This will be the first post from me, Wizard. I have been wearing my Sensei mask a lot recently, but there are some problems (soon to be told) which Sensei is just plain stumped on. So I decided today to look at the same issues from the perspective of the Wizard and see what else shook loose. What follows is a stylized internal dialogue I hosted today between two very different parts of myself
SENSEI’S PROBLEM: In my current job, my 7th grade students are responding wonderfully to both reward and discipline, but my 8th grade students pretend I don’t even exist. I spend most of my time in my 8th grade class periods just shouting for quiet. I can’t even get them to a place of learning. They hate the novel we are working through, 85% of them are failing the class, and they seem almost unionized in their resistance of authority. They don’t want, much less seek the rewards I offer, and they could care less about the discipline.
SENSEI’S DESIRED RESULT: The result I desire is to have the students learn the material, do well on examination, be prepared for the communication challenges life will throw at them (particularly formal or academic challenges), and that they will rekindle their own belief in themselves that they are capable of succeeding in school.
SENSEI’S OUTWARD OBSERVATIONS: I notice that the class responds almost instantly to any “down time”. When I give them busy work, I can get them to quiet down (though often not to work), but if there is any discussion or transition time the class dynamic slips almost immediately to a “lunch room” vibe with heavy social conversations and non-school related activities like giving each other “pen tattoos”. Students feel they have freedom to shout out answers, to move about the room as they please, and to ignore specific simple instructions like “get out your books and turn to page 72”. Often, when disciplined, the students response is to smile and act very happy about being called down. They don’t seem to want to make fun of me, so much as they want me to join them as a peer. I feel constantly as though they want me to just “hang out”, or “be cool”. They are somewhat engaged with the material. There are three groups of four students each, which form the social skeleton of the classroom, and these three groups are consistently disruptive. There are many “on the fence” students who will participate if in a strong structured activity, but who will also fall into the “lunch room” moments just as easily. There are also about seven students who are display anxiety at this non-productive behavior, who are uncomfortable displeasing authority or are very interested in learning. These students often attempt to shush the class or otherwise self-police their peers.
SENSEI’S INWARD OBSERVATIONS: I notice that when the classes noise level rises I feel itchy inside. For some reason, volume level with this particular group of students, causes irritation and anxiety for me. I am sensitive to infractions, and often focus on the trouble makers over the ones who are doing as asked. I feel like I am on the defensive, and while I do not show outward anger, their mockery of my discipline (high fiving when they get a violation, cheering when they have to stay after class) really gets me pretty heated inside. Continue reading