Sharon once pointed out something to me in an email about classroom discipline that bears repeating in this updated articles from three years ago:
…in your video [she was referring to Brrr! 3 https://benslavic.com/blog/videos/brrr-3-reading-directors-cut/], I really appreciated your leaving in the side conversation problem, asking those students to leave with the seriousness yet the coolness it required. I especially like your comment, “I can’t do this…” And do you mean your choir director never took you aside?
The back story on that is that I joked through Wednesday nite rehearsals in St. Martin’s-of-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC for eleven years. The tenor next to me, Padgett Arrington, happened to be the funniest person I had ever met and Southern humor is the best humor.
The thing is that she never did. And this is something for all of us to think about this week and every week. In every instance, when we don’t pull the offenders aside or somehow call them out, we fail, we just plain fail, bless our timid hearts, to pull the offenders aside or somehow confront them.
That wonderful choir director never did that. She just got miffed during rehearsals. It’s a big point. Either we confront or we get run over.
What I do typically with minor offenders is stop teaching. That’s the first thing. Every time. I look at the kid point blank and say, “Your blurting and talking is putting you at the 1 or 2 level on this (jGR) chart right here. Do you really want a 20% or a 40% grade as 30% of you grade in this class? Is that something you want? Not to mention that you are breaking rule #4 up here on the Classroom Rules chart. Why would you do that? I just spent many years trying to learn how to teach this way using only French like I’m supposed to. Why would you want to mess that up?”
It’s just a little pep talk, right? I reach down, I find, and I use the core personal power I need to do that. I try to do it in as loving a way as possible. Some of the other kids are visibly relieved, I see it in their eyes, that at least one of their teachers is not backing down from rude kids so that they themselves can learn.
With the more serious repeat offenders, those really nervous kids who are just not awake to the seriousness of their behavior, I go straight to the phones and the parents. I explain to the parents why I need their kid to behave – it’s because of the way I teach. I ask for administrative help. I talk to counselors.
I don’t much focus on talking to the kid. When a kid has been spoken to for ten years about rude behavior and has gotten away with it for that long, you are just another victim teacher in their eyes. That is what T.V. and the media have taught them in countless teen training videos about what school is and what teachers are, anyway. I work hard to get them out of my class. I sit them in the back of the room as isolated as possible from others.
We have our departmental policy that we can walk a kid over to a colleague’s room for some cool down time – walking kids to a classroom when both teachers are teaching is a wonderful thing, a great show of support for each other. In one of those videos you can see Barbara Vallejos bringing in a kid for some down time in the back of my classroom next to a football player who takes pride in intimidating the visiting kid.
We find our core personal power, and we stop class every single time there is even a slight interruption. At least I do. Some of us who are new to this may end up stopping class thirty times to redirect the class. That’s fine. Don’t teach if every kid is not listening or faking it. In your pep talks to the minor offending individuals, remind them that they have only two jobs in class – if they understand, they must show you through their eyes, and if they don’t understand they must put their hands over their heads or however you do it for clarification. That’s it.
Unless you want a bunch of teenagers running over your career and your income and, along with those things, your mental health.