I hate wasting time. And some of the biggest time wasters in my day (aside from the student who wants to interrupt class to inform you that he found gum under the table and silly stuff like that), is passing out things. I hate taking time to pass out papers so I file them in students mailbox folders instead. I hate passing out lab supplies so I have one student from each group get the supplies. And I hate passing out things like scissors, staplers and glue sticks (which I use a lot) so I have them in a nice plastic shoe box with a lid on each lab table.
When I first put out the supply boxes, as we call them, I give the kids very specific instructions about what's inside, how they are to be used (honestly, these kids have to be taught not to bang on staplers), and how if any of the materials are abused or stolen, those boxes would disappear and they'd have to find their own staplers, glue sticks, scissors, and what not. And of course, they are instructed in the most important rule regarding these boxes: These Are Not Toys To Play With So Do Not Open The Box Until Told To Do So. Over and over and over again. I must say this a dozen times a class period in the first weeks of school just to pound it into their heads.
Obviously, however, some kids need a little more head pounding to get it.
I have, case in point, one young man whom we'll call Stapler Boy. Stapler Boy came to us with some baggage but he's certainly capable of following simple directions such as Do Not Open The Box Until Told To Do So. However, the temptation has been too much for him so this past Wednesday he open the box and decided to play with the stapler.
Now, staplers and seventh grade boys can be a toxic mix if the boys are smart enough to figure out that you can shoot staples at your friend by lowering the base of the stapler. (Most students are smart enough to figure out if they do anything that damn stupid the Wrath of Bluebird will come down upon them, so they don't). I tend to notice when a kid is playing with a stapler and looking as if he's wanting to turn it into an advanced pea-shooter.
Stapler Boy looked, quite honestly, guilty as hell when I busted him the first time for playing with the stapler. But I'm still in my "I'm teaching them how to behave and understand the procedures and policies of the Land of Bluebird Mode", so I didn't get too upset, I simply told him to put it away. The second time I caught him I told him, more forcefully, to put it away again and to Do Not Open That Box Again.
The following day Stapler Boy not only was out of his seat without permission at least three times, and he decided to play with the stapler again. The rest of his lab group is having a grand time on their engineering design project (build a shelter that can withstand wind, rain and has room for 4 people), but he's busy walking around with a stapler. After the third time of telling him to Put The Stapler Away!, I yanked him into the hallway and asked him just what on earth he was doing.
"I don't know," he answered. I swear if I had a dollar for every time a seventh grade boy said that to me, I'd be wealthy beyond imagining.
I decided I had no choice but to write up Stapler Boy on one of our new PBS classroom discipline referral forms. I wrote down about the MULTIPLE warnings that Stapler Boy got, the interventions I did (counseling, alternative assignment since he wasn't helping his lab group anyway), and then gave it to stapler boy to write down his side of the story. His explanation? "I was just playing with them."
But the best part came later when Mr. Math came by after school.
"Hey did you have staplers in your room today?" he asked.
"I always have staplers in my room," I answered. "In their toolbox. Of course they aren't allowed to use them without permission, and we didn't use them today."
"Well Stapler Boy was messing with his ear this afternoon and told me he'd used a stapler to try to pierce his ear today," he said.
Oh. Good. Gracious.
This kid will be lucky if he ever does a lab again since it's apparent I can't trust him with tools of any kind. I pulled him aside the following day and told him so. The kids finished up their lab and he sat by my desk and did a worksheet packet which involved nothing more dangerous than a pencil. He wasn't happy, so perhaps he may learn something from the experience.
Mr. Math has already set up a parent meeting for next week. This should be interesting.