Friday, February 25, 2011

That's not my job

My 4th period class is my Waterloo this year. They drive me insane. So I took away their privilege of choosing their own seats. There was an up roar from certain students - which I expected.

Always Asking For One More Chance Kid: But Miss! Give us one more chance!

Me: No.

AAFOMCK: I'm not happy with this, Miss.

Me: My job isn't to do things that make you happy.

WTGHOWK: This is different Miss. You've changed.

Me: And so too shall you, if I have anything to do with it.

WTGHOWK better make a change. He is pulling a D right now, when he can do so much better than that. It's not even a D due to laziness (which is part of his problem). He's pulling a D because he's getting distracted and not engaging in the math we do daily.

I also made a bit of a break through - well, it feels like a break through right now. It might not actually turn out to be a true break through. But I've finally identified the one thing that makes 4th period the source of all my ulcers this year. And it is Alpha Male Boy.

Alpha Male Boy is very popular, very behind-the-scenes-grandstanding, and very, very charismatic. I had him leave the room to do his work in a different classroom at the top of the class period...and I did my teaching as planned, as I had practiced and adjusted and readjusted...AND I HAD COMPLETE CONTROL AND PARTICIPATION FROM EVERYONE ELSE. I taught the best lesson I had EVER taught to 4th period. I am not even using all caps for hyperbole. It was THAT great of a lesson.

Alpha Male Boy came back about halfway through the class period and the moment he walked back in, I knew it. It was instantaneous. The entire class' attention was back on him. The change was PALPABLE. Even the students who normally pay attention in class without any intervention from me - even THEIR attentions were back on him.

I had never realized just how much this kid had a hold on his peers before. Not until today. I wouldn't be surprised if some of my 4th period class heard my mind being blown away. I cannot fight a magnetic personality like that. It's a power struggle in which I won't win - in which I will drain myself of all energy and life-affirming beliefs if I even try. I just won't win; not at the middle school level, nor with the demographics and individual personalities of my 4th period class.

So I'm not going to fight it. I'm going to manipulate it. I have to make Alpha Male Boy my ally.

And I knew what I had to do. I pulled Alpha Male Boy aside after class and talked to him about leadership. When I asked, he told me he realized he can command his peer's attention. He admitted that he liked it. I told him that his natural talent to hold people in awe isn't a bad thing. That liking it isn't a bad thing either. But the way he uses this power determines not only his own direction in life, but other people's as well. And his direction in life right now, is a direction that was most definitely NOT good.

He had this smirk on his face the whole time. I didn't even have to ask him if he cared, I knew the answer to that already - it was written all over his smirk. I just told him point-blank that he probably doesn't care all that much about where he is going, or what he wants out of his education. I told him that's normal - many 8th graders don't care and don't know.

But I told him that I cared, and I know, and that's all the matters to me because it's my job to make sure he DOES care and DOES know - maybe not now, maybe not by the time he graduates 8th grade and leaves my classroom, but definitely when he's grown up and fully independent.

At this point, I asked him if he thought this was too much pressure. He said no. Knowing him, I guessed as much.

So I told him that he has to exhibit proper leadership qualities that benefit himself and others. That he could come up with his own incentive if he achieves that much (with my approval of course). He said he didn't know what would motivate him (his father had told me all of Alpha Male Boy's privileges at home have been taken away, but it hasn't worked, obviously).

Thus, I'm going unconventional. I'm pretty sure Alpha Male Boy will turn up Monday with no better idea of what he would like as in incentive to be a good leader than today. So I'm going to set up some independent study projects for him including but not limited to:

- mentoring younger students in a buddy classroom (most likely a 6th grade classroom, have to get a 6th grade math teacher in on this plan though, but I have an idea of who I can ask)

- some sort of tech-rich project where he has to create something, like a blog or a video, and share it with the whole of the internet (with parent permission)

These projects will replace the day-to-day assignments that I normally give. He will still have to take the tests and quizzes, but essentially his homework assignments are not practice problems, but a differentiated, guided independent study.

I better get some admin backing on this.

I should also run the idea by the parents.

But my initial gut feeling on this plan is: it'll work. Because throughout our conversation, his smirk slowly but surely drifted away. It came back right at the very end when I let him go - I don't know what that means right now, but I'll figure that out too.

I hope to the good Lord Almighty that it works. Please, let it work.

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