Remember Jeff (name changed)? Let me help……Jeff was new to our school this year, having been unsuccessful at his previous school for reasons that became quickly apparent.
Determined not to do his classwork (no amount of coaching or cajoling would convince him to even bring a pencil to class, much less use one), he was also a constant disruption. I tried the usual interventions: changed his seating chart, talked to him after class, sat him in the hall, and gave him detention. I offered him his favorite candy bar (KitKat) if he did got 100% on a test. Nothing worked. Finally, after watching him stuff wadded paper down another student’s shirt, I took him in the hall and we called home. I explained the situation to Jason, his father. This was third period. Three minutes after the final bell rang that day a large (very large), bearded man dressed in blue-collar work clothes, came into my room. Enter Jason.
This is where I left the story last time.
We sat down and father Jason told me that son Jeff denied there was a problem. Hum. After kindly and calmly (my heart
was racing!!!!) explaining the situation, Jason and I were on the same page; Jeff, not so much. Having delivered the “club”, I tried to offer Jeff a “carrot”. Looking him in the eye, I sought to win Jeff over, telling him that I know he is a very bright science student (which is true—he will participate in class discussions and always knows the correct answer), that I am invested in his success, and that I will help him in anyway legally possible. I asked him what motivates him…..movie tickets? Gift card to the mall? Get-out-of-homework-free pass? I got no response.
I also go no change. The meeting with dad bore no fruit. What to do?
The back-breaking straw came when two of my Special Ed girls told me that Jeff was bullying them, stealing pencils from their binders and saying mean things. Unacceptable. I could not have Jeff in my class any more.
Solution: I would not allow Jeff into the classroom. The reading teacher gave me a small desk and the Special Ed teacher (next door) gave me permission to house the desk in her room. The next day I stopped Jeff at the door and explained that he was not allowed more than 4 feet into my classroom for any reason. PERIOD. He would stand in the hallway until everyone else had entered, then he was to go across the hall, retrieve his small desk, set just inside the classroom, and sit in it. He was not to get out of the desk for any reason. EVER.
When I was telling my family this story, Tanah said, “He must HATE you!” Maybe….maybe not…..
We’ve been doing this for several months now. I had to remind him—firmly—once or twice that he was out of his zone but,
for the most part, it has worked fabulously; more fabulously than I ever hoped in fact. No more wandering, no more bullying, no more disrupting others AND, unanticipated outcome, he has started completing classwork. Oh my lands! OH MY LANDS! He earned 16% in my class first quarter and 34% second quarter. I started the solitary confinement the last few weeks of third quarter but it was too late to do much for his grade; he had previously earned 0/200 points on the science fair project and 40/100 points on the geology test.
Last week I gave a 12 point quiz. At quiz’s end, he told me I owed him a KitKat. ??? “I got 100%,” he showed me. It took a minute for the light to dawn but, eventually, I got it…..and so did he. I brought him a small KitKat the next day.
Friday we took a physics test; 58 questions, some of them very abstract. Though we reviewed for it very thoroughly in class, it was still a hard, HARD test. On average, about 10-12 of my students earn 100% on unit tests. On the physics test, only
four people earned 100%.
I was at my computer third period, fielding questions from the line of students that had formed. Soon Jeff was at my
elbow. Before I could nail him for being out of his seat he said, “I missed only one.” I started to say, “That is fabulous” but could not get the words out. With a huge gleam in his eye, he said, “Not!” and then showed me the score on his exam.
100%. 100%!!!! I screamed. He beamed.
I was so excited I went across the hall at the first opportunity and told the Special Ed teacher. She was so excited she called the head secretary and told her. The head secretary was so excited she told the assistant principal. WHAAAAA-WHOOO and WHAAAAA-WHOOO! Children have no idea how much we, their educators, really, REALL care. They own huge
sections of our hearts.
Many of students who typically score poorly on tests saw significant improvement in their test score, even though the test was significantly harder. Why? They studied. Simple. Powerful. Effective. This time they studied and it paid off. I encourage, challenge, and beg them to study. And, this time, they did it. Across the board, those who studied did well.
And I could not be more pleased.
Which causes me to reflect on Christ……. He encourages us, challenges us, and begs us to obey. Simple. Powerful. Effective. And, when we do, it pays off, across the board. And, my guess is that our resultant successes bring Him joy. And, conjecturing further, my guess is that He has a much greater capacity for joy than do we, so His joy at our success is probably so great as to be incomprehensible to us in our mortal state. Perhaps this is part of the source of the eternal joy we are promised when we become heirs to His kingdom….
I have a giant KitKat in my purse, awaiting my next interaction with Jeff.
Teaching is fun! Monday we did a levers and pulley’s lab outside. Using saw horses, weight sets, 2 x 4 planks, winches, and my van we experienced the mechanical advantage created by simple machines. It is generally a fun, hands-on, educational day outside. It is also generally warm. Monday was not warm and, therefore, less fun. Allie, a skin-and-bones 8th grader who, like my daughter and many other teens I know, does not wear a coat to school even in sub-freezing temperatures, kept asking to go inside. No. “Please.” No. “Please” No. Teeth chattering, she changed her question.
“If I go inside, will you give me a detention?” Yes. The second time she asked the detention question I found a quilt in the back of the van and wrapped her in it. To the best of my knowledge, she did not suffer any lasting effects from hypothermia.
I spent a full day teaching 7th graders this week, as a substitute. I introduced myself when they entered the classroom and told them that, since I am the school’s 8th grade science teacher, next year they would be mine, “ALL MINE!!” [Evil laugh] The sub plans called for a test review so I asked if they had questions. One student requested the definition for stimulus.
I let out a blood-curdling, full-diaphragm, raise-the-roof scream. The effect was instant and enormous; I had everyone’s attention. “That,” I explained calmly, “was a stimulus.” They loved it. So did I. It is easy to put on a show for one day and put on a show I did. Those 7th graders will spend the summer looking forward to 8th grade science. Only when it is
too late will they learn that I also do things like cause hypothermia and put students in solitary confinement. [Evil laugh!]
Buying a KitKat was not my only pay day this week. I also bought a driver’s license. [YEA!]
Getting Chick to practice driving has been harder than pulling wisdom teeth; he resisted my every suggestion that he get behind the wheel. “The only reason I am getting my driver’s license,” he told me testily as he drove to the driver’s license
bureau, “is so that you will quit bugging me to drive.” As it turns out, after actually getting his license, he found lots of
reasons to have one. New license in hand, his voice dancing with barely suppressed excitement, he asked if he could drive to Gram and Grandad’s, spend the night there, and drive back by 5:30 a.m. the next morning so he would be on time for early morning seminary. Yes.
Thanks to the person who left white bread on the porch. Miles is thrilled.
On a non-pay day note, I learned something about myself this week. I have never thought of myself as snobbish—can one be a snob and muck out chicken coops?—but I learned that I am a book snob. A gentle, elderly friend chose a sappy, shallow, insipid book for book club. I read it to support her but I read it in the privacy of my bedroom (where no one could see me reading it) and I did NOT record it on my “List of Books Read in 2013”. No, I will not tell you the name or author.
Lance started doing our taxes yesterday afternoon. Last night he said that he probably would not get any sleep until
Sacrament meeting (Sunday worship services) but he was wrong. He actually got to bed at 2:00 a.m. We did not have to pay extra this year……which is kind-of like a pay day, right?
Some pay days are still anticipated. We have pigs on the place; we brought them from North Ogden (where we left the rooster) Saturday morning. They are little and cute. Later they will be larger and not so cute. Even later they will be breakfast. This is the pay day we anticipate.
May pay days come to you this week!
P.S. Does anyone know of any job openings in Africa?