Flashback to Thursday. Lump had been absent for a few days in the week, and he returned to school on Thursday. He was up to his usual tricks of doing absolutely nothing productive, and doing lots of stuff that was disruptive. While the other kids were doing their morning work, Lump decided to make farting noises. When I tried to talk to him, he argued loudly with me. Sad to say, I stooped to his level for a bit and argued back. I finally sent a kid down to get the assistant principal, and when she came down, Lump gave me an insincere apology and said he would come back into the room and do his work.
However, this proved to be not so true, as he started scribbling all over his desk. When I took the pencil away, he started banging on his desk like a drum again. I put him in my newly upholstered timeout corner, and he ripped one of the papers off the wall. Then when my back was turned, he stepped out of the classroom and started playing in the hallway.
I had to stop what I was doing and look up his mother's phone number. When I got her on the phone, I told her what was happening, and she spoke to him. I received another insincere apology from him, but at least he came back into the room and was much less disruptive for the rest of the morning.
Here's where I place the turning point, though. At recess that day, I was throwing the football around with some of my students, as I often do. Lump approached me and asked, "Hey Mister Teacher, can I play?"
Firmly, but not unkindly, I replied, "I'm sorry, but you already played in my classroom today. You can't play in there AND out here."
Friday morning arrived, and when my kids filed into the classroom, Lump told me, "I'm going to do my work today." I of course tried to back that statement with major encouragement, not really expecting it to happen.
The first thing we did was go over the homework from Thursday night, which was 10 two-digit by two-digit multiplication problems. I placed a homework sheet in front of Lump, since he had not brought his own. While the other students went up to my overhead and worked the problems, I stuck around near Lump and tried to encourage him to listen to what those kids were saying and do what they were doing. Lump wasn't extremely active in the following along with what the other kids were doing, but he did make an attempt on the first problem, and after that, he was at least not causing any problems.
Next, I gave a quiz to the class. Five problems of the same variety that we had just done in the homework. Lump had some difficulty with the first problem, but he WAS writing it down and trying to figure it out. I spent some time with him and showed him the techniques that the rest of the class had been practicing for two weeks (that he had either been ignoring or had missed due to having to leave the classroom). He really started to get into it, and at one point he even uttered the words that all teachers long to hear -- "I get it now!"
After walking him through the first problem, he raised his hand and showed me his work for number two and number three after completing each one. He had gotten both right, and each time I heaped as much praise as I could muster onto him and encouraged him to continue. He did the last two on his own. At the end of the morning, I had a 100 quiz from a student who had been averaging a 0 for lack of effort.
At recess, Lump approached me and said, "Can I play with you today, since I didn't play in your class?"
My reply? "Go long!!"
At the end of recess, Lump told me that he was going to do his work for the rest of the year. That of course remains to be seen. It might just be that yesterday was a really high point on his bipolar roller coaster. But for now, I'm excited with the prospect that I might just have hit upon a motivator -- football -- for this kid.
Now I just need to find a similar motivator for the other two little boys that decided to be major juvenile delinquents yesterday...