Monday, September 13, 2010

My Charming Class of Malcontents

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.



ChiTown Girl said...

Woo hoo! Love when days like this happen. Good for you. I just hope it wasn't a one-day phenomenon.

shit...did i just jinx you?!

A MilShelb Mom said...

It has been a long time since I laughed so hard! I loved the part about the hen house!! So true! I have one like that, too and I just want to tell him that "I'm the big man on campus so have a seat!" lol

Anonymous said...

You have my class. I'm so sorry.

My homeroom class is exactly like the one you described, but I have 25 kids and cannot isolate but two. I have eight know behavior problems. My other four classes and wonderful.

I hope your solution continues for you.

The Bus Driver said...

Seems like you've found a good solution!

Mister Teacher said...

Sorry to hear about this class from hell, but congrats on (possibly?) finding a solution!

Carmen said...

My eyebrows went up before the first paragraph was over and stayed up until almost the end of the post. Yay for separating kids and PBS!

W.R. Chandler said...

How funny, my worst class this year (3rd period) is also my smallest, at 22 students. They make it feel like 42 :(

Ms M. said...

So, I have a TON of 7th graders (and by a ton, I mean at least 8-10 in each class) who want nothing more than to sit alone. Sometimes it's so they don't have to be next to the irritating kid, and other times it's because they know that they are the irritating kid! I have but a few isolation islands in a sea of tables for 6, and there are days when I'd trade both my arms for a room full of single or double desks...

Lauren said...

I had a similar epiphany in one of my 9th grade science class. I have 3 boys who are constantly away from their lab tables and distracting other groups. Last week I put them in their own little group and it was amazing...the other groups worked efficiently, I didn't hear a thing from the 3 musketeers and they actually got through the lab. Turns out, they were away from their lab tables b/c they just had to pester each other. In the same group, they were contained. I was actually in a good mood at the end of class.

science teacher said...

Wow! That totally sounds like 2 of my classes mixed up. My smallest class is also my worst and to be all they are in my 7th period. I have a group of talkers, class clowns, and smart asses. My other class is my 4th period and it's the longest class of the day. I have an all girls class. Can we say DRAMA? I hate drama, but I've got a class full of it. I have one girl that likes to get up and walk around for no reason. I have 3 big buddies that want to talk constantly across the room. One of those three gets on everyone's nerves. She is high class ADD. Every girl in there rolls her eyes when she starts talking. She is an attention getter. I've had them together and apart nothing seems to work. My last class I may totally split them up around the room and see if that works. I've considered several different seating arrangements, but with lab tables it's not easy. I hope your class stays good for you.