Question

Here is a question for the group:

I have been using the “Ben Slavic Classroom Rules” for about 8 years. BUT. They do not address things that I need to address in this school that still feels like it’s on a different planet.

For example, I feel like I need the following rules in addition to the basics. BUT that is too many rules to post.

I need rules like:

Hands and feet to yourself.
Instructions for using a pencil, pen, white board, marker.
Instructions for using kleenex.
Instructions for using hand sanitizer. (I had to remove my bottle because a student put a giant glob of it on his hands and smeared it into another kids eyes)
Please do not break or tear any materials. Especially the books.
Please do not throw any materials. Especially the books.
Please do not touch the bulletin board and take the push pins.
Please do not rip the border of the bulletin board.
Please do not hit each other with any materials.

Just when I think I am getting a handle on things, some crazy @#$% happens that I could never imagine. WTF?

I know all of this comes under “respect” but I feel like in my situation I need to spell this stuff out in excruciating detail and model it. That will make the students feel “talked down to.” But how else do people instruct “care and use of materials?”

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27 thoughts on “Question”

  1. What age are the kids?

    If they are teenagers though and you spell those things out, sometimes it gives them ideas.

    In my school students could get in big trouble for destroying materials and that would be a referral to the deans. I would just write a dean’s referral for vandalism if anything happened and the dean’s office would take care of it.

    That being said, sometimes students write in a book that you own and you have no way of finding out who it is. I’m lucky that I haven’t had any problems with my FVR library this year but I did have a student break a clipboard in half. I found it in my classroom and have no idea which class it was from or even when in happened.

  2. Let’s ask an honest question here. Is this due to signals you are sending out that make them think that they can do those things or is your school culture that far gone from classroom to classroom down the hallway? Which one? I think it is definitely the latter. If that is true and I am right, that this is a school culture thing for certain and that the students are given permission (no available adults in the building) and learn it from all their teachers, then I truly believe that you can’t do anything about it because it goes so deep. I would just quit that school. This sort of thing is almost par for the course in our country now. I wish I could be more positive but when kids can’t do what you describe it’s all over, for me anyway. Time to dip, in my opinion. I would dip. Now…if it was something I was doing and not the culture in the building, hmmm….what to do? Dip or stick?

  3. I am certain I do not send any type of signal that it’s ok to throw books, break pencils, smear hand sanitizer in someones’ eyes, vandalize books and materials.

    I have no idea what goes on in others’ classrooms. The hallways here are totally sketchy with kids swearing loudly, etc. They know that in my space we do not swear and they catch themselves, which I appreciate. So at least I’ve built that in. And it shows they *can choose* to act appropriately.

    You are right to assume that I am working against a firmly rooted culture with sketchy at best administrative support. I do not assume admin is not supportive, but there are so many blazing forest fires burning in this community that I’m pretty sure as long as nobody is getting punched in my class “it’s all good.” But of course it is not really “good” at all if these types of behaviors happen.

    They seem to happen “out of the blue” and I’m always caught off guard, because who would expect someone to squirt hand sanitizer at someone? Really?!?! The past 2 weeks have been hell, with many eruptions (in the building in general, not in my classroom) which of course affect the general state of everyone’s nervous systems.

    Am I awesome at nailing every single transgression. Nope. Am I working hard on this? Yes. Definitely. It is my only priority at this time. Is it enough? Not sure. Acquisition is taking a back back seat. Mostly in the form of story listening, dictation and other non-interactive modalities. According to my husband it’s possible that CI cannot happen in this school. I fight this idea daily. “Todo es posible!” But I am worn down and not myself and he might be right.

    I’m hunkering down into survival mode until Dec. 22. I am using weekly packets to keep them on the rails. Then the month of January will be “projects period!” (aka spa month for me with minimal to no actual teaching). At the end of January I will get a new “first day of school” and the opportunity to create a Jon Cowart-type atmosphere so I can make it to June without breaking my contract.

    I need to turn my focus and attention to block 1, which is saving me right now. I admit to overfocusing on negativity, which of course breeds more negativity. Guilty as charged!

    Block 1 is the one group of students who can work together and who genuinely try to listen to each other and value each other as people. They are not all best friends, either, so this gives me tremendous hope.

    And…I will be getting a group of jr/sr students in the spring who are “repeat customers” so that is also a beacon of light!

  4. Sending virtual hugs. My suggestion is to see if you can determine if the whole class needs those specific rules or if it is 5 or fewer kids per class. With all the kid energy in the room it often feels like they are all crazy, but maybe its just a handful who can be targeted very specifically. Don’t get me wrong, 5 kids per class is still a monumental task, but it is doable. In my crazy class I realized that it was three students causing the chaos. I went in hard with the phone calls, referrals, and student removals and things calmed down to the point where the regular rules were working again. Those specific kids still have outbursts, but the rest of the class no longer responds to them (or to a much smaller extent) and they don’t ruin the class period anymore.

    If you can find something the offenders really like and use it against them, as evil as that sounds, it works really well. For example, one kid who was driving me crazy is on the basketball team. I told the coach about his behavior and he got benched for a game and a practice. He has been pretty great behavior wise ever since. Sometimes those difficult kids are difficult and the parents either are also at their wits end or are the reason they are out of control, so something in the building to hold them accountable is a better bet than parental support.

    1. Ooh thanks, I forgot about the coaching piece.

      IN one group I definitely know the culprits and have been in contact with parents, etc. I tried yesterday to get the principal to allow me to remove them from the space so that I can conduct my class with the others. That was a no-go. So frustrating. I have to keep them all in my room. Which is odd, because according to a couple kids, the cooking teacher “kicks out kids and takes them off her roster!: They were suggesting that to me a couple weeks ago.

      In the larger group it’s harder to tell, and it seems like a different batch each time. It’s easier for me to identify the 5 kids who ARE trying to pay attention!

      Thank you for the ideas and support! It means a lot to me to be able to air my embarrassing stories here, knowing that I will not be judged harshly. I am trying!

        1. Good question, Ben. If administrators are applying different standards to different teachers, that is not only unfair but it is also illegal. If it creates a hostile work environment for one of the teachers, it can be considered bullying or harassment or both. Harassment is not just sexual. Those are also illegal. (I am speaking from the perspective of California, but I believe there are similar laws across the US, especially with regard to bullying. There may also be federal law that can be applied.)

  5. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    Jen, in elem it’s totally common practice to ‘practice’ routines such as distributing classroom materials. You could gamify classroom material distribution, which kids tend to love, and abruptly cut it short the moment there’s a whiff of disrespect for the materials. I’m talkin’ abt timing how long it takes to pass the books; making the passing leader a desireable job,
    which team, Spain or Mexico gets them all stacked with the bindings facing the same direction – stuff like that. We practice again and again – I STOP CLASS for any transgression and repeat the instructions, as in: Class do we fan Sra’s books? Do we bend them? Fold them? Leave them open (splaying the binding?) Do we toss them? Drop them? Throw them? I would never come to your house and toss or throw any of your stuff! That would be rude and I would NEVER be invited back!”
    It sounds to me like in these circumstances this would be a very intense level of constant monitoring and nagging!

  6. I recommend watching a YouTube Video from Tina Hargaden, “Building a Strong Classroom Management Sieve”. Some good tips in there, that I had never heard before. Some of her other videos will pop up too, that are very helpful. I would keep “Respect” as a rule on my list, and point at it every time there is a small transgression from the very beginning. But it sounds like you did these things and that this is a particularly hard school. I think you can try to crack down in the new semester when you come back from break. It is a lot of work but can help the situation. Then come August you can norm the classes better from the beginning. And if that doesn’t work next year, Ben has a very good point.

  7. That situation requires a whole.community. I remember reading a starwars comic where the kids were abandoned on a planet and Yoda in his wisdom went to find the parents to reconcile with the children…. Kinda a Lord of the flies situation with humanity.winning. I know you to be real kind Jen when we met in Portland. I personally wouldn’t stay there but then again, I’m not that strong. Not everything should rest on you.

    Just down the street in a another middle school, a principal got beat up by a student’s sister. It was the mother who called her while in a parent meeting. That’s how bad it’s getting in my district. I get the Leave it to Beaver version of our district with a Latino twist at my school but our district may strike in January. We are losing too many good teachers for poor pay and benefits and 35 plus students in each class. Hang in there. Use your sub days to rest.

    1. Just down the street in a another middle school, a principal got beat up by a student’s sister. It was the mother who called her while in a parent meeting.

      Wow. I certainly hope that the student’s sister was arrested for assault and battery and that the mother was charged as an accessory before the fact, perhaps even a co-conspirator to commit a crime. I also hope that the principal was able to get restraining orders (not that they always work).

      I say this not out of an emotional response but out of the conviction that we are intended to be a nation of law, not of brute force. Might does not make right.

  8. Alisa Sapiro-Rosenberg

    Though I’m not a huge fan of behavior mod (I believe in intrinsic not extrinsic motivators) I also work in difft circumstances. Would you consider scaffolding a 5 then 10 minute deal that, Instead of being based solely on using the target language, was all about courteous and respectful interaction?

  9. In situations like this I’d do a hard reset. Say that I’m to blame. That I haven’t given them the leadership they deserve. I’d use those words exactly. Then take everything to Sit Down Lock Down mode. Do VERY FEW things in any given day. Make it all slow, simple, and directed by ME. Reteach every blessed procedure as if those kids were four and a half years old. But with a cheerful heart. They need me to do this. To believe in them. To make it work.

    1. Oh you been reading my mind Tina! This is exactly what I am going to do. I am also framing it in the context of “calm within the chaos.”

    2. Tina, I guess I have one question about this hard reset. I get the “DO VERY FEW THINGS” part. But…what do I do for 80 minutes? One of the groups is responding well. The other group is still a @#$% show. For my own survival I need to do rows and packets. But it’s 80 minutes. I have a hard time filling that with traditional style stuff. ???

  10. This afternoon we had a school theater, music, and dance performance, which almost every student witnessed in our big, beautiful auditorium. Leading into the performance students were chattering about the misbehavior happening among the audience the last time the arts department performed, and how the dance teacher came out in the middle of the performance to say, “Shame on you.” We were all feeling nervous about insulting behavior this time around.

    Before the curtain opened, the dance and the theater teacher addressed the chatty crowd. The dance teacher had a very serious look on her face. The theater teacher had a big smile. She smiled until everyone quitted down. Then she welcomed us. It was very calming. It felt warm and inviting. Her smile and her patience. There was no misbehavior during the show (or very minimal, at least).

    1. Sean, I need to keep reading this. Thank you for this important reminder about the energy we bring in. I am so guilty of manifesting negativity with one of the groups. I *think* I’m trying but clearly I harbor fear since I can’t seem to shift this group. I’ve turned into the cranky teacher. 🙁

  11. Thank you all for your kind support and many valuable concrete suggestions. Today I started by practicing “Procedure 1: Entering the classroom” and “Procedure 2a: Getting, using and putting away materials” (there’s 2b also; had to split the materials into 2 sep lists).

    I approached the students warmly, as if it were the very first day of school and I had no background info on them. I then used Robert’s apology protocol to acknowledge that I had been too vague in my expectations. I went through each of the 4 stages of apology: acknowledge your actions; state why it was wrong; state what I plan to do instead; ask for forgiveness.

    I did this to frame the reset and also to model an authentic apology. My main “theme” was that it is my job to create a calm space even though the building is in extreme chaos. I did get a little personal, stating that my health and outlook were suffering.

    I was able to provide some quality input today. It was lighthearted and calming. It helped me to be very specific and to only do the first part of the class as aural input and the second part was individual work in packets.

    Many blessings to all 🙂

    1. Jen, it feels so good to hear this!!!
      You work under extremely stressful circumstances, so take care of your health. Rememeber you can only help those kids if you are healthy and strong bc they need so much guidance from you, a real adult.

    2. Blessing on you, Jen! Your open, unabashed and honest sharing of your woes has brought so much good so many times here. This conversation, among many others, shot right into my weak spots. I tried this sort of thing today with some success, but I wasn’t as thoughtful and organized about it as you were. I have different classes tomorrow, and I’ll keep going next time with the ones I had today, in this same vein, following your lead and with thanks to you and to all who helped you.
      I still might retire a year early if I can swing it 😉

  12. Last night I watched this excellent documentary. It is available online. $$$. Worth every penny. I plan to watch little excerpts here and there to remind me of the healing power of the mind. It’s nothing “new” but sometimes looking through different angles and filters ignites a spark of connection.

    http://www.healdocumentary.com/

  13. Hey, is it just my imagination or did Tina attach a link here to the Classroom Management chapter of the new book and now it’s gone? I started reading it and had to sign off and now I cannot find it!

    1. It made me request access. But I am guessing this is it. You know, whenever I come back to this PLC and start reading, I always find something that speaks directly to an issue I am currently having. I love you all. You make me feel that I am not alone, always have. Admittedly, I have not been teaching with CI as a means of survival in the same school I’ve been in since the day I joined here. And a few classes have gotten out of hand. But what did they think would happen, giving me a class with 23 boys and 4 girls??????

      I started reading this rough draft of the Classroom Management chapter and began to feel some power come back into my broken spirit.

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