Another Question

Here’s another question:
Hi Ben,
I have a situation that is tough and I’m not sure where to go with it. This is what I’ve sent to one of the counselors (and have asked him to come observe):
I am in need of some help. I have a student who is diagnosed with ASD in my French class. He’s a funny kid who is new to the school. It was another difficult class today (last block of the day). The first half hour was fine but after that, he almost continuously disrupted, blurted out and got the class off track. It was anything from sounds, to tv commercial jingles, to memes, to random stuff.
I asked him to come out in the hallway with me while I had the kids do something in small groups. I asked him what I could do to help him not blurt out. He said that he didn’t know. That he says things to entertain himself when he’s bored. We were going over what people in the class like or are good at. I asked him to think about what I could do that would help him.
He is almost always listening even though he’s blurting. He gets it the first time so when I’m going over it in a different way is when he’s blurting. However, other kids need the repetitions.
I’m afraid that he’s enjoying being the class clown. His blurting makes many of the kids laugh and of course, it completely derails the flow of the conversation and the lesson.
Any ideas? I’ll give it one more week but if it doesn’t change, I will have to completely restructure how I teach my class as it will be out of control.

My response:
The thing is I could personally care less what the label they’ve put on this kid might be. Your sense* that he enjoys this role as the class clown means he is experienced at playing teachers, parents, admins and mental health people in order to stay in charge.
The label is not an excuse to avoid doing what is expected of him in this class, where uninterrupted free flow of communication must supercede all other aspects of the instruction we offer. The other students must follow the rules and he must follow the rules. There are no exceptions.
Anyone who expects you to make an exception in this kids’ case has got to back off on the Kool Aid that they are drinking. It might work in other classes, but not in language classes that actually align with research and the standards, where an uninterrupted flow of natural and pleasant communication is at the very core to the success of each student in the class.
Now, if this kid is clinically unable to be quiet and follow the rules, then you need to ask your principal to place that student somewhere where he can benefit. In your class, IF YOU DO THIS RIGHT, he will NOT be able to offend and interrupt. IT IS A REQUIREMENT FOR YOUR COURSE, NOT AN OPTION.
I don’t know this situation, but if he really is unable to do what is necessary, then why would anybody in their right mind in the administration, including the parents, even stop to consider that he be allowed to be in the class anymore than a child who cannot hear or see?
I would in fact prefer to teach a deaf child if they wanted to learn, as opposed to this kid. So that is up to you, to find out if indeed he is truly unable to function, then you need to ask someone why they would put a child who is UNABLE TO FUNCTION in the class in the first place. And then you would have to do the hard part – refuse to teach the kid. That’s where we all cave. No blame – we need our jobs. But wouldn’t it be nice?***
I would personally tackle this head on in class each time he blurts. NOW IN THE FIRST WEEKS OF SCHOOL IS THE TIME. IF YOU DON’T DO IT NOW YOU WILL LOSE THE CLASS.
I would use the classroom management ideas that I describe in both A Natural Approach to Stores and ANATTY, WHERE the key concept is to enforce the rules without speaking** while especially focusing on using Classroom Rule #2.
I am certain that the reason is not just this label of ASD but also a very complex set of deep needs and the way I would do it is handle him like anyone else, because he is just another student WITH RESPONSIBILITIES – BIG ONES IN A LANGUAGE CLASS – to follow the rules and especially that jewel of a rule – #2.
WITH EACH INTERRUPTION, with no exceptions whatsoever, I would just stop class and point to rule #2 and do what is described in the natural approach books. I would make it so that he knows that each time you will calmly stop, look at him while pointing to the rule and NOT BE DEFEATED. I would react in each instance and WEAR HIM DOWN.
Of course the parents must be told that they can’t play the label card because of the fact that, in your class, blurts are not just annoyances, but fatal events to the success of the class, so their child is in a whole new category where we cannot allow that the onus of fixing everything be put on the shoulders of the teacher but rather on the child where it belongs.
Maybe right now you can just go straight to parents/counseling and get him out of there. The school’s failure to respond now in August could lead to every single other student in there losing massive amounts of input and not being prepared for next year. IS THAT A GOOD ENOUGH REASON?
I might even just go on my high horse to the board of the school and explain the research and how this kid is getting coddled, or if the label is 100% accurate, then he should not be in there and I would refuse to accept the implied position here of it being your fault that this kid is acting out. See what the board will do with 60 other pissed off parents whose kids are being prevented to learn by this kid.
If he can change, great. But he can’t. The nature of the interaction you had with him out in the hallway shows he won’t/can’t/it ain’t gonna happen. Those hallway conversations always bring victory to the child who has gotten vert good at feigning a desire to “improve” but underneath that concerned face in the hallway is zero desire to change whatsoever, and a strong desire to continue on getting all the clown points you have allowed up to this point in the year.
If it were me I would use Rule #2 for a few days only – like a hammer – and then I would mount my offensive to get him OUT. Why? Because he will cost the kids so much. NOT TO MENTION making you teach that class in an entirely different way. That’s terrible! What an insult to our profession. No other profession gets insulted like that. It’s not even close.
You might look up the word blurt or blurting on the PLC – there may be some posts. This topic has along history here on the PLC, as I remember.
Meanwhile maybe we might get some PLC responses.
*Teachers never trust their “senses” about things enough. It is because we have been largely ignored by overpaid and underproductive administrators and blabby, full-of-themselves parents and their equally full-of-themselves children.
**As Fred Jones says, “Open your mouth and slit your throat.”



6 thoughts on “Another Question”

  1. I got a kid out. He passed with a C by me not.having a backbone. What i did is to consistently do the rule pointing. Then during pair to pair collaboration time… when we.come up with a problem for a story, I made him share with me his idea. I told him that I liked his idea “please share that out.” I said. Well his hand was barely up but I chose him. He shared out. The next day, he was out. The good human to human interaction was too much for him.

    1. This was a student who took French 1 then was in my French two. He is a constant bluster but at every instance I made him uncomfortable. He even disrespected me this first week and even lied about not saying anything. So I brushed it off and only saw the positive in him. We get some thick skin as teachers but we shouldn’t sacrifice our sanity.

  2. Is there a BIP for this kid? Otherwise, I agree with Ben. Let him know the blurring is inappropriate- and tell the rest of the class laughing at inappropriate behavior is inappropriate. And stop it every time right away. You can be kind, but strict. Be blunt and very black and white with this kid, as he may struggle with nuances in communication. And if he’s bored because you are talking about other kids, well, bummer. That’s his job in French class. Sometimes he will like the topic, sometimes not. That’s life. Good luck!

  3. I see GREAT DANGER here for Teacher Above.
    I agree with everything Ben says and with the other people posting comments: basically that Funny Bunny should not be in that class and teacher should request he be removed.
    From the description, it seems that Teacher Above acted correctly: she was patient, calm, clear, firm and in control. There is nothing for administrators or parents to grab on to and assign blame on Teacher Above and therefore should support her in the request to have Funny Bunny removed. Then all are happy and she goes back to following Plan A, etc.
    However, what if Teacher Above is in a school district like mine where 15 year olds are always right and teachers are always at fault? What if Funny Bunny also has control of his mother who will follow her child’s whims and defend him at all costs? What if child does not want to take a traditionally taught FL because he knows—we all do—that he won’t be allowed to do there what he is allowed to do in our class. This child will not follow the rules and he has mother supporting him. It will be their battle to bring Teacher Above to her knees. That’s what they’ll team up to do. It happened to me just like that.
    So as Ben says there is THE PLAN in ANATTY. Teacher above should follow it and never lose her calm and composure. Also my suggestion is to document everything. If Teacher Above can have videographer filming her and turning camera to Funny Bunny every time he disrupts, the evidence starts to pile up for the next meeting and the next and the next until maybe she does have to go to the board (with evidence). To me the key for Teacher Above is to always stay calm and in control and this way not to give them anything they can hold against her.
    I wish Teacher Above the best in a very difficult battle she has in front of her.

  4. Of course, we only actually videotape the Video Retell, and in most classes the videotaping of the story itself is a ruse, but that fact is hidden information between the videographer and the teacher ONLY.
    (I can’t remember if I made that clear at our Maine workshop last year, Laura. There are so many details to this new way of teaching.)
    But when you have these “funny bunnies’ (such a charitable term on your part), you DO videotape the class for real and you DO collect evidence, along with doing everything else you say above. So your relationship with the videographer must be one of trust. I think that at least 75% of the solution to the problem of getting the kid to shut the hell up lies in the videotape you will collect.
    I am so glad that you reminded us of the Hub B centerpiece. I am so glad that you said these things. I am sorry that you went through it yourself to what is obviously an extreme, painful degree. Many of us have been there, although Laura you sound like you got a plateful that was bigger and stenchier than most people get.
    I am also glad that you remembered the BEST possible action response – the videotaping of each outburst. We are all Omarosas when it comes to this kind of situation.
    Final thought: it’s the mom.

  5. Final thought: it’s the mom. ABSOLUTELY.
    I wouldn’t have gone back to teaching had it not been for that workshop in August of 2017 in Maine, and yes, you did mention the ruse part of it. The combination NT-with the CM Plan is the way to go. They are a combination that bring harmony to CI teaching. One wouldn’t work without the other–in my opinion.
    Another suggestion for Teacher Above borne out of that very stenchy year is to document all said at each meeting. If you can record it (Maine has a one party consent law) it’s the best. If not, you are certainly allowed to take notes during the meeting. One thing I did was type my notes and e-mail them to my administrator after each meeting.

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