My morning math class has been struggling with behavior this year. For whatever reason, I get the kids who move into the district. They tend to be lower-skilled students, since a move into our school is often the latest in a long line of moves. Such moves disrupt their education. At some point, they learn that there aren't very many benefits to being a good student since all that work counts for nothing at their next school.
Disengaged kids become bored kids who tend to get into trouble.
It had gotten so bad it was almost impossible to teach. The last straw was the day class was interrupted 10 times in 46 minutes, mostly for students in my class being called to the office to be told they would be serving a working lunch because of all the assignments they had missing from my class...the one they were just pulled out of. *sigh*
I had had enough.
So this week I rebooted the class on the advice of a colleague. We practiced walking into the class. We practiced raising our hands to talk*. We practiced working with a partner.
The rest of the week I had to have them walk into class multiple times. If they didn't get it in a way that supported the learning environment, we practiced it until they got it. A few of my trouble makers were out frequently this week, so class time was mostly OK and I only had to remind them to raise their hands rather than do another lesson on hand raising.
Then yesterday I got bold. They had been working hard. I was tired of seat work/training. I decided that we would do some math practice with a relay race.
That was stupid. They weren't ready, behaviorally, for something that had them up and about. It got so loud before we even got through a trial run of the relay that I had to cancel the whole thing. I even had my mentor in the room to help me. Some kids got so angry with the kids who ruined it I was worried there might be a fight on the way out of class. I'm angry with myself for wasting so much valuable learning time.
I promised the students some nice worksheets for practice next week. This is not the kind of teacher I want to be. I hate worksheets. I EVEN MADE PACKET, so help me. I'll probably make up some challenge packets for the kids who are ready to move on, but they're still packets.
I have to remind myself to go in baby steps. As a group, we can only move as fast in terms of behavior as the least-skilled kid in the class.
I'm afraid the last 6 weeks of the school year are going to be dead boring for the students and for me. Blech.
*I prefer a more open, conversation-type feel to class and I don't usually enforce raised hands to talk. I hit my breaking point with these kids though, so I felt compelled to be strict about it. We'll see how long I can do it.