The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 03 2013

Calm in the Face of Crazy

Day 145: So, some of my classes aren’t operating as efficiently as they had a few months ago. I think that’s likely due to two factors. First, it’s May of their final year at the school, and senioritis is setting in. Second, in my teetering-on-the-edge-of-burned-out state, I’m not teaching with the same zeal I was three months ago.

As I become more tired, I let more things go. We’re not silent when we line up to leave anymore. I’ll address a shout-out with a glare instead of a warning. But today, I drew a couple of lines, and somehow managed to pull off some management moves with a high degree of patience required.

My third period class was a little nuts during Trashketball. I did not let a team shoot, and in fact forced everyone to take seats a couple of times when it got loud. I told students we would stop at 11:05, no matter how many rounds had been played. 11:05 comes around, and we’ve played seven rounds. The class before had finished 12.

I didn’t get mad. I simply asked, “How could we have played more rounds?” Students owned up to all the right answers – too much talking, too loud, slow transitions. I explained that the consequence wasn’t that they lost more time, but rather that they lost their chance to play more rounds. While I might be reading too much into things, I could swear that students’ calm non-reactions meant they understood this was a fair consequence. Hell, I’ll just take the calm non-reaction part, meaning aside.

My seventh period class could not shut up and line up to come in. I spent 15 seconds trying to make people face forward … and then gave up. I went to the opposite wall, and waited. Nothing. After about five minutes, it finally got quieter, and it got silent when I sent one student who was having particular trouble shutting his mouth to the office.

With my best scary face and voice on, I invited students to come in and do the Do Now. You could have heard a pin drop. The Do Now ended, and – without yelling – I ripped the class a new one. The only line I can remember is, “If you respect me, do not waste my time.” We practiced leaving and then re-entering. Only three students spoke; all served community service with me after school. At the end of class, I told the students they would be meeting me at my room at recess, and as a class, we’d make sure we knew how to enter efficiently. Again, calm non-responses. I’m pretty sure I gave off a clear don’t-mess-with-me vibe.

Finally, eighth period. The sixth grade team had a last-minute change of plans, and I ended up with most of my homeroom in the classroom with no plan. Kids were bouncing off the walls, asking what we were doing. I gathered myself, shook off the frustration of having my plans changed, and typed a PowerPoint slide: “If you want to go outside, grab your seats.” That was enough for students to sit down FAST and get everyone around them to sit down, too.

I then set up a simple incentive scheme. To go outside, you need to finish your weekly reflection. One student sighed; I let her know she was welcome to stay inside the classroom, but it was 75 degrees outside, and I wanted to leave the building. Five minutes later, every reflection was done, and I got to sit in the sun for 30 minutes.

I suppose the fact that I can name three moments of crazy in one day isn’t a great sign. But I’m choosing to see the positive. It’s May, and it’s warm out, so some crazy is inevitable. I’m proud that despite nearly 150 days of accumulated exhaustion, I can still address the crazy relatively calmly.

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