As promised, I kept my sixth graders – all of them – in for recess today, as a consequence of their bad behavior on Friday. I basically lined them up in the cafeteria – we couldn’t go outside due to wet weather – in the same way they line up to come upstairs each day. I lectured them on WHY I need their cooperation – long-term benefits of making the most out of every minute of their education – and then, when even I was tired of the lecture (and having trouble keeping my train of thought), we practiced responding to signals, like counting down from five or a raised hand (I don’t like this one as it is so similar to a Nazi salute, but it seems ubiquitous in schools and our teachers use one, the other, or both). It was artificial. They did pretty well, but you’d better do well when the stakes are more days of lunch detention and you know that within the next minute or so, the signal for quiet will be given and you will be judged on your response… like I said, artificial. But I really believe in (a) making expectations crystal clear, and (b) if we’re gonna talk the talk of “teaching them to act the way we want” then we have to walk the walk and practice the individual skills like we would an academic subject. Will it make a difference? We’ll see… I’m not naive enough to expect a rapid turn-around but… maybe a little improvement?
My CTT class was AWFUL, though, later in the afternoon. I mean awful like, if-this-is-how-the-rest-of-the-year-is-going-to-be-I-want-to-jump-out-a-window AWFUL. Loud, unpleasant, cursing, insulting each other, unfocused, unproductive, unresponsive, copying each other’s homework, the whole shebang. I’m not the most positive teacher on earth but I try to find behaviors to praise, and at least to phrase my negativity in a productive, corrective way, but they evaporate my pool of patience so quickly! I took the time to have quiet conversations with THREE students in the first few minutes of class, about their behavior upon entering the room, but no sooner did I move on to something else than those students continued their disruptive behavior. One student started fussing about needing 10 seconds of quiet – and all I could do was acknowledge that I, too, wanted that more than anything on earth, because nothing, nothing could get done as it was.
Meanwhile, in grown-up land, the paper wars have begun again. By this I mean the limiting of copy paper along with statements about how we’re using too much. But what I see are teachers arriving 40 minutes early to school to have enough time to prep for their classes, finding themselves stymied by the lack of paper, and becoming increasingly demoralized. I really think a start would be to assess what is being copied and why and decide together on some reasonable guidelines based on what people actually need rather than a “look how fast that box disappeared” reaction. If limitations are really necessary because of lack of money, fine, but include us, take a problem-solving approach rather than a punishing approach. In the meantime, I’ve tried to handle it by advocating on behalf of the other teachers and myself, with some success although I suspect the issue will rear its head again. And my plan for getting work done today was totally undermined by the forty minutes of my prep spent copying something that I planned to do during the forty minutes I had available before school. *sigh*
Sometimes it feels like I just keep running head-on at a brick wall. No, scratch that, make it a CONCRETE wall. Bricks would probably have fallen by now. Still, I know this post sounds really negative, but I still have a “let’s fix this” attitude when I’m not ranting on my blog. It’s just that the fixes take time, and we’re struggling now…