Saturday, January 5, 2008

Rolling with the Punches

Some days your students are simply going to get the best of you. There are more of them than you and if you're not careful, they'll conspire to bring about your downfall. I say that half-jokingly, but there's a good deal of truth to that statement as well, because your students can make your job much more difficult if you let them.

If you have a rowdy class, some days you can roll with the punches and other days you come up spitting blood and teeth. Today, during my last hour, was a dental reconstruction day. Something to know about my last hour is that it's composed of 8th graders who don't take band. As luck would have it, this leaves me with some of my more active personalities at the very end of the day. Having to see the same students twice a day can be difficult. If they had a bad hour with your earlier in the day, it's most likely going to carry over into the next hour. On top of that, your last hour of the day is always going to be a bit more lively. Students are watching the clock as they covertly stretch their calve muscles in preparation of sprinting home. The last thing on their minds is the lesson plan.

Today I just couldn't get them to settle down. All through class I kept asking myself what I was doing wrong. I hate giving out homework as a punishment for misbehavior. I also dislike having my students write as a punishment because it conditions them not to like writing. In retrospect I think I should have started withholding privileges. I let my students go to the bathroom when they want and they can eat and drink as long as they clean up the mess. They love their soda. In fact, at the end of the day when the soda machines get turned back on, almost every student has one. Taking away the soda privilege could really get them listening.

I always wonder whether my response to student behavior is fair. Most likely, it's not going to be fair 100% of the time, though all but one of my students reported in the end semester anonymous survey that I had been fair with my dealings with them. To be honest, classroom management can be extremely frustrating. I've spent the last few posts atop Mt. Idealism telling these teaching strategies, but it's not always like that. I made a few mistakes today that hopefully I don't repeat.

Here's a list of what I didn't do right 7th hour:

1. I asked for a volunteer to type the notes on the overhead projector. I selected a student who was less interested in typing notes and more interested in making jokes and rude gestures when my back was turned. I was trying to give him the opportunity to positively contribute to the class, but he didn't really seize that chance.
2. I didn't take him off note typing duty fast enough.
3. The overhead projector can cut off access to parts of the room if you're afraid to walk in front of it and get in the way. I should have done my normal patrols of the classroom.
4. I didn't settle the class down early enough.
5. Today was a student presentation day and I didn't set up the classroom expectations for behavior clearly enough.

Ok, those are some things I could have done better. Now is the time to take a deep breath and let it all go. Everyday is a new ballgame and Monday has the potential to be different.

No comments: