So, my recharged batteries worked today. I didn't get angry, or have to raise my voice at all. I've been reading Conscious Classroom Management by Rick Smith. As a BTSA support provider, I get all the books the new teacher gets. I took this one home and set it on the floor in the bathroom.
Too much information? Sorry. I live alone, and have those secret single person habits.
Anyway, I've been reading through it, and although it's written for new teachers, it's never too late for this old dog to learn a new trick or two.
Discipline in my classroom has always been a bit loose, to say the least. I am usually comfortable with it, but when I have a group, like this year's third period class, my "personal style" doesn't work too well.
Let's see, out of 32 students, 22 are boys. That's highly unusual in an eighth grade English class, but I have to deal. In addition, I have five particular boys whose goal in life is to get me off task. They attempt this (more often than not successfully), by asking me slightly-related-but-irrelevant-to-the-task-at-hand questions, arguing with a statement I've made, or by making comments to others in the class. They often also need to go to the bathroom, to sharpen their pencil, a sheet of paper, or to tell me that Lucy is chewing gum.
They drive me nuts.
So, after reading Mr. Smith's book, I've instituted some changes as of the new year. Number one is, No Arguing With The Ref. It means I will not accept arguing as a good use of class time. If I am wrong, which is possible, the student may meet with me after class. If it's not important enough for him or her to stay after, it's not important enough to argue about.
The second rule is No Student Lawyers In Class. That covers Billy's friend who wants to "stick up" for him, and explain to me that it wasn't Billy who was doing the talking, he was just answering a question...asking what time it was...blah blah blah, time wasted time wasted time wasted. Instead, I announced I have office hours with "Student Lawyers" on Fridays at 4 pm. Again, if it's not important enough to come see me, it's not important enough to take class time.
It seemed to work well today. Could be because it was novel, or that most kids were comatose because their parents didn't remind them to get to bed before midnight last night, but it did go well.
I add my own touch to these rules. I have a timer in my room, and in the past few years, when we've started to veer off the subject, I've set the timer for two minutes and let the students know that they only have that amount of time for off-topic talk. It works well. Sometimes they just need to speak, and sometimes the off-topic talk has a purpose.
Today, I set the timer at the beginning of the class, and told them they could use the extra two minutes at any time during the lesson. Every time my John Candy wannabe started up, I'd say, "okay" and start the timer. The other students themselves would tell him to stop, and poof, I'd turn off the timer.
They did all the work, I didn't get worked up, and I got the best compliment from a student later in the office,
"That timer thing really worked. We should do it all the time."
This from a quiet little girl who usually says nothing. I know it's been bugging her and others, this obnoxiousness I've allowed. I am just as guilty as these noisy boys, and it's my job to get the class back on track.
So far, so good.