Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Classroom Management: That's Your Warning

I spend too much time giving warnings and demerits. Discipline takes up a lot of my time. I did not anticipate having to give warnings to twelve kids in a single class period, but that's happened more than once. The only good news is that I have stuck to my guns, and I think that in time, all of these disciplinary measures are going to pay dividends.

My classroom management plan initially entailed the following ladder of consequences:
1. warning
2. stay after class and talk to Mr. Hebert
3. write an essay
4. demerit

When I started the school year, the kids did the inevitable testing of the water. I gave out lots of warnings that first week, and I had to ask many students to stay after class. Too many students in fact: this step soon became more trouble than it was worth. I eliminated it during the second week. I continued assigning essays, and students did them (though they insisted they would not). But these did not seem to curtail student misconduct. So the third week of school, I eliminated this consequence. Now, my consequence stool looks like this:
1. warning
2. demerits

Students know I will not hesitate to dispense consquences, and now that I've given out handfuls of demerits, they are hopefully beginning to get the picture. I have seen a reduction in the number of students receiving warnings, and plan to use my amended management plan for the weeks ahead.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

August's Free-Style Blog Topic: Fighting

There is a sign outside Simmons High School that reads, "This is a fight free school." I noticed this sign recently after breaking up a fist-fight taking place in the nearby walkway. Apparently, those students had not been made aware of the school's fight-free status.

A lot of schools in America have taken a zero-tolerance stance toward fighting. The school I work at is not among these. We have had five or six fights at school this year. I have had a hand in breaking up three of them. None of the students involved have been expelled, or had charges pressed against them. Instead, they've all returned to school, receiving only detentions and demerits as a result.

Our school is trying a new discipline strategy this year involving demerits. If a student receives more than fifty demerits during the year, they are sent to an alternative school. You can receive demerits for any offense: I've given out two demerits for talking, or three demerits for talking back, for instance. A student at our school who started a fist fight received only twelve demerits for his trangression. Later that week, I gave the same student two demerits for talking in class. Is punching someone in the face six times worse than talking in the middle of class? There's no way to know for sure...but yes, it is at least six times worse. Students need to feel safe at school, and if fights are allowed to happen on a routine basis, students will not feel safe.

I go to school to be a teacher, not a bouncer. Our school does a good job placing teachers in high-frequency fight areas after school, and so teachers such as Mr. Thompson and myself have effectively handled most fights. But we need to make examples of students who choose to fight. There's no place at school for fights: it's hard enough to get students to pay attention in class. When there is a fight before class, that's all my kids can talk about. They notice who is fighting, and they notice when they are not suspended. I believe in order to promote learning, we need to do more to discourage fighting.