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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Maybe I'm on to something here

I have what might possibly be amazing breakthrough news in the case of my student Lump. I THINK I said and did something the other day that actually meant something to him and made him want to change his behavior.

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...


loonyhiker said...

It is moments like this that make me glad to be a teacher. It may not last, but enjoy the moment! The little successful moments really can make a difference in his life.

100 Farmers said...

What a great moment. Good Luck. Three more weeks.

Anonymous said...'s always rewarding when it sinks in! Just think it only took 10 months! Hope next week is even better.

Edna Lee said...

I LOVE that story! Good for you! One of the other teachers at my grade level uses sports to motivate his "unmotivatibles". They earn time playing basketball or football with him by completing modified assignments in class. These are kids who have never completed anything before in their lives, and now they are getting more and more work done.

Well done, Mr. Teacher!

Jules said...

aw, this gave me chills! what a touching story--you are an excellent teacher to work so hard to uphold your standards and keep trying with such a difficult kid. high five for you!!

Mrs. T said...

There's light! There's hope! If Lump gets it, there is hope for the Lumps in all of our classes!

HappyChyck said...

Brilliant! I'm impressed that the idea stuck with him overnight! I hope Lump is on to some serious change!

Unknown said...

congrats! I have been worrying about this kid right along with you. I'd like to think that there is always something that can redeem or motivate a kid, no matter how awful they seem. It also really shows that however much he might not show it in class, he really does want that approval from you, and wants to interact with you, so, he clearly isn't a lost cause.