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Monday, May 12, 2008

Pulling my hair out

OK, I feel like I'm just about at my wit's end here. And since I haven't done an INTERACTIVE MONDAY in quite awhile, I figure my dilemma would be good to ask other teachers about. My principal keeps saying that this time at the end of the school year is the time when Master Teachers show themselves, but I keep looking in the mirror, and I'm not seeing any Master Teacher.

My kids act like someone has flipped the switch on their backs from BAD to LUDICROUSLY BAD. I mean, we have our class field trip coming up this Wednesday, so you would think these kids would be on their best behavior. Instead, I found myself having to call parents in after school today to tell them that their daughters had been writing notes back and forth to each other, calling each other curse words in Spanish and talking about having sex with one of the new boys in the class. WTF???

But here's the dilemma I want to talk about with this INTERACTIVE MONDAY. I have a couple of kids that just will not stand in timeout correctly. I have a timeout corner between my bulletin board and my door, and the procedure that I've gone over all year long with these kids is that they must stand with their nose in the corner and their hands behind their back. But for some reason, the word of the year with these kids is "vandalism." I guess I didn't notice what had happened the first time or two, but suddenly there were huge scratches and gouges in the wall in that corner. After that, I paid much more attention when kids were in that corner, and I would actually see kids using their fingernails or a coin from their pocket and scratching up the wall.

Today, I got tired of this kid alternating between falling asleep and tossing his pencil up and down right in front of me during class, so I sent him over to the timeout corner. A few minutes later, I noticed that he did not in fact have both hands behind his back, and that one of the papers on my bulletin board was hanging at a strange angle. He had actually taken one of the thumb tacks out of the bulletin board and was using it to scratch up the wall. This is infuriating!

So let's get interactive here. What would you do in this situation? How do you get someone to stand in timeout correctly without having to stand right behind them the whole time?

My immediate action today after school was to remove all of the thumb tacks from my bulletin board and staple everything in. Also, I covered up the scratched up wall with a few pieces of paper. That way, no one else will be able to scratch up the wall without first going through the paper and making it very obvious that they had defaced the corner. It made me think back to my own childhood, when my brother and I would accidentally make a dent or a hole in our bedroom wall, and my brother would immediately make a GI Joe or Transformers poster to artfully hide the damage.

Of course, our parents weren't idiots, so the question of, "Why is that poster hung at knee-level??" came up often.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing the suggestions of all you Master Teachers out there. Please just don't tell me to go down to Home Depot and stock up on spackle.


Jules said...

wow. that all sounds so frustrating!

of course, i'm just shocked that a)you have a time out corner, and b) the kids actually go there! so good job on that. :)

definitely cover things up. here's a really random, probably unreasonable idea: what if you covered it in paper and gave each child ONE crayon (different colors every time) to write what they did wrong or reflect? then if they drew on things you could tell by what color it is.
i know, totally useless. sorry. :) it was the only thing that popped into my head.

and if i haven't mentioned it lately, i'm just impressed that you teach third-graders every day! :)

Anonymous said...

If your school allows teachers to do this, take all your important objects/decorations/etc off the wall.

Create some extra "incentives" to help you through the rest of the school year.

If you can, create some really cool themes around the rituals you are getting ready to go through. (I haven't taught in DISD in a few years. I know the administration has a LARGE list of "Do's and Do Nots" that you must follow)

At this time, you also have to become a bit more strict and stay in contact with parents at the "first sign" of troube.

It is horrible to say this, but you have to give the classes some "examples" so they will think twice before misbehaving.

Moreover, if you can put on a "try me" face, that can work, if applied sparingly and at the right time. If the class is acting crazy, just stop, fold your hands, and say nothing until they calm down. Usually, the responsible kids will start telling the others to calm down.

Next, if you are ready to go to lunch, wait until they are quiet before you take them down. This takes some planning since you are on a schedule.

At the end of the day, allow the children that have had acceptable behavior to go first when they are ready to assemble their items for the trip home. Finally, allow the chidlren who have behaved to exit the building first at the end of the day. Start writing notes to parents about the good behavior of kids. Not all, but some of the other kids will want a letter from the teacher as well.

Donalbain said...

Is time out your ultimate punishment?
If not, tell them that they have the choice. If they choose not to do timeout properly, you will simply escalate up the scale of punishments. And be a complete bastard. The next one who doesnt do proper time out should actually be shot. Pour l'encourager de les autres