Advice and Help Please

Discussion in 'General Education Archives' started by E Bunni 99, Dec 28, 2005.

  1. E Bunni 99

    E Bunni 99 Rookie

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    Dec 28, 2005

    Hello. I am a middle school teacher having some problems with a young man in my gifted English class. He has given me some problems throughout the school year so far, and I have tried many ways to stop the behaviors in class (lunch detention, removing him from class, written assignments, parent notification, etc.) He is the typical class clown. I wrote a referral on him earlier this year, but administration ignored it saying they were too busy to address it at the time... I think they had other motives as mom has harrassed them in the past too. I have been teaching for 3 years now and have never had a problem such as this one. For this post I will call the student, Bubba, for privacy and security purposes; I do not need Mom getting on me anymore then she already has!

    Last Wednesday, 2 days before winter break Bubba came to class 6th and 7th period (I have them for 2 blocks, one for reading, the other for writing). I gave Bubba and 3 other boys warnings as they came into class, as they were causing problems the day before. I gave them each a form they would have to fill out and bring home to mom and dad if they caused more problems on this day.

    As a class we began to work on our persuasive essay brainstorms in class. Bubba had his head down on his desk facing away from me at the podium and overhead. I went over and clapped lightly next to his ear and said his name to wake him up from his sleep (I never touch a student to wake them up, pat them on the back, etc. I know how many problems it might bring about!). Bubba ignored me and would not face me or return to the assignment (but was now awake). I collect Elmos and decided to try and wake him up with some energy and class participation (the whole class was dragging). I had the class particpating with Hokey Pokey Elmo and tryied to get him motivated to work in class (he is an attention seeker, and I thought some attention might get him involved and ready to go). Bubba continued to ignore me in class. I then walked away from Bubba and allowed him to have his space. About 5 minutes later, Bubba raises his head and shouts to the class, "Can't you all keep it down in here? I'm trying to sleep!". I asked Bubba to step out of class and go to another teacher's room to fill out the form (how was I to ignore this comment). Bubba did so. On his form though he wrote a very smart response to his parents mocking me. I asked Bubba to step out in the hall. While in the hall I asked what was the purpose of what he had wrote and told him it was disresepectful. He shrugged and ignored me some more. I told him I would see what I would do and let him know. I did not want to get caught up in the moment with my anger and make a bad decision.

    Later on in the afternoon I called Bubba's mom. From the moment she answered the phone she seemed really mad and short. I asked her if Bubba had mentioned anything that happened during English class and she said no, he did not say anything (of course he wouldn't, he was in trouble!) I then explained to her that Bubba had been causing problems in class throughout the week, and I had tried to give him a 2nd chance before calling home. I told her I gave him a form at the start of class as a warning and explained he would have to fill it out if any problems occured in class. I then told her how he was sleeping and ignoring class instructions and how I tried to wake him up. Finally, I told her about the comment he shouted, sending him to another teacher to do the note home, and the response he wrote. She was short to me, never really speaking or asking questions and hung up the phone. I thought it was all odd but left it alone and went on home for the night.

    The next morning my administrator calls me to tell me the mom has requested a conference with him and myself. He asked if I knew what the conference was about, and I told him the story.

    According to his schedule we can not meet until mid-January. I worried I might have hurt Bubba and decided to call home again and see if she would want to meet with me, my team members, or have a conference call to solve any issues immediatley for the best interest of Bubba. I explained to her that if I had done something to Bubba (such as embarass him or hurt his feelings) I would want to fix it ASAP, so he would be comfortable in class for the next 2 weeks after break. She said no, she could wait and it was something that needed to be done in person.

    My adminstrator said he would allow her to vent in the conference and say what she felt she needed to, even if it hurts my feelings. He told me he would stop it when he felt it was enough.

    I am not sure how to approach this conference and what my rights are as a teacher. I do not want to be harassed throughout a conference in the middle of the work day. I worry how much I can defend myself. I worry I should have a represenative on my behalf, and if the school has my back (as they say they do). I know I did nothing wrong and have replayed the situation over and over again in my mind and can find no wrong doing. I never swore at him, called him a name, etc. He might have been embarassed, but I tried to fix it and apologize, but was refused.

    I have never been in this situation and need help and advice. What did I do wrong? What do I say? How do I not go into the conference angry? What are my rights? Please help.

    This mom has caused problems with her older son last year with another team. She argued with them about fair grades and poor Johnny did not know what the expectations were and the assignments were laid out.

    For other information. Nothing other then the phone call has happened due to his comment. He has had no other consequences. I was told if I have any other problems with him in class I am not to deal with it, but call the administrators.

     
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  3. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Dec 28, 2005

    Under no circumstances should the administration let her sit there and berate you. They should back you 100%. Right now the kid seems to feel he has the power (most likely due to mother's attitude). The only thing I can suggest is be as consistent as possible and try not to let him have the power in the room. (I know...easier said than done.) Good luck!!
     
  4. kabd54

    kabd54 Cohort

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    Dec 28, 2005

    It sure sounds like you have an uncooperative parent and child. Bubba seems to think that he can do and say what he wants because Mama backs him up. I know that our Grade 8 teacher has a notebook on a couple of his students - the page is divided in half - one side for acceptable behaviour and the other side for unacceptable behaviour. He dates the page and when the student does something - either good or bad - the teacher has the student write it in the notebook in his own handwriting. At the end of the day, it goes home to be signed by the parent(s). (He keeps a photocopy for his records, just in case....).

    Do you have a union rep at the school or someone that you can have sit in during the interview? Oftentimes, reps will step in when the administration doesn't in order to protect the staff member from parental abuse, or administrators who don't back up the teacher. I know that in our area, if a rep is in the room and the parent starts to get worked up, they can and sometimes will, call the meeting to an end.

    Whatever you do, remember that you do not have to sit there and take verbal abuse. You can excuse yourself at any time from a meeting. You can say that you need to get back to your students and then leave the room.

    My suggestion is, as of this moment, document, document, document. Keep a log of everything that happens. Make sure you have the date and if necessary, the time notated. This will give you the information you need to go into a meeting with the parent and principal. If you're anything like me, I draw a blank during a conference of that type, and it really helps to have the documentation in front of me. It shows just what Bubba has been up to.

    Good luck! :)
     
  5. AZDocStdnt

    AZDocStdnt Rookie

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    Jan 1, 2006

    Difficult Student

    Hello,
    I'm new (hello :), but have seen students like Bubba throughout the years--particularly gifted students. I was a school counselor after teaching for several years, and thus have had students like Bubba in my class and again on the other end as a counselor. On the one hand, something is definitely going on at home to make Bubba act out in your class. You see this every time you have Bubba in your class, and probably confirmed your suspicions after your phone conversations with mom. It could be assumed that his behavior might be caused by boredom, as is usually the case with gifted students who exhibit behavioral challenges, but seeing as the entire class is a gifted class, this is unlikely. Regardless, you can't change the home environment, and guessing from mom's behavior over the telephone, matters may be skewed and unresolved after the conference.

    For the younger kids (this may/may not work with middle schoolers), positive reinforcement has worked wonders for me. I ignore the behaviors (such as putting their head down during class) that are not "good," but if I catch them doing something right, I praise right there and then. For attention seekers, this seems to work a lot of the time because they aren't getting attention for bad behavior (which is what they want), but they are for the good behavior. It takes time and TONS of patience, but again...it has worked for me. Considering that the referrals, detentions, etc. have not resulted in a change in Bubba's behavior, a change needs to take place as far as your strategy goes. Believe me--it isn't that you're doing things incorrectly (or you'd have an entire class of Bubba's!)--but some kiddos are screaming for attention because of something that ultimately is out of their control (like home environments, turmoil, or whatever). It isn't easy for teachers when kids' anger is directed at them. You are not the cause of Bubba's anger, but as the recipient, you can do things to manage it.

    Does Bubba create a "domino effect?" Do students feed off of his behavior? This may be more problematic for the above strategy, but if you conduct class as usual, he may eventually tire of pushing your buttons. Ultimately, the student will be responsible for his grade--and if he isn't doing the work, the grade will show it (won't it?).

    As for the principal, he/she MUST back you 100%. You might want to talk to your principal about the matter before the conference. If mom sees that you have support, she will see that it will be very difficult to place the blame on you rather than on Bubba (or herself).

    I hope things get better.
     
  6. Andrea L

    Andrea L Habitué

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    Jan 1, 2006

    Definately get a rep from your local union to come in and sit with you! I hope things get better for you. Keep your head up and don't let this incident get you down.
     
  7. teacher333

    teacher333 Devotee

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    Definitely document everything that goes on in class to report at the mid-Jan. conference. It is a shame you have to wait that long to find a solution to the situation. I am hoping that this child also will be required to attend the meeting, as he needs to be there to hear what is being said. How are his grades? Is he completing work, is he bored, etc.? Have there been any changes going on at home -illness, a death of someone close, change in jobs, family situation? Get guidance involved - they should already be involved at this point. The principal also needs to speak to the child, that is HIS/HER job, especially if one child's attitude/behavior is causing an interruption in other's learning. Good luck - it does not make the job any easier, and it is amazing how just one child can make such a difference in class.
     
  8. Miss W

    Miss W Phenom

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    Jan 2, 2006

    Can you conference with the principal ahead of time to discuss the problem and show the documentation you have. Since this is an excelled class the student has the right to participate or be put in a normal track classroom. He, and his mom, have no right to walk all over you.
    I am in a simular situation right now with a mother who wants her child pulled out of my classroom because grades have dropped. It's hard not to be angry when you walk into the conference. Hopefully you can meet with the principal before hand a make a game plan. This may help you be calm and professional in the meeting. Good luck.
     
  9. boogaboo214

    boogaboo214 Companion

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    Jan 2, 2006

    miss w I agree, if it is a gifted class then that would be a privilege not a right. and I would tell the mother that if bubba can not participate in class and have acceptable behavior that it would be necessary to move him to a normal class. I also believe that the child thinks he can do what ever he wants to because the parent is very uncooperative with the system. If you document every thing and the child were to fail then when the parent were to question it then there is no fault there except the child and lack of participation. Do part of the classes overall grade come from attendance and class participation. One of my teachers used to give a short two or three question quiz at the end of class to or three days a week over what was covered in class discussion that day. If you know you get a grade for listening you pay attention more. but overall sounds like a tough situaton to be in because there is no real way to deal with the mom's attitude and that could be the root of the problem.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2006
  10. NathalieBug

    NathalieBug Rookie

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    Jan 7, 2006

    I agree with the ideas about having a union rep accompany you to the meeting and bringing a tape recorder. Just sit it out on the table and let her know that the session will be recorded for documenting purposes. That will offset a few parents who would like to fly off the handle if they know they are being recorded.

    While allowing Mom to "vent" first seems drastic, its actually good to hear exactly what her problems are first. That way, you can have answers (good ones) ready for her when she calms down rather than your speaking first and her having answers ready for you.

    As far as Bubba goes, I've got a few like him. I have something in my 8th grade classroom that I call "solitary confinement". Basically, it's an area against the wall that is boxed in on two sides by filing cabinets. The child is unable to see or communicate with the rest of the class. Disrespectful behavior gets you thrown in solitary, while good behavior will get you out. It's amazing the things that children will do to not be separated from their peers. It seems extreme, but you have to punish them on a level they see as a punishment. Writing them up does nothing, verbal warnings do nothing, notes and calls home to parents do nothing, so hit them where it hurts. Take away thier ability to goof off.

    I wouldn't worry too much about embarassing Bubba. If he were misbehaving then he's the one who embarassed himself by pushing you.

    Sounds to me like Mom thinks you are a professional babysitter. She can complain and call as many conferences as she'd like, but the real issue here is modifying Bubba's behavior. She is obviously incapable of it, but you're not. I promise you, this board would have a litany of good ideas to handle that one "problem child". If possible, I would recommend trying to speak with some of Bubba's teachers from last year and asking about his (and his mother's) behavior. You may be surprised by what you find. They may also be able to give you some great ideas on handling Bubba and Mom in the future. Best of luck!
     
  11. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Jan 8, 2006

    I've waited several days before writing this. If a child is identified as "gifted" then they have an Educational Plan, and just like students in special education, with IEPs, gifted students have the right to be in the gifted program -- it is not a privilege, just like having a special education teacher for a child with an IEP is not a privilege. You can't take away special education or gifted programs from children who have educational plans requiring them. Special education and giftedness are both "different ways" of learning. Being gifted doesn't equate to being advanced or smart -- it is a different way of learning and expressing -- a very non-linear approach. That's why gifted kids often have a hard time meeting deadlines, finding papers, or keeping up with assignments -- they don't think in "timeline order."

    Many have said they've had a child like this before -- I have BEEN a child like this before (although my parents would have sided with the teacher immediately, and my life would have been miserable until I conformed.)

    I agree that no child should be allowed to be disrespectful to a teacher -- and I won't even comment on the parents -- parents need to back teachers up.

    But try looking at this from a different vantage point. The behavior you are describing -- being a class clown (even to the point of being socially inappropriate) -- is one of the INDICATORS of giftedness. It is an attention-seeking device and coping mechanism that is probably so ingrained in this young man that he doesn't even know why he does it. I'd suggest trying to help this student find other outlets for his wit and humor.

    Sometimes an honest, heart-to-heart talk can do wonders with these kids. Telling him (privately) that when he does things like that, it comes across as disrespectful, and makes it hard for you to teach. Ask him point blank "Why are you treating me as if I don't deserve respect?" "Why are you doing things that disrupt the class and take away other people's chance to learn? Do you think it is alright to keep other young people from learning?" You might find that he had never even considered the affect of his actions. As an adult, we can see the direct consequences, but gifted children often have a hard time understanding linear progressions. Often times, these behaviors start with boredom (not necessarily from your class, but from a lifetime of always knowing the answers, and never being challenged.)

    Good luck.
     
  12. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Jan 8, 2006

    I agree with this point, however, an IEP (at least here in Ontario) is a "living document", which needs to be changed and modified to reflect the student's success (or lack thereof) in the program. If the student is not being successful, perhaps some changes do need to be made. (I'm not suggesting that he be withdrawn from the gifted program, but rather that perhaps changes need to be made in some areas of the IEP to reflect his difficulties).

    I also agree that with a student this age I would confront him with his behaviour...call him on it--"I treat you with respect; I expect the same treatment from you." It maybe won't have any effect, but may make him more aware of how he is coming across.

    Good luck!
     

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