Monday, November 16, 2009

Talking into the wind

I had a really rough day with my advisory class last Thursday. It's only eight boys, but they're giving me a run for my money. A couple weeks ago I thought, since negative consequences aren't working, let's try being positive. I took a folder, drew a circle, and divided it into pieces. I had them guess what it was, which they did pretty quickly -- a pizza. I said every time they were all listening, on task, doing the right thing, I would color in a slice, and once the whole pizza was colored in, we would all go out for pizza one day during advisory.

They seemed enthused. However. I have not been able to color in one slice. Not one! Because there is never even so much as a two-minute period where they're all listening and doing what they're supposed to be doing. Even the kids who are usually well-behaved are starting to slack off and not listen. Last Thursday we were in the library, where the other special ed teacher meets with her group of sixth grade boys, and the gym teacher was there with her girls that day because the gym, where they usually meet, was being used to take class pictures. By the end of the period I raised my voice with them. All I was trying to do was play a game with them, and they couldn't even all listen to the directions. So embarrassing. I sent three of them to Mitchell (the vice principal), one of whom refused to go, so Mitchell came down and we spent 15 minutes after school talking to the kid. The next morning I called all their parents. During the staff meeting Friday I suggested we make a space on the report cards for a grade or comments on the kids' participation and behavior during advisory. Maybe then they'll actually take it seriously. I hate that they're getting worse; that a potential reward doesn't make them act any better; and that they don't respect me. That's how it feels, anyway. Like they don't care what I have to say, even when I'm trying to play a game with them, and that it's acceptable and even funny to disrespect me. It's like I'm talking into the wind.

On Friday, Mitchell interviewed a possible candidate for the math teaching position. Cori, the math specialist, sat in and got to ask a few questions. The woman used to be a doctor (!), but then decided to become a teacher, and she has a couple years of experience teaching math to urban at-risk kids, though Cori said it sounded like she worked mainly with small groups, not entire classes. But she seemed promising enough that they may ask her to come back to teach a sample lesson. I wish they would get someone decent in there quick, because the current long-term sub has zero classroom management skills, and even if he did, his lessons are really not that good. I'm scared to think how much these kids are falling behind. :(


  1. How many minutes is the advisory period? If they have to be on task for the whole period, it may seem too insurmountable to them. Maybe tell them if they stay on task and quiet for something like twenty minutes? Then, once they've pulled that off, and they get the pizza, up it to 25 minutes, then after that pizza, thirty minutes, and so on.

    Doing it this way tends to work with the deaf kids, mostly because no one has really expected much of them before, and to suddenly go from, "Hey, we can do whatever we want" to, "Dude, we have to sit still for FORTY MINUTES" can be somewhat overwhelming.

  2. Well, that was the idea behind the slices. As soon as they were all on task, focused and working for, like, two or three minutes, I would color in a slice. When they were all good again, I would color in another slice. Etc. But they haven't been able to sustain good behavior for even two freakin' minutes in a row. Sigh. :/

  3. Oh, wow, that does suck! The way the original post was worded, I thought you meant for the entire period.

    So...yeah, I got nothin'. :( Nothin' but sympathy, anyway.