The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 28 2013

Give Some Ground, But Not Too Much

Day 124: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how best to tackle my homeroom. Between the boys who can’t sit still, the low-academic kids who struggle to stay on-task and invested in the work, and the pre-teen girls who know better, challenges abound. On the one hand, I want to keep my expectations very high. On the other hand, I need more investment. Tricky tricky.

Yesterday morning, during Advisory, my homeroom discussed the fact that it’s hard to have a positive environment because there are too many rules and too little freedom. I saw this as my window. I gathered five girls and asked if 6C would make a trade – no more line order outside science, so long as everyone could still enter silently. More than four people couldn’t handle that, and we’d all have to line up outside the room and try again.

I gathered my homeroom outside after gym and let them know the new system. Whispers of “Yes!” followed. We headed in, and sure enough, only two people spoke. Best Do Now after a gym class in weeks. While we were at it, we agreed that SLANT was frustrating the class, and in exchange, they would give me eyes when I asked for them. Which, frankly, is the part I really cared about anyway. I am optimistic the changes, while giving up a little bit of structure, will pay big dividends in terms of investment and positivity.

However, there are still moments for holding students to clear expectations. I have one student, AJ, who had started talking back over the last couple of weeks. Last week, I let her know that if she continued talking back and speaking disrespectfully, I’d have to call home.

Tuesday morning, this student was speaking during a silent time in Morning Meeting. I called her over, and before I could say anything, she said, rudely, “Other people were talking too, why are you talking to me?” I calmly pulled her out of class and told her to follow me to the office. I asked her why what she said to me was wrong, and she admitted that she spoke rudely. I said that based on our earlier conversation that meant we had to call her dad, and I took out my cell phone.

Cue the waterworks. She pled, she begged – is there anything else I can do? So, I told her I’d be calling in 24 hours. It was up to her to fix her attitude and make the call a better one. 24 hours later, sure enough, she was responding patiently and calmly to adversity and redirection. Even better, she was significantly more focused in class.

It’s all about walking a fine line. Loosening expectations can be a recipe for sliding down a slippery slope. I’m going to do my best to make clear that we will still strive to meet the highest expectations in my classroom.

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