This week was our first week back from Spring Break, one of the most necessary breaks before summer vacation, which is eight weeks away (yay!!). Yesterday, I came back so refreshed and rejuvenated. I spent the day smiling at periods 1, 3, and 5. I kept the lights off and kept the windows open. Since it was a gloomy day, the sun wasn’t distracting and my students were on task. It was truly one of the best days of the school year. It was borderline perfect.
Then today happened.
Two words: Fourth. Period. *sigh* This is that class. Today, while I was in the middle of class, one of my special students (aka: the one that sits in the isolation seat) decided it was okay to have a whole conversation with another student across the room. [Two things to note: he has done this on more than one, two, three occasions and, by this time in the period, the lesson has already ran ten minutes over time from me having to stop class already due to excessive talking.] Anyway, I made an executive decision. I went to my desk and told this student to teach the class since he enjoyed talking so much.
Let’s pause right here: I’m probably going to sound like a horrible teacher right now, but, I swear, this story has an interesting plot twist. Carry on.
We’ve done this before. The student stands up and proceeds to read the PowerPoint without any additional information. The students begin to heckle him. “Mr. Poblano, what does that word mean?!” “I don’t get what you mean. Can you clarifyyyyy?!” “Misterrrrr, can we have a sub?!” (Yes, seventh graders are cruel.) Once he had had enough, he apologized and told me that he wasn’t qualified to be a teacher and I should continue with the lesson. Usually, I walk back up to the front of the room and continue, with a smirk on my face.
No. Nope. Nuh-uh. Not this time.
I went to the front to retrieve my computer that was attached to the SMARTboard, and went back to my desk, as students watched in horror. They probably thought I was going to start sending tele-parent messages about their behavior. Nope. I calmly said, “You know how this class goes. You’ve been here since August. There is an agenda on the board. If you want a grade, follow it.” I opened my computer and proceeded to do work. They bickered for about five more minutes about how they got into this predicament. “Y’all just caused Miss B. to give up!” They blamed the talkers. “If you would’ve stopped talking…” They blamed the kid who got up to blow his nose about ten times. “If Greg wasn’t constantly out of his stupid seat!” They blamed the quiet kids for not choosing a side. “Well, why didn’t you tell them to shut up?” They blamed themselves for not thinking Miss B. would eventually get fed up. “See, that’s what we get! We always do this!”
Finally, one kid, Justin, stood up.
He paced the front of the room. “Shut up, shut up, shut up! This is the reason why Miss B. gave up on us! You can’t just shut up for a minute so she could teach!” He looked at the agenda on the board for a while. Finally, he pointed at the independent station. “You guys, go to Achieve! The article in in your mailbox. Do it.” He pointed to the direct station. “You guys, open up your scavenger hunt!” He looked at the clock. “It’s 11:10 right now. At 11:40, we switch. Got it?” No one responded.
He went back to his seat. He opened his computer and mumbled, “Whatever. I’m only two points away from a C. I’m trying to pass.”
One by one, students started opening up their computers and began the work. I was at my desk, with my browser already on Google Classroom. I had 30 tabs open to each of their documents. I didn’t fully give up on them. As they did their work on their documents, I chatted with each of them about what they can improve to get a passing score. The class was the quietest it has ever been. Whether or not some students were actually doing work, that was on them. Justin and I had already brought the horses to the water. I just hoped they’d drink.
At 11:40, Justin stood up. He yelled, “Alright! Log out! It’s time to switch! I’m going to ring the bell, and we’re going to start transitioning into the next station.” Jose raised his hand and said, “Well, wouldn’t it be easier if we just stayed where we are and just changed our assignments?” Justin thought about it for a second. “True, true. Alright. Don’t log out. Independent, stop doing Achieve; do your scavenger hunt. Direct, start Achieve.” He looked at me. “Miss B., when is Achieve due?” Without looking up, I responded, “3:45.” Justin nodded and went back to his seat.
On the inside, I was very impressed with how the class handled the situation. The only means of communication I used was the Google Classroom. A few students chose not to log in to do their work, but I didn’t say anything. However, I was proud that they were able to self-govern, and, when I last checked, more than half of the class had finished their work.
At 12:05, five minutes before the bell rang, Justin stood up again. “Everyone log out. STLs, pick up computers and put them in order and plug them in.” Everyone followed directions. He added, “And we’re not leaving here until they’re all plugged in.” When the bell rang, no one moved. One girl asked, “Miss, can we leave?” I looked at her and responded, “When did I say you had to stay?” Slowly, they began to leave. A handful of them apologized for their behavior. Others felt bad that I had to take such drastic measures to get them to do work. I heard them in the hallway telling other students about the interesting class period.
That was one of the hardest things I had to do to my students. On one hand, they deserved it because they needed to realize that they only got a mediocre lesson due to their behavior. On the other hand, it sucks that some may have felt like I truly gave up on them. The only way they would have believed that would be if they didn’t do their work. In that case, well…
Was I too hard on the students?