Mississippi Teacher Corps

Friday, November 17, 2006

Required I blog: two weeks of consequences

In mid-October, I started cracking down on infractions of my rules relentlessly and issuing out lots of consequences. I did this in part to require the MTC assignment that we pick one class, enforce every one of our consequences for two weeks, and blog about the results. I also did this because I wanted to start the second nine weeks strong by cleaning up my discipline problems, so I more or less attempted to enforce all of my rules in all of my classes for as long as I could. I'll be the first one to admit it: I failed. I did a much better job of cracking down on infractions, but I won't claim that I gave consequences for every single one. I tried, but there are times when I just get TIRED! Sometimes, it's easier for me to just keep talking to my class instead of interrupting myself to warn the kid who made a quick comment to his neighbor; there are only so many times I can jump on those little things in any given day before I start losing my focus.

My improved enforcement of consequences did not have the intended results. It may have helped to get some kids in line, but where I saw the largest effect of my actions actually had nothing to do with my kids or their behavior. My attempts at being stricter had the unanticipated, unintended consequence of rustling the feathers of my administration. Sometimes, I question whether it's really worth it for me to keep cracking down on infractions. My first consequence (after a warning) is a homework assignment to copy words and their definitions from the glossary of the book (10 words for each checkmark on the board denoting an infraction). Since at least 90% of my students never do the copying assignment, I almost inevitably go to my next consequence: detention. This is what has landed me in some hot water. Every time I give a detention, I have to write the student's name and infraction on a form and submit it to the principal for approval, wait a few days for it to come back, fill out 2 copies of another form, get the student to sign one copy (the worst part of all- I have to take class time to do this, and even though I am authorized to add more days to detention if the kid doesn't sign the form, I still have to answer lots of, "Gah-lee! What'd I do? When did I do that? That wasn't me! When do I gotta go to detention? How many days I got?" and by the way, at least several of these questions could easily be answered just by reading the slip), give the OTHER copy to the student to take home, and give the signed copy and approval form back to the office, by which I mean hand it to the cranky, bitter secretary who's in charge of discipline. It's lots of paperwork and time for me, the secretary is annoyed that I give her so many detention forms, and the principal called me in for a meeting to discuss discipline. The principal is concerned that I'm writing so many detentions in the second nine weeks, and is also concerned that I wrote so many office referrals last nine weeks (by the way, according to her records, I wrote 46 over the 9 weeks- that's an average of one per day, and I don't consider that excessive, especially given that I didn't write kids up every time I wanted to). This is really where the understanding breaks down between me and the other adults at my school: throughout summer school and TEAM, just about everyone I encountered advised me that I would be a teacher that would need to use lots of consequences, since I'm gentle and soft-spoken and physically unintimidating. This makes a lot of sense to me, and to be honest, I'd rather give a kid a detention calmly and with minimal words exchanged than yell at the kid to shut up until she did. My approach is precisely the opposite of that used by many other teachers at the school, who bark at the students and walk around swinging their paddles in a menacing manner. However, it seems that my administration and fellow teachers see the use of hard consequences as a sign of weakness and poor management. My principal has more or less said that I should get the kids back in line without using an official consequence because I should be able to look at them or say something to them that makes them do what they are supposed to be doing. To me, this is a difference in style, and giving a consequence rather than scaring a student into obedience is not a sign of weakness. And let's be honest: even if I tried harder to get students to listen by scaring them, a petite 22 year old from the North just doesn't have the same kind of power as the other teachers at the school. Try as I may, I just can't communicate these sentiments to my principal in a way that makes her see my point of view. Furthermore, she has told me several times that I need to start paddling. The other teachers sometimes tell me the same thing. I want to hit the next person who says that. I told the principal at the beginning of the year that I didn't intend to paddle, and when she asked me more about it, and asked if I'd ever feel comfortable paddling, I explained that I am against it, and, when pressed, gave some of my reasons for feeling this way. My principal said that was fine and she respected my decision. Shouldn't that have been the end of the discussion? Why am I getting pushed on the issue when she'd accepted my statement before?

Also, the school says that they will give one day of ISD to any student who fails to report to detention on the assigned day, but given the number of kids I see in the detention room every day compared to the number that should be there, it doesn't seem like the school is following through on this rule.

So, in summary, negative effects of sticking to my rules more strictly: conflicts with the administration, pissed-off secretary, grumpy students, lots of paper work for me, mental tiredness and approaching burn-out for me. I need to wait longer to see if the positive effects outweigh all this, but right now, I have my doubts.

Now playing- Grateful Dead- Ripple


  • At 6:15 PM, Blogger Diana said…

    Kind of ironic, isn't it?

    Furthermore, she has told me several times that I need to start paddling. The other teachers sometimes tell me the same thing. I want to hit the next person who says that.

    But understandable. I enjoy reading what you write and I appreciate your perseverance.

  • At 4:52 PM, Blogger Long skirt, blue jacket said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 4:55 PM, Blogger Long skirt, blue jacket said…

    The irony was, of course, intended. It seems like that sense of irony is lost on most other teachers down here, who paddle kids for fighting and hitting each other, so I've developed a certain sarcasm surrounding the issue.


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