My Seventh Period Class from the Very Depths of Hell Itself, is the sort of class that makes teachers count the years until retirement.
I kid you not, in a sea of otherwise fairly nice classes (and including two class that are just an absolute joy to teach), this group of kids stick out like a sore thumb. They are absolutely amazingly miserable to be around. Surprisingly, it's my smallest class, it is, by far, my worst behaved.
I have at least five girls in this class Who Cannot Shut The Hell Up. Some of them will literally talk to a wall, given a wall to talk to. They are Dramatic. They are attention-seeking. They are a royal pain in the ass. I have at least three boys who are the type that like to mess with other people and other people's things. I could spend all period dealing with "he touched my binder" and "he took my pencil" issues with this group, but I refuse to play that game with them. I have two little Thugs in Training who walk around like a couple of roosters sticking their chests out and trying to out-bully each other to see who's going to be the baddest boy in the henhouse (news to them, I'm the head chicken in this yard so they better just stop squawking and sit the hell down). And then, of course, I have a handful of kids who really care, who really try, and who just hate the class because of the idiots that are in there ruining everything for them.
And it dawned on me about a week ago, that these kids all hate each other. Absolutely can't stand each other. It's like a cross-country trip with a van full of kids who are ready to smack the snot out of each other by the time we reach our destination.
So, after multiple seating chart changes moving kids, here, there and yonder, I finally gave up on my dream of perfect lab groups of four and started spreading these kids out. I figured since they hated each other, they'd be better off with more personal space. On Friday, I was simply planning to move Roster Boy 1 to his own little table (since I have such big classes this year, I have a small lab table as well as 5 isolation seats so I can accommodate everyone in the bigger classes) for the express purpose "of giving you a space where people won't pester you." (I actually moved him because I was a afraid he and Roster Boy 2 were going to come to blows and the further apart I had them, the better life would be.) As soon as he happily moved over to his table, five hands went up in the air.
"Can I move to a seat by myself?" asked one of the kids frantically waving his hand.
"Seriously?" I asked. I mean most seventh graders just love to be able to sit in groups, but, again, this is a unique class.
"Yes, pullleeeeze," he whimpered.
"Okay, head over there," I said and pointed to one of the isolation seats and moved his post-it name on the seating chart.
After that it was like I'd opened the flood gates. Within five minutes all the isolation seats were taken and most of the big tables were down to two kids, or three at the most. Amazing.
And today? They were awesome. They were quiet. They stayed in their seats, followed directions and did their work.
I was stunned. I gave them each a Reward Dollar (part of our PBS thing) and told them to mark on the back that it was for being respectful to their classmates by being quiet and doing what they were told. It was like a different planet in there today.