I got this from Jake. It’s a fairly tense situation. Below I suggest one option for him. I had sent him this reminder about his right as a teacher (see the article here from about a week ago about A Teacher’s Bill of Rights) that he has the “right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems, especially students”, which implies that the student must change, not us.
We need to contact parents, counselors and admins and if any of them are really acting like adults (few adults are these days) they will help us, because they must. And find just one, any, positive solution that you and the student can try to implement together.
My main conflict in this is with the idea that the school says that students can’t put their heads down in class, and I didn’t want to set a precedent that it’s okay for that him – once he gets a “0” – to then check out. In some ways, though, I was glad that he was checked out because then I could continue with our tableau, but I didn’t feel comfortable letting him be.
I’m probably making too much of it, thinking that if I let him slide, then everything will collapse. This kid was added to my class late, and since then, the class has been on a slow downward turn. I was on a good path getting that class trained, and he came along. He emboldened the more quiet students to be more vocal and goof around more. I was pissed they put him in my class. Thanks for your help.
Immediately talk to this kid and the parents in a non-confrontational way. Tell him it’s not his fault in a way because you didn’t go slowly enough and now he can’t understand. Tell him privately and the class publicly that you realize now you’ve been going too fast and you are going to change and act like it’s the beginning of the year and he – tell him this privately – is going to be able now to understand because you realize you messed up and now you are going to make very frequent eye contact with him and he is going to have to signal you back nodding in a way others can’t notice whether he understands or not. This might heal it.
As the adults in the classroom, we are 100% responsible for how you respond to the kid, but you are not responsible for changing their behavior, so do what you can.
Have a positive response, make personal verbal contact with the student in a non-confrontive way, round up some adult support in your building if there is any (I don’t think there is much in Jake’s building), find something – anything – in the way of a solution, in this case speaking more slowly and working directly with the student in class, which has the positive result of getting his head off the desk but more than that gives him hope.
When you enact that kind of positive move, tell the student that if they just do that one thing – in this case making eye contact with Jake – you will not fail them. (You must learn how to use grades as carrots for failing kids like this one who, when he puts his head down all the time, is really just crying in the only way he can for help at the most basic level.)