Sunday, 13 July 2014

Altering Student Behaviours 101

My dad shared this Blog post with me on Facebook. He shared it with a few of my other siblings as well... and of course it's absolutely brilliant. Have a read for yourself. http://www.cuppacocoa.com/a-better-way-to-say-sorry/

It reminded me of what I had done on the last day of school, last period of the day with my Year 9 students.

Last term we had an overwhelming resurgence of knitting... well basically looming. Because loom bands made their way into schools, all kids were creating them, boys and girls - and it tended to be the boys who created thw best ones and showed them off to me. Of course it was the boys in my class who I noticed being entrepreneurial first off when selling the bands.. hopefully to raise funds for more bands and then carry it on...

Of course with any new fad, someone stupid ruins the fun and it gets dangerous.  For example, planking and most recently the ice challenge... Moe mai ra e matua.

In this case, there were competitions in who could fling a rubber band the furthest or who could deal with being plucked by the bands the most etc. Mostly though - they became used to hurt others and ended up all over the school and on classroom floors. Eventually I became worried for the birds and after my first lecture about using proper rubber bands for slingshots back in the first term, I had to start confiscating mass loads of bands.

My Year 9 students are incredibly honest and always tell me the truth. We've worked hard on creating that trust and they know that my class is a safe space, and nine times out of ten I tend to give back things I've confiscated for the period... with the exception of the loom bands because it just got too out of hand.  

I originally thought and still think it's silly to confiscate the actual bracelets.. but when kids are ruining it for others and using them as weapons it's dangerous and unacceptable.

I even wore a couple of bands to show solidarity with the original loom band creators because it's a beautiful creative trend and was really impressed by the talent and time that went into making them.
My students knew the rules in my class and so when I would walk around the class, palm open to collect bands after someone was being stupid in class, they tended to just hand them over. I even had this one kid bring whole piles up to my desk because he felt guilty for not handing them all over.

Anyway....

On that last day, last period - we were working on creative writing.. having a go at one of my new games which I stole from 7 Days and Ellen Degeneres - Caption This.

Kids were having a ball, we were in teams, it was getting rowdy and then when finally it came time to do research projects on the COWs (Computers on Wheels) they were all quiet, researching their chosen topic.

Five minutes towards the end of the lesson however, two students started having an argument. These two were/are best buds and so as I'd seen the aftermath I got them to come sit with me and discuss what was going on.

All that I had seen was L go over to C and touch his shoulder. Little did I know that L had also flicked C on the leg with a loom band and C was really upset about it.

What I didn't see was that C had done the fingers to L because C hadn't heard L say sorry and that it was only a joke, because they do play pranks on each other.

L didn't want to sit down with me and C but eventually he did after I used his nickname that his Mum calls him too (which I didn't know when I first started calling him it!)...

I asked C what the problem was because he was nearly in tears and L was obviously not ready to start talking yet because of his attitude and body language. C told me that L had flicked him with the band and that it had hurt. L said well you didn't need to do the fingers at me because I said sorry C and said it was just a joke. Asked C if he had heard L say sorry and C said he didn't. Asked L how he felt being pulled the finger at and he said it wasn't fair because he had said sorry and was now angry with C and didn't want to talk to him anymore. I asked C why being flicked made him upset.. he said because he had had a bad day already.  L asked what the problem was and C explained. L said that he didn't even know that was going on. I asked C whether he would apologise for doing the fingers... he did and then I asked L if he would apologise for flicking C. He did and then asked them both if they forgave each other. C was quick to forgive L and L needed a little bit more time to agree but he did. They both shook hands and went back to what they were doing.

At the end of the bell while I was waiting on the ramp, preventing them from all making that massive run home early before the bell on the last day, both boys were laughing and giggling again. Crisis averted.

But how often as teachers do we let a somewhat small issue pass us by and not do anything about it.
If I had done nothing, perhaps they would have resolved it over the holidays or it could have become a huge feud which separated the class and ruined their friendship. Because of the kind of boys they are and once L had calmed down, perhaps they could have resolved it by themselves... but you just never know.

Take the time to get to know your students. Figure out their normal behaviours so that you can notice their bad days and then learn how to negotiate them so that they can find a way back to a happier and safer place in your classroom.

We're all leaders. All teachers in our own way. Make a difference and show some compassion.