Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I arrived at it independently!!

Pete Campbell - Mad Men: “You know what? I have good ideas. In fact, I used to carry around a notebook and a pen, just to keep track. Direct marketing? I thought of that. It turned out it already existed, but I arrived at it independently.”

About two years ago, though most of my classroom management was OK, I was having a lot of trouble getting kids to transition from being in the hallway to being in math class. I mean, they were physically in the classroom - but I couldn’t get them to engage in actual class stuff, i.e. the “warm up” (or Do Now, or Drill, or whatever the heck you want to call it) without a bunch of cajoling, and I found this to be extremely frustrating.

When I say extremely frustrating, what I really mean is that I felt like I was trying to herd evil cats. EVIL cats, not regular ones. Way worse.

So, I tried a bunch of things and none of them worked. Bribing children with candy (ugh - gross), collecting and grading warm ups (ugh - the SBGer in me wants to vom), threatening to kill children (not really! That’s ridiculous! Threats? Me!?)

And then, one day, I just started pointing out what kids were doing right.

“I see that Davonte has his notebook out and has started the Do Now.”

“I see that Chelsea is looking at yesterday’s notes to help her with the warm up.”

“Chris has his pencil in hand and has begun working.”

And that was it. Seriously. I was kind of freaked out. All of a sudden all of my usual hyperactive 10th graders were quietly working. Yes, there was that one kid who looked at me, dramatically pointing to his notebook and mouthing “Tavon is working” - but then he actually started the warm up in a timely fashion. For the first time all year.

Obviously I was convinced it was a fluke. Or that it would only work once. Turns out, not only did it work in all the rest of my classes - it worked almost EVERY DAY in ALL OF MY CLASSES for the REST OF THE YEAR. Yes, those caps were necessary.

On the third day I had my math teacher colleagues peaking into my room, frantically whispering

“how did you do this?”
“they’ve been like this for three days?”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ve never seen that child do anything.”
“You deserve to be teacher of the year. For every year. Forever.”

I felt like a god. Like the student whisperer. Or something.

Perhaps it wasn’t so dramatic as this.

Well, it turns out this is just called behavior narration and I didn’t make it up at all. I mean I thought of it - it turned out that it already existed, but I arrived at it independently. (Thanks, Pete).

And what I love about it is that in addition to helping kids transition from being with their friends in the hall to being in math class and doing some math (yay!), it doesn’t make me feel like a crappy human being - like the yelling/cajoling/threatening (jk! I would never do that!) always did.

At the end of the day (or the beginning of class...) saying "I see that Ayanna is beginning right away" is just much better for my soul than FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE SIT DOWN AND START DOING SOMETHING THAT JUST LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE DOING MATH. YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO ACTUALLY DO IT. JUST PRETEND.


Jill Backlund said...

Guess what I'm gonna try tomorrow? You may not have invented it, but you sell it 1000 times better than the textbooks do. Thanks!

JCM said...

Let me know how it worked out!

Angela said...

This is fabulous, and hilarious, because who would have thought something so simple would work with high schoolers? It's annoying to have to do it, but far less annoying than yelling and nagging. Hope you can stick with it, and that they keep responding to it. :-)