I’ve been back in the classroom a couple of weeks now. I can say, it’s an adventure in the making. This particular group of students have already proven to be a classroom management challenge. We anticipated it. At the end of last year, we met with them (as 7th graders) to let them know what our expectations for them were and we were immediately met with resistance in the form of “what if” questions from them.
Anytime you have a group of students with more boys than girls, the hormones fly, the attitudes clash, and the nerves become frayed. At the end of this week, my team, which usually hangs out and giggles about the year so far, was shell shocked. Our main focus is making sure we have a community atmosphere where students feel safe and appreciated. In this sort of atmosphere, learning can occur. When we have to stop every 5 minutes for immature or aggressive behavior, it affects learning in the classroom. We can’t allow that to happen.
Our building has a 5 step discipline plan that works in tandem with our PBIS initiative to provide a learning environment in our building that students respect. We’ve made a point this year, to make sure parents are aware of the discipline plan and that we will be communicating with them as needed, so we’re all on the same page. We’ve had Open House and a Parent’s Breakfast already. I’m glad we did. Many of the parents attended both events and we were able to discuss concerns right away. We’ve also started a list of students we need to call home about next week and have even considered counseling for a few. We’re taking the bull by the horns and not letting go.
Working together is important in making this work. Yet, as frustration sets in, sometimes the adults can clash with each other more than with the students. There’s a way to interact, professionally, together, to control any situation. We’ve had behavior issues in years past. We know how to handle them. This group, however, has spread its venom outside our sphere of control. In the cafeteria, the staff is frustrated with a group of about 12 boys and their behavior. When they are asked for names, etc. so they can be disciplined, insubordinate ensues. So, a meeting of the 8th grade teachers and the dean will happen this week to come up with a building wide plan to keep things under control.
Once we’ve gotten a plan in place, back at the community level, we’re going to work harder on getting to know these boys a little better. Our assistant principal works with the hardest cases, the male teachers on the floor do different things with all of them to support and model for them. The female teachers are aware that for a lot of the boys, with only women in their lives, trying desperately to guide them to manhood, we’re just another woman, “telling them what to do”. It’s frustrating for them as well as us. So, we split the good cop/bad cop duties. I’m one of the bad cops, pulling them aside and helping them see where they lost control of a situation in the classroom or in the hall. A couple other female teachers give the soft touch, reminding them that we care and it will all be ok.
It’s hard work. It’s necessary work. Preparing boys to become men, in a world that is becoming more and more aggressive, is a very important part of our job. Part of the “hidden curriculum” we cover, I accept the challenge of helping them see their worth, focus their goals, and want to make something of themselves. Let the school year begin!