Posts Tagged ‘classroom management’

Upon a great recommendation from a fantastic friend, I am in process of getting a hold of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. In the meantime, in order to quench my thirst, I found a cool (animated) video that seems to sum up the ideas in a very broad way (perhaps a “Cliff Notes” version). The drawing is super fun (although it makes my hand tired, even though I realize it is fast-forwarded). Check it out…

While you watch, here are the questions I’m pondering/wondering about:

  1. Does “monetary incentive” equate to grades in the classroom? If so, what does this tell us about grades?
  2. How can I allow kids to be more self-directed?
  3. I have seen the need for Mastery and Purpose in students within a foreign language as they strive toward satisfaction… how can I let them be thoughtful about this?

Thanks, MIKD, for the Vorschlag! I’m excited to read/listen to the whole book and ponder even more…

I recently had a class that I affectionately referred to as “The Jerry Springer Class”. The Jerry Springer Class could sometimes get a little out of hand. Classes like The Jerry Springer Class often have a few extra kids who are dealing with more than any kid should ever have to… however their behaviors are definitely affecting the class. It’s times likes these when I  pull out my plan to deal with the “out-of-hand” class.

Step One: Identify the 1-3 kids that are really making the difference in the class. We all know that it is often just a weird mix of kids that makes all the difference. So figure out what that mix is. I know I’ve found the right kid if he/she might fit the description of, “Boy, when <Billy Bob/Janie Sue> is gone, the class runs so much smoother and everything is so much quieter!”

Step Two: Divide and conquer. Find a way to talk with each kid. Choices, choices, choices:

  • The Locker Talker”: my personal least favorite. Everyone knows that the kid being talked to outside the classroom up against the lockers is clearly in trouble. It’s never a good posture and never a good conversation. It’s a lot of teacher talking, and the kid mumbling “mm-hmmm” or whatever while their eyes dart around, wondering who is watching this go down.
  • “Delayed gratification”: talking to them after class is a tough one for me. On the positive side, it might give them some privacy as the classroom empties out, and it’s nice to just have them there instead of the influence of their friends hanging over their shoulder. On the negative side, it often copies the posture and conversation of the locker. It also disrupts their schedule (how else are they going to meet up with their girlfriend in the hall if they’re not precisely at the corner 1.23 minutes after the bell rings?), so their mind is set on getting the conversation over as quickly as possible. I also have a hard time figuring out how to get them to stay after without “outing” them in front of the whole class.
  • “In-class en-couragement”: a quick conversation in class, whether it be me kneeling down and chatting quietly with them or having the reason of calling each kid up to me to discuss something (grades and incomplete work) and having the conversation there.
  • Walk-and-Talk“: this is my absolute favorite if/when the scheduling works out.I find that whenever I can take a quick walk with the student, the “walk-and-talk” opens up discussion possibilities much more than any other way of talking. I’ve had kids deep in the spectrum release their stress in a calm, logical way and I’ve had kids with anger problems be able to work things out themselves with this. It is head-and-shoulders above the stuck-against-the-locker talk… which is clearly a “I’m in trouble” posture to have to stand in. When walking together, we’re equals: trying to solve the problem as one.

Step Three: Conversational Oreo: I like to sandwich the bad between two goods. (This analogy might not work out for many of you who find the center of the Oreo to be the best… but I’m sure you get the picture.) I usually start off by telling them that they really are a very smart kid. I can tell. (And, no, this isn’t a lie.) So, I say, I think it’s crazy that their grade/behavior/whatever is not a true indicator of who they really are. I let them know quickly what, precisely, I’m seeing grade/behavior/whatever-wise, and then I move back to the good. Because, I say, I really enjoy having you in class and because you can do this, I need your help. I need you to just do these two things and then we’ll be on the right track again. (The two things depend on what the situation is, but I try to keep them bite-sized… not something like “be nice” but instead something like “help so-and-so because I see they are struggling”.) Give them a chance to be a positive leader. Tell them how. Sometimes they just don’t know how.

Often just getting that kid to know that you do really care about them and aren’t just interested in them “shutting up for the betterment of the class” makes all the difference.

In my entry-level class, I have a student. Let’s call him Gonzo (no actual resemblance). Gonzo is that kid. He is the one who must be off in another world, well, all of the time. I explain something to a (finally) quiet classroom. Heads are nodding, kids are smiling. Directions stop and, like a shotgun start, heads snap down, pencils pop up and the “work” of education continues. Gonzo’s hand comes up. “Okay, so what are we supposed to do?”

Those around Gonzo (and even those on the other side of the room from Gonzo) groan. An audible heave of the “Oh, Gonzo” emotion. Some days it takes all they have to not spout off some snide remark.

Gonzo is not stupid. He’s not even a blue kid. He just sometimes needs to be spoken to directly (one-on-one) when giving directions, and sometimes, even then, even after a one-on-one session with head nodding and eye tracking, I turn to walk away and leave him to his now-guided work, and the hand shoots up again. “Okay, so wait. Now what am I supposed to do?”

A sigh breathes past my lips and I hold back a snide remark, but I turn around and go back because it’s my job to teach… not to give him a hard time.

And this is where I caught myself last week. This is where I had to change.

Another student asks a question, also not listening. I smile, jaunt over and cover what they missed with a sparkle in my eye and enthusiasm in my voice.

Did I probably treat Gonzo exactly the same way the first, second, third, twenty-third time that he asked the question? Yes. I might even put money on that. But when that enthusiasm stopped started to wane, I didn’t even notice. I didn’t notice until last week when I found myself refraining from my snide remark. That’s also when I noticed my squinty, tired eyes, my Bueller voice, and my slumped posture as I spoke with him. It was the tired me that sometimes slips by the attitude-bouncer, but it’s also the me I don’t like seeing.

They say kids know the real truth about people and what we are feeling, the truth that can be hidden from many adults. Our children are watchers. They watch us to see if they can trust us. They watch us to see how much we care. They watch us to see who we really are. They watch us in the times when we are most tired and dealing with people who may not be the easiest to deal with. Perhaps they watch us most at that time because it shows some of our true character. It shows them how we might react to them someday.

I often have conversations with students about how ethics aren’t really meaningful until they’re tried and tested in the tough situations, and last week I caught myself not living up to my own standards.

There is a story in the book of Matthew (25) about the end-of-times as Jesus says to those on his right, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

The people respond that they didn’t remember ever having fed or clothed him, to which he responds, “40I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

I think our students see the same. They see how we treat the kids who are the most outrageous, the kids who are the most persistent, the kids who are the least respectful, the kids who just don’t listen, and somewhere inside, they take it to heart: all the more reason to not start slipping down that slippery slope.

This week I made a renewing effort to wipe clean, to be excited, and to share that excitement with everyone, but especially Gonzo. I’m doing it for Gonzo, I’m doing it for the Gonzo watchers, but mostly I need to be doing it because I think it’s right and it’s who I believe I really am… and I need to be that no matter the circumstance.

I had a great conversation today after school with two of my dearest friends. We came to the question, Which Battles do You Choose to Fight?

Thoughts in Progress….

There are so many different little battles in every classroom every day: some that we see, and even others we’re hardly aware of. If we try to carry or fight them all, it becomes too heavy. We are humans (like the Scrubs theme, “I’m no Superman”), so we choose.

So which battles do we choose to fight? Do we fight the kids who daze out the window, or the kids who do other homework in class, or the kids who consistently bring out their iPod/cell phone, or the kids who would rather talk to friends, or the kids who have a disrespectful tone, or the kids who really just don’t care, or the kids who purposefully fly under the radar so they can slide by with the bare minimum, or the kids who are hurting so badly that they couldn’t focus on German if they wanted to, or the kids whose sense of entitlement is irresponsible and disrespectful, or the kids who need you to fight for them and love them because no one else in their life will, or the kids who… the list goes on and on. The interesting thing is that we all choose different things… and,  most of the time,  these battles go unanswered even when it looks like a teacher has “great classroom management”.

So the question becomes,
Do the battles one chooses to fight make one teacher “better” than another?

He who knows men is clever. He who knows himself is wise.

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Throughout many of the major religions of the world (and time), it has been clear that one of the biggest journeys we go on is the journey into truly knowing ourselves. I might (shudder) dare to say that it could even be a universal truth.

It seems that dy/dan is finding some truth about himself: finding what works for him in the form of classroom management. He discusses many fantastic ideas such as being the “teflon teacher” so kids can’t pin you down (long enough for you to show them “that you c*re”).

My concern is that Dan is masquerading what works for him as some sort of universal truth. I have no doubt that he is a fantastic teacher and that his students are lucky to have him… and that he has found a great way to relate and conect with kids. But simply calling it “The teacher your students want” doesn’tmake it a “just add water” formula.

What works for him would probably be silly if I were to try it.  Bill Fitzgerald commented on Dan’s post with something very wise: Never pretend to be something that you’re not. This is sage advice for the readers out there who might feel ashamed because they’re just not like Dan, or, worse yet, might throw away what they already do (that works) to try to be someone they’re not.

It’s what we would hope for our students, to be uniquely unique and change the world with their uniqueness… so why should teachers fit a cookie-cutter idea of “The Ideal Teacher Profile”?

So, who am I? That’s probably Teflon: hard to pin down. I might tend a little more toward the “soft edges and kittens” than the “cruel teacher”… but, ultimately, I want my students to know that they are worthy of my time and consideration… in the same way that I am. So we have fun, laugh a lot… and get a lot of learning done. The most important part, though, like Dan says, is to show them how much I care.

Honestly? I’m still pinning myself down. Who I am, who I want to be… I think it’s probably a long journey ahead.