Brush Fire Classes

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by NorthStar4512, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. NorthStar4512

    NorthStar4512 Rookie

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    Sep 4, 2013

    I have a couple classes (middle school) where students come in with a very severe attitude of disrespect and not caring. They escalate each other constantly.

    (To balance this, I have a couple sections of the same exact course who are angels.)

    Regarding the rowdy classes -

    - 1/3 to 1/2 the class is ADD/ADHD type boys (some are diagnosed and some are untested) who can't/won't/refuse to sit down, focus, or quiet themselves. They come in completely, utterly distracted with everything from a lost pencil to an "urgent" restroom need, to a conflict with a classmate, and each of these little dramas seems to render them to be loud, out of their seats, and completely unable to function. I'm not sure if I'm dealing with an emotional disturbance (diagnosed or undiagnosed) of if this is a big act (but for this many kids to put on this big an act on a daily basis would be really unusual.)

    - They know the procedures for the quiet signals, but on the bad days, its taken upwards of 30 seconds to 3 minutes for the class to respond to the quiet signals. In the meantime, the students who do quiet themselves, after a few seconds, decide to start shouting "shut up" to the students who are not responding, which escalates the entire class into a screaming match.

    - We've practiced Level 1 volume talking, but the class often, OFTEN escalates to Level 2 and 3 volume and can not keep a steady Level 1. (This is a class where some peer to peer discussion is often necessary due to the projects we are doing. I have alternated seatwork days with project days. Despite the behavior, at least 50% of the class is succeeding in their projects and even the roughest kids seem to be enjoying the projects, when there is enough peace/order that we can get them off the ground. The set curriculum for this course which I am mandated to teach, is project-based.)

    - This group really dislikes their classmates and get in the most ridiculous, petty conflicts with each other constantly. They escalate each other and this starts the "brush fire."

    Writing a random detention (random because I can't write the whole class, all I can do is pick the nearest misbehaving person and write one) has somewhat worked. I see the unfairness in this and I don't like it, but it feels like one of the only options I have.

    On the worst days when I am waiting much too long for quiet and these conflicts erupt, it has been effective to call Security or the principal to come upstairs and pull 2-3 kids out. When they see four adults with walkie-talkies come into the room, things get very quiet. I've been supported by administration and they do want to know when they are needed. What is occurring in these two classes is not the school culture we expect or have as a norm.

    We haven't had anything dangerous occur. It is just a ridiculous level of immaturity and uncooperation that should have been left behind in 3rd grade or maybe at age 2. Some of these same students are able to perform, cooperate, and focus when its a different time of the day or when they're surrounded by different kids.

    They are doing some of these same things in other teacher's classes. If it continues then several of them are going to find themselves expelled within a short amount of time. I've already referred 6 to the principal, have documentation (three strikes policy for minor offenses) for 6 more, and called 5 parents (most of whom don't answer their phone and don't return calls.)

    Tomorrow I'm planning to march kids right to the phone and we will call parents/guardians right then and there, and every offense in these particular periods is going to merit a detention and a documentation. It'll have to be a zero tolerance situation for the minute we get into the room.

    What else would you do? I'm a positive person, teach a fun class (according to the majority of my students over the years), tend to see the good in people, and get along even with these troublemakers (they see me in the hall and are usually very friendly outside of class.) I'm not even getting the chance to teach what I need to, and the 50% of kids in these rough classes who do care are getting cheated.

    A teacher who had a similar situation last year, said that after the first few weeks of school, most of her students realized it was easier to just cooperate instead of having run-ins with administration and discipline every day. I'm just amazed that it might take that long for the message to get through.

    What are some talking points I could use in conversations with these classes, and with individual students?
     
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  3. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Sep 11, 2013

    You mention up to 3 minutes to respond to directions, in this case a quiet signal. Taking the role of a student who likes to goof off, why should I respond to your signal immediately when it's more fun to talk to my neighbor? If the worst thing that can happen is a teacher standing and waiting I'll probably keep talking.

    Consider: The tough part about teaching routines is being prepared to can instruction at any time and reteach the routine. If students are not responding within a finite time (three seconds?) instruction should come to a halt and the agenda becomes discipline ... "Class, I can see we are not together on the quiet signal so we will need to practice some more. Everyone copy the procedure from the board and then I will teach a student, he/she will teach me and then you will teach your partner."

    Expect lots of "Oh, brother!", "Geez! Are we in kindergarten!" and other flavors of backtalk. Backtalk is always an attempt by students to trick the teacher into abandoning the current agenda, hand signal/quiet, to anything else. By reteaching and taking up valuable class time you are signaling to students what's important in your class. Also, consider starting your lesson with review of hand signals before you actually need to use them. Kids don't care what you say or write about your rules and routines. They care what you do about them.
     
  4. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Sep 12, 2013

    The first thing I would address is your "quiet signal". It's not effective. It's a waste of time. A quiet signal does not mean stop talking when you feel like it 3 minutes later, it means quiet now. So you need to work on that.

    If it were me, and your choice in this may be limited, but all projects would stop immediately. My instruction would consist of teaching routine and behavior, until they get it. It sounds like your admin is aware of these situations, I would ask them to be there and I would lay it on the line. Make it clear that what has been happening will not be tolerated, period.

    I would practice how they enter the classroom, and I would ALWAYS have a paper ready, on their desks, for them to complete immediately. The timer would be started, and that bell work would be due when the timer went off. No exceptions.

    Then I would work on how to interact with others. Only when they have that procedure down will projects begin again. You mentioned the curriculum, but I would point out to admin that the curriculum is not being taught effectively anyway, so you are going to need time to work on the behaviors before you can fully teach the curriculum. They may not agree with that, so you may not be able to, but I would at least try.

    I would only begin introducing cooperative learning slowly, when they have exhibited that they are ready for the responsibility again. If they slip up, go right back to teaching routine. However, once you feel like you have taught your expectations clearly, behavior instruction during class should stop. If they can't learn to behave during class, they should give up their own time to practice. One teacher I know used Retraining Cards. She would not stop her instruction in response to a student misbehaving, but would just place a card on his or her desk and go on. That card bought them time after school, where they would come in and practice the behavior over and over. It could be just sitting silently, how to raise your hand, how to sit in a chair, how to walk to the door, etc. She would have them standing up and walking to the door over and over, then writing about how to do it correctly, then describing it to others. They got the point.

    Finally, I would not interrupt class time to call a parent. I know it seems effective, but ultimately you are giving the student what he wants-attention and getting out of doing something (that's why the Retraining Cards were so effective-it was THEIR time, not yours). I would continue to call, but I would make it on their time.

    Also, you may want to consider not only calling for the bad stuff-make brag calls home to let parents know that Billy has finally learned how to sit in his chair for a period of time. Parents, especially the parents of those special snowflakes who just can't seem to get it together in school, always seem to hear only the bad stuff. Telling them the good stuff can help them react more positively towards school. Remember, in many situations, Billy's parents were the ones who 20 years prior were unable to sit still and behave in school, so making him do what they couldn't isn't always in their mind. The ol' "I hated school too, so why shouldn't Billy?" I guarantee you, even one call home to tell them something good makes them sit up and take notice, that maybe school isn't always a place that is associated with something negative. You've made a connection, so when you do have to call and say Billy had a misstep, they are more likely to help you out.

    Hope that book helps!
     
  5. NorthStar4512

    NorthStar4512 Rookie

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    Sep 12, 2013

    Thanks for the responses.

    Maybe I wasn't clear about what I was saying about the quiet signal: I have no intention of allowing them 3 minutes to get quiet. What I'm saying is that it's still so loud for that amount of time where no one is going to be able to hear me speak, so there's nothing I can do but wait.

    I would like to give consequences for this, but when it's an entire side of the room that keeps talking, I feel like only have two choices: Pick 1-2 people randomly out of the group and write them up, or, give a whole class punishment. I don't think there is any legal reason to not pick the first person out that I see and write them up... but I will definitely hear from that person that "it is unfair" because the other 9 or 10 people did not get caught. What are your thoughts on that? Am I going to get dinged by my administration or by a parent for picking random students out for discipline?

    Unfortunately some of these other great ideas can't really be implemented either:

    - Teachers aren't allowed to be in our rooms between classes or after school: we have mandatory hallway duty and bus duty. Kids go right from class at the end of the day to their bus area. I once got in major trouble for helping a student at the end of the school day. He came in with a question, I tried to listen to him and help him, and I was ordered to immediately get him out and take my station in the hallway.

    - Same deal for trying to set anything up or pass anything out in time for the students to arrive - I don't have a moment in the room where I can do this between classes. However, the students are usually okay at the start of the class period, but as the class period goes on they get worse and worse. Its the ADHD/restlessness thing and they get annoyed by each other the longer they are in the same room.

    - The only time I can possibly pull a student for extra time is during their lunch (which is also my lunch) and I am not giving up my lunch.

    - We can give lunch detentions which are served with the detention supervisor, and we can record minor rule violations on a "3 strikes" sheet. After 3 strikes we can write it as a referral which goes to the assistant principal for resolution.

    I do like the idea of having students copy a procedure down on paper and extra practicing of this.

    I also had the thought of focusing on 1 behavior per day. For instance, the focus behavior tomorrow could be Out of Seat Without Permission. Just like a traffic cop on DUI patrol, I could just narrow in on that one behavior the entire day and snag everyone who violates it.

    I do love "happy calls" and I have used those often! Not so much yet this year, but in previous years. Our parents so far are pretty responsive in most cases, for both bad and good behaviors.

    Thank you for the explanation about backtalk. I needed to hear that.

    Thanks!
     
  6. NorthStar4512

    NorthStar4512 Rookie

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    Sep 12, 2013

    Also, how can you determine what is a legitimate restroom request and what isn't?

    With regard to my worst class where this happens all the time, my students have had the opportunity to go to the restroom approximately 45 minutes before my class starts. After my 45 minute class, they can use the restroom again.

    Should I start referring students to the office for asking to go to the restroom? I have no idea how to tell if a request is legitimate - I really don't.
     
  7. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Sep 12, 2013

    Gotcha.

    You are correct. The kids will think you unfair which, done this way, is unfair. If you are trying to build relationship with students this is not the way to go about it. Instead of spending a lot of time and effort in reacting to problems would it serve a greater purpose to use techniques which prevent talking in the first place - so you won't be stuck "I need to punish them for ______ "?

    "Bell work" can be taught as part of structure the first days of school. Some teachers use "Two-problem" approach, Daily Oral Language, sponge worksheets etc. as a daily routine when students enter. It is critical to have something for them to do - a routine - when they enter the room as this signals this classroom is a work room. Sometimes I stand outside the room, line up students, greet each, hand each a transition worksheet (something easy and self-directed) as I let them enter one-at-time. If anyone talks or is not working we stop and start over again from outside. Some classes are able to do this after two practices. On occasion I've practiced 6-8 times before kids finally figured I was serious.

    The "entrance" is critical and lays the foundation for everything that follows. If kids are allowed to stroll in, socialize, mill around how will you get them in their seats? If you have nothing for them to do when entering they will use that time for their agenda which is talking to friends. In short, by not being proactive and preventing behavior problems from starting you will be constantly one step behind the kids trying to put the lid on behaviors you had a hand in promoting.
     

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