Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Letting the Anger Out--When Channeled Anger is Appropriate in the Classroom

I've been struggling with my students and classroom management lately. They don't listen, carry on side conversations while I talk, and talk over their peers when they are called on. After one of the best students in the class said she was having a hard time paying attention, I knew I had to do something.

At first, I was worried about being overly strict. I poo-poohed the other teachers and their warnings about laying down the groundrules at the beginning of the year. I resisted being firm with my students for fear of hurting their feelings. And I fell victim to a common new teacher plague: the desire to have my students like me.

Now that I've been leading the class, I've been gaining confidence. I work hard on my lessons, trying to make them engaging and interesting. When students talk over me, I get irritated. Now I realize this irritation, and, yes, anger, is because I'm being disrespected. My students are being disrespected because it's interfering with their learning. And that pisses me off.

Maybe it's okay to let myself get pissed off sometimes. It stirred me up enough to go home and think of a plan. Warnings have not been enough. I  have several girls who are repeat offenders, talking behind my back every time I ask them to stop.

Tomorrow is a new day. I'm prepared. When the repeat offenders begin talking (notice I said "when" and not "if), I will stop my lecture, turn on the lights and admonish the class:
"There is WAY too much talking when I'm talking. This is UNacceptable. I can't hear myself think. Those students who want to learn can't, and that is NOT okay. You are being disrespectful (point to rule #2). It is NOT okay to talk when I'm talking. You are to be LISTENING. When I call on another student to answer a question, you are to be LISTENING. This is your warning. Next person who I find talking gets sent out of the class."

This is what I'm planning on saying. Then, I will find whoever is talking afterwards (someone will) and send them out of the class. After 2 minutes, I'll have a one-on-one talk with them. We will talk about what it means to be respectful. I will remind them that talking over me or another student is RUDE and that if it happens again, I will move their seat away from the class and call home to talk with their parents. Most importantly, I want to ask them why they feel such a strong impulse to behave that way. If they're doing great and the lectures are too easy, maybe they can work on an extra credit assignment. If it's too hard, maybe they need a handout to help scaffold the notes they are taking.

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