keep it up!