Thursday, September 13, 2012

Discipline and a somewhat unorthodox strategy

Teaching definitely has its ups and downs. A down this week was when I substituted for the entire Grade 11 year group, and they were such monsters that I got home and burst into tears. They were unteachable, undisciplinable and generally awful.

- Not one of them did their work
- Most of them spent the lesson jumping out of their seats or chatting to their friends with their backs to me
- A group at the back decided to have an impromptu 'Idols' competition
- Some went to the bathroom, never to return
-A couple of boys 'went to the bathroom', only to lock the classroom from the outside while they wandered the school causing havoc.
-One of those two then stood 1cm away from my face, and laughed demonically, for about 5 minutes.
-When I asked them to stay for break as a punishment, they said, 'So what? We just had a whole lesson of break.' And half of them walked out anyway.

It was terrible. But what could I do? Nothing more than long for the days when corporal punishment was legal, I suppose.

I ended up mentioning the incident to their teacher (who had been sick) and let her deal with it. It seems to have done the trick, for now.

But then a high today...

I was in an incredibly good mood after acing my final Additional Language crit (in the top block of the rubric AT LAST! Woohoo!) and also managed to design an epic EPIK application lesson. Cake was provided in the staff room as it was someone's birthday, and I trotted merrily to the last class of the day - my somewhat better behaved section of the Grade 11 class.

At the beginning of the lesson, Little Miss 'I have 3 hours of prep so won't do any work in class but will instead do it for homework' (hereafter known as GHD, as her hair is always PERFECT) came up to me and said, "Ma'am, I want you to throw me out of the class today. Just to see what the rest of them do. So I'm going to be really naughty, and you must lose it and kick me out." Fine by me - they were completing yesterday's work and she'd finished it in class, so it wasn't a problem.

I don't know what you mean, ma'am. I wake up and my hair is just... you know. Awesome. 

Except that I struggled not to giggle. And she struggled to push me to my limits - even at her worst I was thinking 'But that's not so bad, really - she could be worse'. She interrupted me, contradicted me, claimed not to have her work, asked what the point was, was snarky and sarcastic and flat out rude, and so on... but it still wasn't quite bad enough to warrant kicking her out. Eventually she came up to the board and wrote (very small) 'It's not working!'. I shouted at her for writing on the board without being asked, accused her of changing the scores for the on-going dingbat contest, ordered her back to her seat... And she refused to go. So I ordered her out into the hallway. She refused, and perched on top of a desk. I offered to pack up her things to facilitate her leaving. She said, 'Go ahead, see if I care.' So I did, and handed her bag to her. She said, "Rightio, I'm going home!"

"No you will not, GHD!" I snarled, "You will stand in the corridor and read your setwork until the bell rings."
"I don't want to."
"Then you can stare blankly at the book."
"No!" Off she flounced. I stomped after her, slammed the door shut while shouting "Come back here!" (she was standing just out of view against the wall of the classroom) and shouted "GHD, LISTEN HERE..." and then we giggled about how it was working.

My mentor teacher had not been told what was going on until shortly before I kicked her out, and had sat there clenching his fists and trying not to intervene. The well behaved girls whispered "Do something!" at him, and he said, "It's not my place."

Funniest of all, the usually naughty group of boys complained that they were not able to focus on their work and that they didn't pay school fees to have their work disrupted, and that she should reimburse them for those fees.

Sue the bastards for all they've got, Susie!
With about 5 minutes to go, she started to laugh about it, saying, "Haha, the look on their faces!" I laughed about how hard it was to pretend to be angry, and how she really had not been naughty enough to warrant being kicked out. Especially because, being in such a good mood, my limit was waaaay up here and her level of behaviour was waaay down here.

The rest of the class started to catch on and discussed what had happened.

About 3 minutes later, the poor boy who hadn't been able to read past page 3 within the last 20 minutes due to the disruptions (ironically the same boy who usually takes 20 minutes of begging just to get to work) said, "Wait, what the hell just happened?"

Ah, it was beautiful. Especially because the rest of the class was made so uncomfortable by her unreasonable, childish and petulant behaviour that they worked quietly and diligently and tried to get her to stop. Some of the girls even developed a strategy of combatting her deliberate attempts to suck me into an irrelevant conversation by asking me to clarify questions every time she started up. I <3 them so much right now.

I wonder if this would work as a deliberate strategy with a class in which there is a small group of repeated disruptors (I made that word up). Basically, find an ally, one who has finished the work or who is ahead enough that they know what's going on, and get them to deliberately misbehave, thereby showing the naughty kids just how stupid they look, and how annoying it is to be continually disrupted. Maybe it would help. Maybe it would degenerate into the entire class acting up, and sheer anarchy.

I think it depends on your group. Also, you don't want to do this if they are doing important work. My class was simply answering revision questions in preparation for their exam next week.

What a fun day! :D

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