Fort Herriman Middle School


Reflection: On Arguing
May 21, 2008, 1:24 pm
Filed under: discipline, reflection


Twitter Version: I don’t argue.

At the end of last year, I did a couple reflection posts. Now, it is time for me to reflect on some things I learned this year.

My first year of teaching, I spent a lot of time arguing with my students. At one point, the VP came and talked to one of my students outside my classroom with me. I remember so vividly the way she handled that situation. He had done something wrong, and she was lecturing him. He started a weak protest, and she said, “Sir, this is not a time for you to argue, you will listen to me now.” That sounds like a harsh and unhelpful way to talk to a student, but it is really quite effective. I know there is a lot of talk about how we should treat students–they are people too, after all. I think there is a fine line you have to walk in these situations. You need to treat people like adults when they deserve. Not all students deserve that treatment, especially when they are just arguing for argument’s sake.

This is how I handle situations now. When a kid is goofing off or doing something wrong. I very firmly and authoritatively tell them to leave the room. When I get outside, I ask them questions like:

  • Why are you out here?
  • What is causing you to act like this?
  • Why would your behaving like this make me upset?
  • How would this behavior cause problems in the classroom?

If, at any point during our conversation, they want to argue, I immediately interrupt them and tell them that they are not permitted to speak right now. They are out here to answer my questions. I never raise my voice or get angrier at them. If they continue, I calmly say something like, “M., we are not here to argue.”

If they still argue, I repeat the above and say, “You did X wrong, and it has created a big enough problem in class that I need to come out here to talk to you. You will have your opportunity to say your peace after you answer my questions.” Invariably, their peace is, “I understand that what I did was wrong, and I am sorry.”

Nearly always, I give them an opportunity to say or add anything else. My belief is that if they answer my questions, I should answer theirs. Usually, this consists of them saying “Someone else started the problem” or “Why didn’t you get so-and-so in trouble?”

When they ask those questions, I focus them on themselves, and talk about what they did and say that I will deal with the other student as needed. Usually this works pretty well, because it is almost always the same kids that do something wrong. (Hmm, that sounds like a whole other blog post.)

This method has been very effective for me this year. Students have behaved better, and even though it is the same kids goofing off, they have been goofing off less this year, and problems have been resolved quicker, and with less administrative involvement.

Have a Good Life.

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A new take on Discipline
August 28, 2007, 6:07 pm
Filed under: discipline

This summer I took a class from a lady named Leigh VandenAkker. She was really one of the best teachers I have ever had. I had a really hard time though because Leigh disciplines very differently than I do. Well, she used to. I used to think that I must rule with an iron fist, make students fear me, and “not smile before Christmas”. Today drove the point home that what I was doing things very wrong.

Yesterday in class, one student was presenting what she had written, and another student (we’ll call her Michelle) in class turned to the girl who was sitting behind her (the same girl she had been talking to all day!) and rolled her eyes, and mouthed “Really?” while the other girl was in the middle of talking. I stopped the girl presenting, and told Michelle that what she was doing was inappropriate. Then she argued with me, and I said that she needed to say sorry. Michelle reluctantly agreed, but maintained that she did not roll her eyes. It was not a good experience. After class, I told her that what she was doing signals to the person in the front of the room that Michelle does not like her. Michelle claimed that she does like the presenter and that she doesn’t want to be rude. It ended better than I thought. This was a strategy I learned from Leigh. Don’t argue, wait until after class to discuss it further, explain that the behavior puts people on different levels and then find a way to make sure that the person leaves knowing that you love them, but don’t like the behavior, and then make sure that they understand that.

Today, Michelle was talking to this same girl again during a team meeting in our pod before she was in my class. The teacher she has before me jumped on her and embarrassed her in front of all the other students. I had her next and we went to the auditorium for a small presentation. I sat behind Michelle and her friend to make sure they didn’t talk, and then when the assembly was over, I made my move. Our school has RATTLE cards. There are rules associated with each of those letters. The cards are given to students who are caught doing something good associated with those positively worded rules. The students can collect them, save them, then buy things in the student store with them, and then there are drawings for the whole school for cool things like digital cameras, gift certificates, and more. Anyway, the students want these. So, when the assembly was over, I leaned up and whispered to the girls, while handing them two rattle cards each, “Thank you so much for showing that you are mature and can sit through this presentation without talking to each other. I was going to move you so you didn’t sit by each other, but I am glad that I decided to give you another chance. Thank you again for showing your wonderful sense of character.” (The E stands for Exhibits Character.) The girls smiled and said thanks and were visibly touched that I did that. The next area we went to they didn’t talk again, so I gave them each another RATTLE card, and for the rest of the day, they did not talk when they should not have.

This new style of discipline is much better because I am accenting their positive behaviors and helping them learn how to behave correctly. I don’t think that yelling at them as I did in the past was as effective as quickly. Last year, they were always trying to save face, and I was backing them into a corner. 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Creativity in Punishment
May 2, 2007, 2:26 pm
Filed under: discipline, education, funny, punishment

I really like thinking up ways to creatively punish students. This student continued to text on his phone during class, even after I asked him to stop. In reality, he wanted his hair cut anyway, and I suggested that we do this to teach the other students a lesson…but don’t tell anyone.

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The Breaking Point
February 8, 2007, 4:17 pm
Filed under: discipline

My honors class is usually a little rambunxious. They are full of energy, and there are a few boys that are certainly filling the role that boys are “supposed” to fill. They are always walking around, yelling, fighting, etc. The girls also fill their stereotypical roles well: they talk constantly, they flirt, they write notes, etc. It usually is not that big of a deal, but today was supposed to be a fun day. We just finished talking about voice in writing, and so I wanted to show a video (below) that showed how their writing is much more entertaining when their voices show through. Well, my class was talking the entire time and so I said, “Okay, class, if you guys want to continue acting like second-graders, I will treat you like second-graders.” So, I made them all put their heads down on their desks, printed up an assignment for their homework, since we weren’t going to do it in class, and then typed another assignment for the weekend. I really like that class, but they were so unruly today, I knew that I needed to do something to nip it in the bud. Only one student apologized after class was over. They had their heads down the entire period.
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Irony and Punishment
January 25, 2007, 4:53 pm
Filed under: discipline, synchronicity

Today, my students wrote five paragraph essays on a subject of their choice. They had to write two essays. Let me back up. One of my students has been throwing paper into the trash can like basketball. He and some other kids got really into it and it got out of control. I asked them to stop many times but this kid repeated the same thing every day. So, yesterday, he started it up again, and I said, “You better not let that leave your hand!” Of course, he did just that. I grabbed a referral and wrote it out. He was not stoked to get a referral. But, instead of handing in the referral, I waited and thought about what to do.

If my students did not want to come up with their own topics for the essays, I gave them two ideas. First, they could talk about students who get in trouble should have to do manual labor for a punishment instead of detention, where they just sit there and “think about what they have done”. Their second option was to write about whether teachers should be allowed to show PG-13 and R rated movies in school. Many students chose those. Curiously enough, I decided to make this student who was throwing stuff come into my room for lunch detention and pick up all the pieces of paper on the floor (I made sure my room was extra messy). I got that ready for him in my prep period, 4th, and he came sauntering in 5th period (and, I think he was happy that he had not been pulled out of class yet by the vice principals; he probably thought all was forgiven and forgotten). When I sat down to grade his essay today, I was very shocked to read his introduction:

“Some people believe that instead of detention or suspension the students’ punishment should be labor. I think that we should not do labor and that those people are wrong. First, labor is not part of a school situation for punishment. Second, labor’s not something you should do in school. Third, if you’re going to do that, you might as well send them to DT

The really great thing is that he had one more class before lunch and so he had time to think about that, and then he actually had to do the chore. It was great. You cannot buy opportunities like that. 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