Friday, March 30, 2007

What happens with the "Loser Kids" are gone...

My Third Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself has a special set of rules, different from all my other classes. They have these rules, as they will tell you, because "we can't behave and act like normal 7th graders." Given the opportunity, this group would chase each other, hit and slap each other, mess with each other's binders and books, call each other names, and generally act like elementary kids on a playground. I've never had a group that acted so immature. The constant hitting, slapping, and chasing just drove me over the edge. It also drove the normal kids that were stuck in with this crowd bonkers as well.

The crazy thing is there's a lot of kids in this class that I really like and I tend to feel sorry for them. They're in a class where I have to be particularly strict since this group can't handle the least little bit of freedom. So, taking a page from Mr. Social Studies' rulebook, I implemented 3rd Period Rules and they're posted by the door, and we go over them nearly every day. They're pretty simple: Once a kid enters the room they sit in their seat and stay there, absolutely no touching of anyone or anyone's belongings, no horseplay, and they are to fill out their agendas and wait for further instructions.

This rule thing has worked in a rather interesting way. The kids that follow the rules are starting to get very upset with the kids who aren't. They're constantly telling their tablemates who aren't behaving to settle down and get quiet and things were starting to fall into place...just a bit. And today it really broke open.

I'm in the hallway between classes watching the drinking fountain area (a favorite trouble spot) when three of my students come get me and complain "there's kids in our room doing horseplay and they know they aren't supposed to." Mr. Social Studies steps out of his room, spies them goofing off, and by the time I get there, it's bedlam. Sullen Boy, who never speaks or does anything, is nearly chattering he's so upset. It appears he had $70 in class (what the heck he was doing with this much money, where he got it, and why he had it out is beyond me) and Cast Boy (who is always, for some reason, in the middle of everything and anything) grabbed it from him and started tossing it to two other boys in glass, Gullible Boy and Wide-Eyed Boy. So they're tossing it back and forth, Sullen Boy is ready to have a meltdown and the other kids are telling them to stop, sit down, and give the money back.

I bark at them, get them all in the hallway and Mr. Social Studies and I try to get to the bottom of it...none of it was making any sense so I told him to watch my class and I hauled them up to guidance, sat them down, told the Guidance Goddess to give them statement forms, and get them writing on their statements while she contacted our SRO.

I get back to my room and my class was still in a bit of an uproar discussing what just happened.

"Okay," I yell over the noise, "If you saw what happened, you need to write out a witness statement and sign it and turn it in to me."

The place goes silent as they race to open their binders, get out paper and begin writing. I've never seen them tackle a writing assignment with such enthusiasm. They couldn't wait to
tell what they saw. Heads down, pencils moving, it was amazing how dedicated they were to this assignment. The writing flowed.

I promptly wrote out, in the middle of working the kids through a review foldable on plant and animal cell organelles, four referrals, included a copy of the class rules with each one, and had those and all the witness statements (which were remarkably consistent) delivered to Mr. Enforcer and Deputy Smooth who took care of my four miscreants.

And we continued class which went fantastic...they participated, they raised their hands, they listened, and they were just delightful.

"You guys are a lot of fun today," I told them, "even though the day got off to a rough start."

"That's because all the loser kids are gone," one of them said and they all agreed. And then I looked at my absence list and realized they were right...two were already in ISS, we just sent 4 more up to ISS, two were suspended (one for a fight and another for telling Mrs. Language to "eff you", among other things), and one was out because he broke his finger in gym that morning.

"It's more fun when they're not here," a few others commented. "They ruin everything for everybody."

What followed was a discussion on peer influence, and how they could influence the "loser kids" for the better. It was refreshing to hear their comments and realize that they just might be getting it.

And now, at last, spring break!


Princess Lionhead said...

What a refreshing way to start your Spring Break! Hope you have a great one and get some rest! You deserve it!!

HappyChyck said...

Boy, isn't this the truth! This concept is the very reason I'd rather have all of them in the same class together. Right now my worst class (and my biggest) has a good mix of the most irritating underachievers and the highest achieving students in all of the team. It gets ugly in there. I like your idea of special rules for the class. Actually, I think I do have special rules for that class--for myself. They do not receive instruction the same way the other classes do because I cannot trust them. Or at least half of them...


IB a Math Teacher said...

Isn't is amazing how a few kids can destroy the culture of a class.

It might be a good idea to have the kids write in their journals how the class went with the "loser kids" gone. You could give them to the principal. It probably wouldn't change anything but he/she might be willing to acknowledge the kids frustrations and maybe be more supportive of any of your efforts to remove them from your class even if for a day.

Mrs. T said...

The kids "get" it. They always get it. I am always amazed at how they love to rat each other out when I give writing assignments such as you described. The saving grace is that the kids who do behave and follow the rules outnumber the "losers".

Robert Ward said...

You should check out the book and the blog by Dennis Fermoyle. He is of the opinion that the way to make public schools better is to do what happened in your class.

I think you would really enjoy his book.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Robert, thanks for the head's up on the blog and book by Dennis Fermoyle...I've ordered a copy based on your recommendation, and added him to my blogroll!