Josh is Cool

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22 thoughts on “Josh is Cool”

  1. This really does sum up so well the REAL challenges that we face in the CI classroom. It is so easy, so tempting, simply to avoid this aspect of classroom dynamics, and focus on activities and content. But I can think of no better thing to do this summer than to map out plans A, B, C and D for dealing with Josh. Nothing gets learned if Josh is not put in his place.

  2. Josh did very poorly on his assessment today. He has also been caught cheating. I am pretty sure he will be repeating the year because he was just way too cool. I am going to offer Josh more guidance next year than I did this year so that, perhaps, I can save him from himself…

  3. Thank you. I had Josh X 7 in my 7th Hour this year. Josh X 7 is a group of 7 Freshmen who got their schedules to be the same and tortured teachers/students all through the day. The teacher who had them 8th Hour had it the worst because they had fed off of each other all day.

    Our administration could not understand why we had problems, because what these boys were doing did not seem to be that bad to those in charge of discipline at our school. It was hard to explain how the disruption to the process and flow was very damaging. But now it will be much easier, thanks to your portrayal of Josh, to explain why I will be coming down on the 7 boys next year. They arranged their schedules to all be in my 8th hour Spanish 2 class next year and I have been VERY AFRAID.

    Now I feel empowered to take my classroom back. THANKS!

    1. Who in their right mind in the guidance office allowed them to orchestrate their schedules like that?!! If you need me to come over there and have a hissy fit for you about it, I’d be glad to!!!!

      with love,

      1. @Laurie…..I wish we had a *LOVE* button for your comment! LOVE it!!! haha But, at least, when this happens at our school, our AP does intervene – he is GREAT! But, unfortunately these kids are so innocuous, so passive-agressive, that you can’t ‘put your finger on it’ like Ardythe said. I had three junior girls like that. One of the girls, when I spoke about her to other teachers, the other teachers were SO surprised at the attitude I was getting from her! She was my never-ending “battle” this semester – of ALL of my classes! Boy, I hope I don’t get her again next year!

  4. If someone doesn’t stop them, and no one can, obviously, except we who teach them (they seem to have blown by parents, counselors, and administrators fairly easily here), then they stand a pretty good chance of moving, unchallenged, right up to the level of being the smartest guys in the room, i.e. the Enron boys. And people think that our job is not important.

  5. I would be very interested in expanding on something John mentioned above: group dynamics. If I am going to get to the next level i am going to have to get a handle on how to develop community and caring in my class. There are so many kids that don’t like each other in my classes or who are jealous, or who are intimidated that it creates such an undercurrent that It makes what I do tough.

    I have done a great job building relationships with me and kids, and overall class management. I have not done a good job at creating good dynamics among kids.

    How do I do that? team building has never been my strength.

    What do you think? Is my analysis correct? If so, could we talk about strategies for accomplishing this. I think it needs to be a goal for me for next year.

  6. This is EXACTLY what I want to do. I know that Kate Taluga has tons of experience with this, so I am hoping that she will be able to help us with that! It is why I had such poor results with some of the kids.

    I see it kind of like an outward bound group. You have to be part of the group, and the group functions and a whole, while also building each individual’s strengths.

    Anyway, I am eager to work on this! First I have to finish writing up my final reports!

  7. You may want to check out a book

    Engaging All
    by Creating High School Learning Communities
    Jeanne Gibbs

    It’s the Tribes conception of team building in schools. The oldest book I have is

    A Process for Social Development

    I have kept it with me and used in in my career in various ways for 25 years. It is duct taped together. I used it especially in Theory of Knowledge and GT classes, but also in language classes.

    The only problem is that the teams cannot work together when you are the only one who speaks the language.

    Another idea skip is the Word Chunk Team Activity. It rocks for team building. And it’s fun – details on the resources page of this site – reference workshop handouts. I will be doing some of that at iFLT next month and will try to get those classes on film to share here. Super highly successful in middle schools.

  8. I think we have zoomed in on a central concern here, one which is worth pursuing, perhaps under this Josh is Cool thread: the next step of helping kids to practice the respect and compassion that we are trying to model toward them. I will peruse the resources you mentioned, Ben, when I get home, and it would be great if we could compile a collection of practices (I’m trying to avoid the word activity, but I think structure and formal guidance is essential for this) that will build compassion between students. We can’t control the nastiness that goes on in the halls and online, but we can offer an alternative to that, and a safe place where no one is anonymous. I’ll post more on this later, but I’ve been reading about this connection between the anonymous nature of many online groups and the cruelty they encourage. We have a great and supportive online community Precisely because none of us is anonymous. if we can do all in our power to get our students to really get to know each other in a genuine way, perhaps this is the first step. I’m rambling now, but I’d love to hear what you all think about a plan of action for this.

    1. I agree that this is an important, overlooked topic. I hadn’t really considered it before.

      I know that I had a problem with cliques in my one class at the end of the year; I liked all the kids in that class, but they did not function as a coherent group. I would love ideas on how to consciously build that sense of community. In my case, these students are all in project-based-learning classes all day long, so you’d think they’d know something about group dynamics by now.

      I am more of an introvert as well and don’t really function well myself in adult groups so I don’t know the best way to accomplish this. I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

  9. Actually an action plan would have to be mostly active in the first month. Time would have to be taken in bulk. Once the teams are built, the year would be different.

    I asked my AP in charge of WL in our building about this two months ago – I was working on it for another project – and he jokingly said that I would need at least two weeks doing this inclusion work in English next year before teaching a word of French.

    Instead of the half laugh back that I expected his face was immediately serious and he said, “Do it! Why not? You have made a case for it (in various meetings in the building) so go for it. I will support you.”

    So yeah, I like this. Nothing beats Jeanne Gibbs work of over 30 years on this, in my opinion. I have been in touch with her this year. Maybe I can arrange some kind of discount on the books. Wow. This is cool.

    1. This is what I have been wondering…what if I had the courage to take this time and do this work in English at the start of the year to get the community established? In all of our discussions about reflection and metacognitive stuff, we devote the 5 mins (or whatever) to do this in English. Why not invest this time at the beginning and then it all feeds into everything, including whatever regular processing time we allot?

      I wonder if I can march through the fear of this. I think I can. It seems like it would create such a different environment in the classroom. That is me, the idealist speaking. But at our school, we have all these orientation / group building activities to start the year off, which is nice, but I would like to see group and individual building become a practice. Instead of talking about this at a staff meeting, I am ready to just do it and let the practice speak for itself. At its core, this is all about recognizing and celebrating the inherent value of every person. It’s pretty much the Susie Gross rule of “discipline precedes instruction.”

      There are two students who just returned from a semester away at the Conserve School in Wisconsin. They JUST got back so I have not had time to talk to them deeply, but it is so clear that each of them became more of themselves during this time. They literally “glow.” I can’t describe it. But I plan to meet with them in the next couple of weeks to learn what types of group building and reflection they did and to do some brainstorming on how we might adapt some of these practices to our school day. This is all in the context of a student group that I facilitate, called “Earth Support / Bioneers” but it is all about connecting.

  10. As I ‘m putting together the materials we used this year in Level 1 in preparation to hand them off to a colleague, I’m taking note of what we did to build community. The first thing that I noted is that nearly the first two weeks is dominated by community-building and then we feed from that for the rest of the year. I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write anything up in the near future….(Costa Rica in 8 days, then CO and LV shortly after) but when I do…I’ll let you know. I will also ask my friend Karen Moretti to post on my blog. She is a nationally recognized Character Ed teaching soulmate and this is a very powerful part of what she does.

    with love,
    PS One thing that we have done in the Spanish department may seem silly but I think that it has had a huge impact on the kids. The teachers try to show, as often as we can, that we like each other and care about each other as professionals and as people. For example: on Nancy’s birthday, Meghan and I will trot each of our classes down to Nancy’s room to sing her Happy Birthday. It’s a tradition that the kids claim is embarassing, but they beg to do it. (Even better if they can dress up in “costume” first, right Meghan?)

    We drop in on each other’s classrooms and admire student work in their presence. We introduce our students to our colleagues and rave about their abilities. It has set a tone that has changed how our students treat us and each other.

  11. I stole an idea from our German teacher. We do Friday birthdays as part of Kindergarten Day; anyone who has had a birthday that week gets a card that we make in class on colored xerox paper from every kid in the class. It has to have a minimum number of both wishes and compliments (and at least two colors and a border on each page, to make them pretty). The first Fridays of the school year, we celebrate all the summer birthdays, and when new kids come into the class, if we’ve missed their birthday, we wait until we know them well enough to give compliments and then spring a birthday celebration on them unexpectedly.

    (Sometimes we do a mini art lesson on Russian-style borders, and this year I’m going to let kids do short fold-out card demos and origami lessons occasionally.)

    I’ve noticed that kids paper the inside of their lockers with these cards. On the birthday itself, the student is allowed to pick the song we sing that day, and we show and sing a Russian birthday song. By mid-year, they’re bringing in birthday cakes and other goodies for the Friday celebration.

    At first I thought it was hokey, but when I got a ton of cards with compliments from all my classes for the first time, I also read each one and saved them.

    I used to have posters to help with ideas, but now that I have a Smartboard, I created this document for suggestions. By the time kids are part-way through year 2, they start to be pretty creative. I do check each card (for a bogus “writing” grade) before the student presents it to a birthday child with a hearty “Happy Birthday!” so as to forestall any inappropriate messages.

    In connection with Ben’s questionnaire-related activities and some bonding games, I think this is part of what brings my classes together.

    1. One of my students told me at the end of the year that the student cards we do together (sort of like circling with balls) was a big part of helping the class to bond. It’s funny that what we think of as “hokey” may actually mean quite a bit to them. Last year, I gave each one of my students a little business-sized card with a memory I had of them in my class this year; it helped me to bring back good memories.

      That said, I love your birthday card idea–especially about doing summer birthdays right away; so often those kids feel left out. I have birthday pencils and gave them to summer birthdays at the end of the year, but I like the idea of doing that first (they’ll get more use out of their pencils that way).
      thanks so much for sharing this tip.

      1. One of my seniors informed me Friday that his birthday was on the very first day of school, and we did not sing to him; could we sing on his last day in class (which as Friday)? Of course we could – and did.

        Students often act embarrassed and say they don’t want us to sing, but by the time we have finished they always have a grin on their faces. They also “rat out” each other to make certain we sing.

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