Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the talk

"the world is terrible!" says one of my students. well, technically, he's not one of my students. but he knows me, just like all sixth graders in six land know me. "the world is terrible!" this is after all of the students go for lunch. something's been bothering him all day long. it's come to a head, and my teacher (i've come to say "my teacher" for my supervising teacher--it's much easier to say) isn't there. i guess it's now or never.

"what's wrong?" i ask.
"everything!" he answers.
what's everything? i think. "what's everything?"
"everything!" he says.

i realize this is going to become a guessing game, so i have to pull something out my butt. i asked about his grades, if he's disappointed in them. he says yes. but that's not it. is it family? parents yell at you about grades? no. is it about your brother? i hit it. yes.

the conversation goes on this way, and i glean some of the information from student. he's got an older brother, who he looks up to. he wrote about his brother in a creative piece a while ago. he's a light in an otherwise bleak dark spot, it seems. now they're not speaking. maybe i should've gone deeper, but i know they're both not calling each other. i haven't gotten into the root of the problem, but i start to give advice based on my own experience. how sometimes the other person doesn't realize they're causing you pain by not talking. sometimes both parties don't realize what's important; they forget. all it needs is a little push--an email, a call--from one person to remind the other of what's important.

i guessed that was the problem. i tell this to my sister, a social worker (she's just come home for thanksgiving) and she told me that was the wrong thing to do. or, at least, on a legal standpoint, it wasn't something i should've done. i can't tell them to do something because what if it causes problems; what if i had guessed wrong and there was a real good reason they weren't speaking to each other? the best thing i could ever say is to have him talk to his parents to see if it would be ok to call the brother. it's a family issue, keep it within the family, i suppose. it's not my call. the kid's only a sixth grader, afterall. the best thing i could every do is simply listen.

what a tough situation to be in. it's a good lesson, to learn, i suppose. to just keep my mouth shut and listen instead of give advice. sometimes no advice is best. maybe moreso on a legal standpoint. but then again, is it ok to give advice? or who am i to tell a kid what to do, or what they should do? i'm leaning towards following my sister on this one. she's always been the wiser one about these kinds of things, anyway. but i put it out to the public: to advise or not advise?

Friday, November 14, 2008


whether you believe in it or not is one thing; to actually experience it (ADHD or just hyper-activity) as a problem in your classroom is another story. i have--will have--three students in one class (two for sure, at least) who have ADHD/hyper activity. all three are extremely off-task, and have the discipline/redirection memory of a goldfish (pretty much a little more than 3 seconds (after some quick wikipedia research)). they act out to impress each other sometimes, or just act out.

my teacher has worked out a deal with one of the kids: he concentrates for 20 minutes, he can leave for 5 to get a drink of water, take a walk, whatever. he's upheld the deal for the most part. the other has a hard time since he's bullied. i think part of his acting out is that, and also his general notion that he has to be funny in class. that's what he had confessed to us, anyway, when we (i should say my teacher, because i am sometimes so in awe of her ability to care for the kids that i stand there dumb and shushed-up) (she says it's cause she's a mother) had a talk with him and his friend. the other kid is just out of this world. he put a lock in his mouth--a locker lock. i mean. i mean, really. sixth grade? kid's a space cadet. and yet, he wants a reward system to tell him that he's doing well so he'll focus! is that possible? will that happen? i wonder.

my question is: how do i deal with this triple threat? when it becomes unleashed, the wrath of hyper-hell comes upon us. when they're focused, they are on. it's a rare occasion, but it happens:

"MAKE DIRECTIONS AS EASY TO FOLLOW AS POSSIBLE. Always have the students attention before starting to introduce something new. Give students time to beging homework in class before they leave to help answer questions that could arise.

MONITOR PROGRESS. Look at the students assignment notebooks and/or folders on a regular basis to make sure they are doing what they are suppose to. Ask them to tell you about the goals they have for some of their assignments, feelings about your class, ect..

USE ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENTS TO MEASURE LEARING. Don't rely only on the traditional standardized tests where you sit for a long time and fill in bubbles. To an ADHD student that could be tourture. Try such ideas as orally giving a test, projects like discussed earlier, ect.. "

think these things work? how do i assess writing if it won't work? although, writing doesn't seem to be too much of a problem with these kids. keeping them writing might be. does it work?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

a follow-up for names

calling Paola Paola now--i wonder what kind of effect that's had? i call her that, but there's no smile on her face or anything. do i take this to heart, or do i just chalk it up to that's just how it'll be?

i don't remember what it was like to be a sixth grader. when something pleased me, did i just as soon turn my back to it? or if not turn my back to it, just not show as much enthusiasm?

either way, i still like calling her Paola. it makes me smile.

turn arounds

it's insane to see how little turn-around you get when you give a talk to some of your students. even regular redirection.

i have a class. the class that makes me worry because i don't exactly see the kind of dynamics that play out. there are a few kids who can be on-task, there are a few kids who are very on-task, and then there are the extremely hyper and plain disruptive kids. these four children are the ones that bring down the system. they destroy the dynamics of the class, and create a culture of disruption because they feed off of each other, which in turns allows the others to feed off of that energy. the class ends in a big quilombo (a big mess in argentine spanish), and i end up looking like my top is going to blow.

i've tried to get some of my students (two, in particular) to strike a deal with me: you fulfill such and such criteria, and i will allow you to sit in a certain place. you say that sitting next to certain people will allow you to concentrate better than sitting alone, then i'll let you do it. but you abuse that, and all privilege is taken away. i feel as though they understand this. they know what to do, but they still ignore it. they're so into impressing each other with fart noises (something i myself enjoy, which takes all the fun out of it), belching, and side conversations that they blatantly forget what it is their original task is supposed to be as well as the deal they struck with me.

discipline and redirection does not work. i find myself calling them out on the stuff they pull--today i called one kid out about calling another kid stupid, or some such insult. i asked, in a very, very harsh voice, "tell me why you think that was appropriate. why? why was saying ____ appropriate? tell me why you're disrupting my class with those outbursts." and just kept on insisting until the "ummm..." stopped and he said i don't know. and then i turned into a calm, low voice and continued. i say it as if it were that simple, but it's never that simple.

i sometimes survey my classes and think to myself: i just don't know what to do right now. and i honestly don't. they expect me to act a certain way because that's how i've been acting up until now. how do i break that mold? one of those disruptive kids, while i started to look like my top was going to blow, said to everyone, "oh he's going to yell! 5...4...3...2..." what do you do with this? what do you do with so many different challenges in one single room without your head spinning?

on the plus side, we're doing robert frost! the road not taken leads to strawberry jam and peanut butter sandwiches.