So, I'm still having trouble with my middle school kids. I had a talk with
both classes yesterday, a kind of heart to heart. I told them that I cannot
teach them when they won't listen or pay attention. I told them that I'm going
to start making them suffer the consequences and that if they can't behave,
I'm going to treat them like kindergarteners and have them put their heads down.
They were pretty good for the rest of the class. I felt like I had gotten
through to them.
My sixth graders, who were so wonderful yesterday after I spoke to them,
surprised me by being extra loud today. I told them that I had planned a surprise
for them after they were so nice yesterday, but that I had decided not to
give it to them because they were disappointing me. I had a big accident in that
class as well (someone knocked over my computer), so things were a bit
chaotic as it was. Then my seventh and eighth graders (usually the rowdy ones) came
in and surprised me by being pretty quiet. I gave them assigned seats and
told them to look at the board for their directions. They had to write a
reflection paragraph on their last project. I praised them for their good behavior,
told them that I was proud of them. Then I explained the project for the
day. They were still talkative, but I seemed to be able to get their attention a
little better today. But as soon as I allowed them to get to work, it just
got too crazy. The whole class, new students were entering, and I was trying
to find them seats and log them into my gradebook and check schedules.
Students needed help, and I had to keep pushing those who wouldn't work. My head was
spinning. It was so crazy, that I couldn't even think about how to single
out people or punish them.
I feel badly because I really don't think it's totally their fault. I simply
have WAY too many students in those classes. They are on top of each other,
I have like five boys at a table because there are too many boys. They have
so little room that some girls chose to work on the FLOOR because they couldn't
lay their papers out on the table. I have eight or nine kids squeezed around
a table...and the room is just too small. Bookbags are supposed to be tucked
under tables, but they are too big, and the kids don't have room for their
legs...so I have bookbags all over the place...and nowhere else really to store
them. Kids get up to sharpen their pencils or get supplies, but then they
dawdle, and I have to get on them...or too many get up at once. The thing is
that I know they aren't bad kids. They have never talked back to me. They seem
to care when I tell them I'm disappointed. Some of them apologize or ask if
they can help me. They just have no self-control it seems...and there just
isn't enough room to give them the space they need to behave.
So, I'm feeling like I need to completely eliminate talking altogether. I
hate to do that because I know they like to share ideas and chat while they
work, but I can't hear myself think, and I'm yelling so much I'm losing my voice.
Should I just tell them tomorrow that the class has gotten too large, that I
know it's not their fault but I can't function in a class that chaotic...so we
have to have a "no talking" policy even when they are working on their own?
Should I tell them that they have to raise their hands every time they need to
get up and sharpen a pencil? Ugh.
I just remember classes where we could work on our own, were free to move
about and work together, and it was so nice. But those classrooms were bigger.
If I do enforce a "no talking" policy, how should I reprimand? Should I put
"LOUD" on the board and erase each letter every time I have to ask for silence
until they have to put everything away and put their heads down? Should I
make everyone write a report? Or should I simply single out those who keep
talking and make them sign my log and then continue the school policy from there:
copying rules, writing an essay, and finally detention? I feel like I'll end
up giving EVERYONE the behavior form at their desk.
On another note, I broke in my behavior log today. I had five third graders
sign it. My elementary classes will be much easier to handle...they are much
smaller classes, and I can send students to my solitary desk and have them
sign the log. I can't do that with the middle school class because THERE IS NO
PLACE to send them.