leroy1

Pretty Sure I Got This

Jose 10 Comments

Today was one of those days in which I had my homeroom for the entire day. That happens every 2 months or so, when they have a state-provided exam and the homeroom teacher has to administer said exam, order them alphabetically, and still have the same students for a double period of class right after lunch. It’s a daunting task to have the same group of students for 5 periods, but it’s particularly trying when it’s my homeroom, a class that’s gotten a bit of a reputation for being the worst-behaved class on the floor. It’s not just one or two headcases: at this point and time, every teacher who has them only wants literally 1/2 the class to go on trips based on academics and / or behavior.

I’ve had a bit of difficulty with them lately as well. I understand; the state exams are over, and it’s getting a little late in the year. Every relationship goes through a period where you wonder what the hell you’re doing in it to begin with. Nonetheless, many of the students have gotten particularly spiteful as of late, and in turn, I’ve had to show them I’m from the hood. (Secretly, I wonder why we act in our rather callous and dogmatic behaviors as urban teachers, but in more affluent settings, there’s less need for that, but really I know the answer. More to come at some point.) I have yet to curse at them, but I’ve let them know more often than not that I’m playing with them, and it’s taken a bit of a roll on my sanity.

For many of the children, calling houses doesn’t work, because with some of the students, their parents are either never home or the parents only pay you lip service. I’m not saying all, but some. Yet, that seems to be the 50% of my class I’m having a hard time with. So I went to my defaults: progress reports, interviews, and summer school status alerts. Theoretically, and ideally, I shouldn’t be lording that over their heads, but for a moment, it really worked for them.

Then, it all went to crap. Finally, today really, I decided that I’d get even more direct and concurrently make them more responsible for every action they do.

1. I now go on elongated rants and make a big deal out of every little thing they do that’s out of line. It’s similar to the Broken Windows Theory: if even the smallest thing goes awry in the classroom, then it opens the floodgates for bigger things. My lack of meticulousness has cost me before.

2. I changed their seats, and paid little mind to their interpersonal history. I tried sitting them with their enemies and they ended up arguing more often than not. I tried sitting them with their friends and they talked more than at any other point in my class. Finally, I sat them at random, paying attention more to behaviors and remedying them than just trying to squash a grape with a Louisville Slugger.

3. I pulled out the grade book from the very beginning, and had it in front of me the whole time. Many of us would agree that a student’s work behavior more than other aspects of their academics will eventually determine how successful they are as students. Thus, if I grade them on their preparedness, their participation in the conversation, and their willingness to try and ask questions, all while not disrupting other people’s learning, then I’m training them to become better students in any and every classroom.

4. I’ve handed things back to my kids more promptly. Before, I’d take too much time to give my kids back their assignments and exams. Now, I’ve trained myself to take no more than 2-3 school days to grade their work. I also already grade them during class, as aforementioned. That gives a clear picture of their academic success more readily.

5. If after I called out “5 … 3 … 1″ I still don’t get quiet, I make the offending party stand up. Not all the offending parties, just a central one. That worked twice today, and it got their attention really quickly. I then had the person sit back down and told the parties involved what the proper procedure was for class.

I don’t know what it was about this set of rules I added to my repertoire, but it really made me feel that I could teach for the long haul. Sorta like Bruce Leroy in The Last Dragon, I kept getting submerged in water, but I just got The Glow. Even one of the girls who actually got really nasty with me said, “Mr. V, this was definitely a good change.” After the seat change, there was no attitude from her at all.

With only 26 days left in the NYC schedule, it’s imperative that we keep our sanity. What are you doing in these last few days to tighten the ship before it heads to shore? For the non-educators, what did you think of the disciplining aspect of some of your teachers? (There’ll be a follow-up post to this.)

jose, whose looking forward to all the trips he has planned …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonPretty Sure I Got This

Comments 10

  1. Jovan

    Great post Jose! I had a homeroom like that during my 1st year of teaching and it was quite a struggle. Although it sounds like your school administration has a bit more of a clue than mine. I have those “one class all day” days several times a month due to shortages in substitute teachers and long pointless meetings that many of my teammates have to attend.

    I often have to remind my students I’m from the hood as well. I relied on the in your face stuff when I first started out but now in year 3 I try to talk to them about the limiting aspects of their (lack of) interpersonal skills.

    Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

    Keep on keeping on brother.

  2. Jeff Wasserman

    I pulled out the grade book from the very beginning, and had it in front of me the whole time. Many of us would agree that a student’s work behavior more than other aspects of their academics will eventually determine how successful they are as students. Thus, if I grade them on their preparedness, their participation in the conversation, and their willingness to try and ask questions, all while not disrupting other people’s learning, then I’m training them to become better students in any and every classroom.

    I’ve got something like that going on with my sophomores right now. Long story short, the two sections are competing to complete a graphic novel adaptation of The Odyssey, with much of the grade coming from participation, willingness to take initiative, conflict resolution, etc.

  3. pissedoffteacher

    Be careful–in today’s climate singling one student out to stand can be taken for abuse.

    I let them know that I am from the projects and there is nothing that can scare or shock me. That usually impresses them.

    I find that some things work one day and not the next. Good luck.

  4. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Hey Jeff: the magic of ownership. I fixed it; no worries.

    Pissedoff, I recognize that, and I’ll take that into consideration. I also feel in some respects that if you’re going to do it, own up to it. Very simple.

    Jovan, it’s interesting how hood we get in certain situations.

  5. J. Dakar

    I remember the one time I had to yell at my kids. It caught them so off-guard that I felt horrible afterwards. After I realized its effect, I knew I had added another weapon to my arsenal. I suppose I’d be very afraid of a huge, black man screaming at me if I were only 4’11″.

    Hang in there, man. Pretty soon it’ll be over and you’ll be missing them like crazy. At least, I know I would.

  6. aki

    so glad to see you’re still teaching! i think those kids really need someone like you to guide them.. and i bet it’s hard work so i give you props on having the patience to deal with kids who aren’t the easiest!

    damn shame that nowadays it seems like kids have the upperhand on adults [parents and ppl of authority alike].. i remember when i was in the 1st grade my teacher would walk out on our class cuz we wouldn’t shut up, and she once even taped a kid’s mouth shut cuz he wouldn’t stop talking when she was teaching.

    anyway, keep doing what you do with those kids, cuz they need teachers like you!

  7. J.M. Holland

    “1. I now go on elongated rants and make a big deal out of every little thing they do that’s out of line. It’s similar to the Broken Windows Theory: if even the smallest thing goes awry in the classroom, then it opens the floodgates for bigger things. My lack of meticulousness has cost me before.”

    I totally see this as important, at least in difficult schools. I knmow that my students, even at four, are acculturated into “the game”. By the “the game” I mean, as a student, my job is to get over on you in any way possible. In our school system there is a dress code, all shirts tucked in. The principal or P.E. teacher stands outside as the kids get off the bus and checks those shirt tails. It says, “You are in a different reality, you must conform.”

    I don’t know about the tirade part. It sounds exhausting. I don’t know what the equivalent of time-out is for middle school maybe it is why the grade book in hand helps. I have started doubling every consequence. If you mess up in the morning, you get a consequence right then and when we go outside. I imagine teaching in a class where you get a new batch every hour or so would be enitrely different.

    The most important part, you actually give enough of a **** to try to make them do the right thing. Some folks just give up or hide behind the excuse of, “I can’t do anything because the system has taken my authority!!?”

  8. Alisha9

    Today was actually the last day of school for our students *she moonwalks and does an outdated version of the popshake* – - anyway, in order to keep our sanity the last few days, we were very visible in the halls and played serious mind games on the kids. . . hazing would be a better word if it were not illegal :) I know that it’s much easier to do this as an administrator, but I do allow the teachers to play sometimes too!

  9. Tracy

    Jose – I have the same kids every period I teach….some days that is all 4 periods, at 75 minutes a pop that’s a lot of time with the same students, so I definitely see where you are coming from.

    Some days I feel that all I am doing is saying, “I’ll wait, and if I have to wait past the bell, so will you…and you…and you…”

    Those are usually the days I realize that I’ve eased up on my routine…that I’ve been letting the little things slide and the next day I do like you, pull out the green book (my marking and comment book), call kids on attitude, etc…

    We’re almost there…10 more teaching days in our school, then exams, then SUMMER :)

    Keep the ship tight Jose, we can do it.

Leave a Reply