There Will Be Rum

Today was a pisser.  No, really.

Yesterday, I received a new student.  Well, new to me.  He came from the class next door where for the first 10 days of school, he wreaked havoc, screaming “No!” at his teacher and often running out of the room and rampaging around campus.

It was decided by the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, that it was the combination of an inexperienced teacher and other strong personalities in the class that made it wise to move him to a new classroom.  When the AP told me about it the day before the move, she admitted to me that he’d run away from her office before she’d sent him home for the day.  I said that I didn’t know what I could for him do if administration clearly couldn’t control him either.

But Little Hellraiser E1’d in my room yesterday.  It wasn’t exactly smooth but it was tolerable.  Fast-forward to today.  He started out fine, adhering to our ‘First Things First’ tasks, completing his Morning Work and even reading for a few minutes.

But it was during my iii block about 15 minutes into the instructional day that he began to go downhill.  The schedule is so tight and I was trying to get the iii lesson done but I had to keep stopping to redirect my new friend.  I finally had him sit beside me while I finished the lesson.

Following iii, we began our Morning Meeting.  When he refused to join the rest of the class on the carpet, I chose to continue with what we were doing and put him on ‘Ignore’ as he roamed around the room.  That’s when the shit hit the fan.  As we continued to ignore him, he began to escalate his behavior, eventually scooting a 6′ tall rack of journals toward the center of the room and pushing it over onto the carpet, causing kids to scramble out of the way.

Before we could do anything else, he’d grabbed a chair, carried it toward a cluster of kids cowering by the wall, and proceeded to throw the chair at the kids.  (All of this I have on video on my phone.)  I pushed the call button and told them a student was throwing chairs while I had the kids line up at the door.  We then went out onto the sidewalk and waited for the BIC to come.

While we were outside the room, he absolutely trashed my classroom.  Mind you, he wasn’t screaming, he wasn’t angry, he was simply destroying everything in sight.  When the BIC arrived, he and the AP had the kid clean up his mess while I took the rest of the class to the playground.  The photos are from after it was ‘cleaned up’.

Little Hellraiser was apparently sent home for the rest of the day.  According to the Principal, whom I saw later, he won’t be back tomorrow, either.  I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t want him back in my room.  The truth is, he poses a danger to other students, both physically and academically.  I can’t do my job properly if I’m constantly worried he’s going to hurt someone.

And another fact:  I am a highly qualified professional educator.  I’m hell at teaching kids to read and to write and to perform first grade mathematical functions.  I am NOT a psychiatric nurse.  I am NOT a social worker.  I am NOT trained in dealing with mentally disturbed children.  And it’s not what I want to do with my life.  I can go through the union to refuse to have the kid in my class.  I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

wpid-20150902_165350-1.jpgThis is happening tonight.

I’m not Miss Beadle.

Fun Friday

In the OK Corral, we’re all about positive behavior management.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when Mrs. R. blows her stack.  But by and large,rather than forcing kids to behave out of fear, we like to give them good reasons to do the right thing.

One thing we do is that we collect compliments.  As we move through the hallways to and from lunch and Fine Arts, we endeavor to do such a great job walking along that grownups we pass are compelled to compliment us.  Each compliment translates into a letter as we try to spell out ‘Fun Friday‘ on the front board each week.  Compliments from our Principal and AP are worth 2 letters.  Note that it resets every Monday.  Because Mrs. R. is a hardass.

When we gather the equivalent of 9 compliments, we set aside a little time on Friday afternoon to do something special.  Sometimes we do popcorn and a (short) movie.  Sometimes we do a special craft project.  Sometimes we take the balls and jump ropes outside.  Occasionally Mrs. R. springs for ice pops.

wpid-20150821_133107-1.jpgThis past Friday, the first of the new school year, my class legitimately earned Fun Friday.  We did one of my favorite no-cost activities.  We got out the rhythm instruments and played music.  Jimmy Fallon has several videos on Youtube where he and a famous musical artist, along with Fallon’s band The Roots, play their hit song using classroom instruments.  Our rule is, When The Roots play, you play.  When The Roots stop, you stop. 

Here is one of my favorites, Call Me Maybe with Carly Rae Jepson.  Fallon also does Let It Go with Idina Menzel and All I Want For Christmas with Mariah Carey.  Whether or not you want to do Blurred Lines with kids would be up to you.  The point is, it’s a super easy Fun Friday activity that costs you nothing.  And the kids love it.

And just so you know, we already have 2 letters toward this Friday’s ‘Fun Friday’.

Because It’s Funny

In my classroom, I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement.  Give a kid a reason to do the right thing and more than likely he will. Most of the time, anyway.  To that end, one of the Jedi mind tricks I employ is a weekly competition for Table Points.  The three tables of my seating configuration try to rack up as many points as possible for good behavior, being kind, keeping their work space tidy, etc.

chalk_1_28A popular Table Points award is going just outside the classroom door and using sidewalk chalk.  I usually give the winning group about five or ten minutes while everyone else continues working on something mundane.  One time however, when a group of kids went out to decorate the sidewalk, a sweet little girl wrote ASS as big as you please. Yeah.

So now, we have a ritual before engaging in the use of sidewalk chalk. I line up the winners and have them make a little pledge.

Me: Raise your right hand and repeat after me: (various hands go up)

I, state your name,

Kids: I, state your name,

M: Do hereby solemnly promise,
K: Do hair spray sodomy promise,

M: That I will not,
K: That I will not,

M: Write bad words,
K: Write bad words,

M: On the sidewalk.
K: On the sidewalk.

Amen.

Okay, yes, sometimes I do say things just to amuse myself.

Why Witty Is A Better Teacher Than I Am

We all work hard at our school.  No ground is ever gained without tons of effort.  We try to come up with innovative ways to encourage our compact constituents be where they should be, doing what they should be doing.  There are lots of ways to reward good choices.

In first grade, we all do some sort of color system to give feedback on behavior.  We also use Class Dojo, a computer point system on which I will elaborate in a future post.  I like to give small treats on Fridays to reward kids who’ve behaved themselves all week long.  Occasionally, kids earn a trip to the Treasure Box in my room.

LunchClipart1Let me tell you why Witty Colleague is a better teacher than I am.  Witty allows kids to accumulate points for prizes.  For a handful of points, a kid can shop her Treasure Box.  For more points, there are bigger prizes.  It turns out that her biggest reward, the one for which kids will bypass erasers, pencils, and even small toys in order to save up enough points, is having Lunch With the Teacher. 

Yes, in exchange for 200 points, a kid can have lunch with Witty.  She voluntarily gives up her kid-free lunch period to take her young friends to a picnic table outside where they discuss the vagaries of Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, and My Little Pony over the exotic gastronomic offerings of the school cafeteria.

Giving up lunch.  Now that’s commitment.  And why I will never be as amazing as Witty.

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Science Kid

I’ve written about several of my first graders in previous posts.  You’ve met Precious Precocious and Kid Danger.  Now allow me to introduce you to my friend, Science Kid.  He’s bright and very interested in science.  Earlier in the year we were discussing sequencing as an inquiry skill.  The illustration used in our science book was of the butterfly life cycle.  Science Kid pops out with, “That’s a chrysalis.”  Indeed.

Something else that you should know about Science Kid is that he has ADHD.  On the very first day of school, mom practically threw him in my door.  “He should be on meds and he isn’t today,” she informed me before fleeing the scene.  Nice!  And believe me, you can tell the difference between a day when he has his medication and a day when he doesn’t.

Still, I don’t like to have preconceived notions about kids.  I’d rather go along and see what happens.  And what I saw was a kid who, while constantly in motion, appeared to me to try hard to do the right thing, and who also was apparently listening even when it seemed that he was not.

It was interesting as our class moved throughout the school to lunch and Fine Arts classes.  I kept getting the same reaction.  “Oh!  You’ve got Science Kid.  Wow!”  But truthfully, he seemed okay to me.

I realize that I’m more patient that some.  While other teachers might be calling home every day, I get that he needs to move, and so as long as he’s paying attention, I’m alright with him digging through the supplies and fidgeting with the edge of the carpet.

On the other hand, I’m not patient with oppositional/defiant behavior.  Suddenly, this is what we seem to be getting.  And again, I get that there are certain traits I can expect from ADHD, difficulty with transitions for example.  Today, he absolutely refused to stop working on an ancillary project that he can finish tomorrow.  When I insisted that he stop and leave it for another time, he set about trying to break a pen from the supply basket.  That’s not okay with me.  My patience is beginning to wear thin.

I try to temper my response to his behavior with the understanding that as unpleasant as he can sometimes be on the outside, it’s probably much worse on the inside to be Science Kid.

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So I’ve Noticed

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Kids are all different.  Some are sweet, some are smart, some are cute, some are adventurous.

I’m a fan of curious kids, those who genuinely want to know more.  About everything.  Often they are not the most well-behaved.  But that’s okay.

I’ve had kids who were too good for their own good.  Do you know the ones I mean?  I’ve found myself silently urging them to bust out and do something outrageous, just for kicks. It’s alright.  The world doesn’t end if you get into a little trouble now and then.

Then there are the un-lovely kids.  The ones who fight you every step of the way.  The ones who seem to believe their mission in life to to make your life miserable.  The ones you really don’t like, and you count the days until they’re someone else’s problem.

And they are the ones who need the most love.

There’s always a reason for the way they are.  I want to be the kind of teacher who keeps that in mind.  I don’t always succeed.  But hopefully, I win more than I lose.  It’s good to know that every day is a brand new chance.

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Just When You Get Everything Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

I got a new student about a week ago.  Getting a new kid just when you have everything up and running is hard.  He doesn’t have a Homework Folder, a Homework Journal, a Monday Journal, a Poetry Journal, a Writing Workshop Folder, a Book Baggie.  He doesn’t understand how we do homework in our class.  To which literacy center team am I going to assign him?  And you know he has no idea how to do our centers.  What is his ‘just right’ reading level?  It’s always a pain.

Enhancing the situation, our new friend is clearly accustomed to being coddled and spoiled.  He spent his first fifteen minutes in our classroom wailing like a banshee.  I’m not a callous hard-ass.  I get that it’s scary to be the new kid in a new place.  It’s not uncommon for kids to take a little time to warm up.  But wailing takes it to a whole new level.

After he calmed down, for his next magical trick he began to accuse other kids of being mean to him.  Trouble is, he hadn’t been there long enough to choose kids who belong to the “Most Likely To Pick on Somebody” club so he fingered some long shots.

My personal favorite moment of his very first day was when he waved his paper at me during Writing Workshop.

“What’s wrong?” I asked Pampered & Spoiled.

“I scribbled on my paper,” he replied.

“Well, I guess your new piece has scribble on it,” I calmly commented.

He proceeded to come over to my small group table and whine about the scribble.  That he’d put on his page.

wpid-20141013_093734.jpgDon’t you just love the $1 bins in the front of Target?  I always find treasures there.  There might be stickers, pencils, puzzles, little toys for the Treasure Box…all kinds of things.  Once a few years ago, I found this sign.  No whining.  It pretty much says it all.

I said to the petit prince, “I don’t know where you were, but you’re in real school now.  Do you see that sign?”

If one can whine while one nods, young sir did so.

“It says ‘No Whining’,” I informed him.  “You are in an official ‘no whining’ zone.  If you want to whine, you have to go somewhere else.  That sign says so.”

Sir Pampered & Spoiled regarded me solemnly.

I sent him back to his seat with one parting thought: “I don’t make the law.  I just enforce it.”

Well That’s One Way to Do It

My girl Witty Colleague had a day on Friday.  You know the kind.  The kind where Murphy’s Law prevails.

It ended with a bang, too.  It seems that one of her sweet little munchkins took exception to having his color changed to Yellow in his agenda.  You see, we use a color system to communicate with parents on a daily basis regarding the behavior of their children.  Green indicates a Good day.  Some teachers, Witty included, utilize a system whereby a kid can actually move up from Good to Great.  The opposite is also true; if your day is less than stellar, you can move down to Yellow, Orange, Blue, or even (duh-duh-DUH) Red.

At any rate, I don’t really know what infraction led to such a traumatic life event for poor little dude, but I knew things were not going well when I saw him being walked down the sidewalk, kicking and screaming, by our Behavioral Intervention Specialist.  He’s great at what he does.  He’s like the kid whisperer, deescalating tense situations.  I like to refer to him as The Enforcer.  You can just hear the song, can’t you?

When you have a kid

And he’s flipping out

Who you gonna call?

The Enforcer!

I saw Witty after school.  She reported to me the story of how I came to see little dude being escorted away from her room.  He’d received Yellow in his agenda, which, all things considered, isn’t really that bad.  I mean, you can’t expect to hit it out of the park every day.  And, every day is a brand new day.  So, lighten up, Buttercup.

But then I heard the cherry on top.  According to Witty, after she marked his color Yellow, little dude proceeded to tear out the offending page and eat it.

He freakin’ ate the page. 

Just when you thought you’d heard everything…

Bless His Little Heart

I overheard a conversation between one of my dismissal charges and a kindergarten teacher after school today.  He, being a very observant little dude, initiated a bit of a chat when he realized that she had treats. 

“Can I have one?” he asked meekly.

“I don’t know,” she replied.  “How was your day today?”

I smiled privately.  During lunch I’d heard his teacher bemoan the fact that he was in rare form and had been having a spectacularly un-stellar day. 

“I’ve been bad today,” he sheepishly answered, much to my surprise.

The pair struck a bargain wherein if he has a happy face on his agenda tomorrow, she will reserve a treat especially for him.

I’ll be tucking away this little moment so I can pull it out on one of those days.