Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Suspended Reality for students

This past Monday, I found myself in one of those "made for tv moments" when I stepped between a group of boys that were amping themselves up for a bit of a throw-down. That's right.. on a Monday!

You see, I have a group of senior boys in that class that like to dabble in trouble making. And a junior in that same class, spent the weekend thinking that it isn't ok for them to act that way, and decided on this Monday to do something about it!

So, to make sure we're on the same page, this was a 3 to 1 fight this kid was ready to start in my classroom! Major cajones! Especially, when 1 of the boys is a 6+ft ripped football player, another is 6+ft with a major chip on his shoulder, and the third will fight anything that breaths (did I mention he's also completed basic training?). All up against a super nice theater type kid who simply had enough BS from these three.

Now, I own that this all is going down in MY classroom! I really pride myself on creating a safe and respectful classroom setting. AND I own the responsibility of managing my classroom without sending every behavior issue to the office.

There's two main reasons I do this (credit: THE Mr. Colling):

1) Every time a student is kicked out of class, that student misses out on the learning that is (should be?) taking place in that room. This is also a kid that probably has a history of issue causing that is totally preventing him or her from successfully navigating through the education system. The history we have as educators is to throw these kids out of school which doesn't help them at all, and perpetuates the cycle of acting out. So, I don't want these kids to leave my room! I'm responsible for their learning, and I can't do that if they're not in my room.

2) It's my room! If the kids in my room don't feel safe and respected, they're not going to learn anyway. So, if I can't own the shit that goes down in my space with these teenagers, then how can I expect them to trust or respect me as a teacher? Think about it. You had at least one teacher that sent kids to the office for everything. Nobody learned from that person! They couldn't manage the making of a sandwich, let alone a group of 4 disruptive kiddos!

So, I stepped between the group. Asked the junior to leave the room. Told the seniors to sit and shut it. Let the junior rant for a few in the hallway, and then reminded him that he just dropped to a level he didn't want to go. That we was better than what he was trying to do, and that I respected him too much to see him waste himself on starting a fight with those three. The kid hit a wall of reality, and we agreed that it wasn't in his best interest to throw down with those three. He apologized to me, and we went back into the room.

Then, I called my 3 seniors to the hall. They immediately jumped into cursing out and threatening the boy, but I shut that down pretty quick. And simply said, "You will leave him alone, and whatever crap you three are saying to him during my class is going to stop, now. You're not to sit near him, and you will avoid. But think about this. He spent all weekend fueling up for this, and you have to give him credit for sticking up for himself. You three would have done the same thing in his shoes, so back down, leave him alone, and if I hear that you three do anything to him this year, graduation will be difficult to attain. Clear?"

They nodded. Smiled. And agreed. The rest of the week was the most productive that class has been since the very beginning of the year. I even had one of the three stay after school on FRIDAY to get extra help. And the the junior, totally back to his normal jovial self. Why? Because I handled things, and I made sure they all knew I was in charge and that crap wasn't going to happen in my room.

Imagine what would have happened if I just sent them to the office. The anger between then would have grown. Each blaming the other for the trouble they were in. That class time before a test would have been totally wasted for them. And my classroom would be a petri dish of unease for them.

So, the moral? Own your classroom. Own your office space. Step in and take control of the environment, so that the task at hand can be met. There is going to be conflict in anything, but as long as it's managed properly, we can still have success. Don't punish kids by kicking them out of school. School needs to be a place that all kids, even the trouble makers, feel safe and respected. Kicking kids out for not understanding how to handle conflict won't solve anything.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. Please use the comments section to share a story about a time a teacher owned or didn't own the classroom management. What happened? How did it feel having to go to that class each day?

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