Saturday, August 13, 2011

Make a New Plan, Stan....

I am really excited to share that I do have a classroom next year!  WHEW!  I have worried about it all summer long, but have been optomistically purchasing things for my room anyway.  Between that and my 5-year license, I feel legit now!  This year I am focusing more on positive reinforcement than I did last year.  Raffle Day was a big hit, but that is just a start.  I am also doing PAT (Preferred Activity Time),  a concept developed by Fred Jones that encourages a classroom buy-in of time management. Accumulated time that is saved is used for fun (but educational and relevant) activities on Fridays.  Example, if everyone is in their seats when the bell rings that is 2 minutes; if everyone has a pencil, that is one minute; everyone gets to work on the Bell Ringer and completes it in the allotted time, that is 2 minutes. If they do not, then time is deducted. Over the course of two weeks (we are on an Odd/Even day schedule, with 5 class periods over two weekes) the time could really add up resulting in nearly an entire period of PAT.

As far as classroom management, my goal for the year is to handle classroom issues in a way that ensures they do not escalate, resulting in fewer room calls.  All things considered, I think I did pretty well last year.  Honestly, you just never know what is going to work with a group of kids until you get to know them.   I found some great ideas in LouAnne Johnson’s book Teaching Outside the Box. LouAnne Johnson was the inspiration for “Dangerous Minds,” the movie where Michelle Pfeiffer made it look easy to teach urban kids if you just love them enough.  Johnson is the first to say that it is not that easy and all of what she shares comes from trial and error.

She suggests a 10-tiered approach that looks something like this (and covers your butt for Admin):

Step 1:  Ignore the Offender.  I learned halfway through the year that 60% of behaviors can be dealt with by simply not dignifying the Offender with any attention whatsoever.
Step 2:  Send Nonverbal Messages.  I found it very effective to simply stop until everyone stopped talking or just heading in the direction of the chatters.  My room set up this year, a Modified U seating plan, should facilitate this nicely by having no “back row”.
Step 3:  Drop a Card.  Love this idea!  The teacher has premade cards that she can casually drop on the Offender’s desk without interrupting one moment of teaching.  The card says something to the effect of “Your present behavior is not acceptable.  Please be more respectful.  I will talk more to you about this later.”
Step 4: Have a Quick Chat.  I started with this last year and over time I felt so overwhelmed, I stopped.  I regret that now.  A student will always want to save face, so taking him outside, telling him to cut it out and then giving him the opportunity to return to class eliminates the show for the class’s sake.  While stopping class is not ideal, it does send a message and Johnson suggests that if you have to spend half your class time doing it the first few weeks, it will be worth it, as incidents will drop off significantly if you stand firm.
Step 5:  Time Out.  If the Offender gives any attitude at all, have him cool his jets off in the hall or in the room of another teacher.  This gives us both a chance to cool off.
Step 6:  Call Home.  This can be a most unsatisfying step, but its an important one.  Admin wants to know that you tried to handle it and that the parent was given fair warning that their precious one was not behaving.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes you can’t even find a phone number–but at least you tried.
Step 7:  Sign a Contract.  I did this last year as well.  Its another one of those things that isn’t so much about effectiveness as showing a documented attempt that you have tried to work with the student.  I had both of The Twins write contracts with a list of three things they planned to do to improve their behavior in class.  They signed it, I signed it and the parent signed it.  When things continued to go badly, I stapled it to the office referral and the Administrator felt comfortable telling the parent that the student was the issue, not the teacher.  Which brings me to….
Step 8:  Send for Reinforcements.  This is where calling Security and a written office referral is appropriate.  If they don’t want to learn, I can’t make them.  However, there are some things that are intolerable (and I think I saw them all last year!) and call for immediate and serious response.  Repeat offenders who have not responded to Steps 1-7, students who make verbal threats, and physical altercations should result in immediate removal from the classroom.  Then Admin should handle it and I can get back to the business of teaching.
Step 9:  Ask for  a Transfer.  I did this twice last year and both times I got it.  Its a drastic step, but sometimes the only option left.  I did it once after a student physically threatened me and once after a hellish semester culminating in a meeting with the student, parent and Administrator, which made it clear that this student would not benefit from further time in my classroom.  In the latter case, I actually did a combo of Steps 9 and 10.
Step 10: Remove the Perpetrator.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, a transfer isn’t an option.  That’s when you go to your wonderful teacher friends or the librarian, or whomever will take pity on you and you create an “individual project”.  You can do this for few days or in my case, I did it for the remainder of the year.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, peeps.

I admit to having some butterflies–but at least I have a plan!

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