EDUCATION

*Disclaimer: As an English teacher of more than twenty years, I have one too many opinions about education. Some have leaked onto this section of my writing site. Oooppssy!

A Modest Gun Proposal: Jonathan Swift-Style

(POLITICAL) In 2021’s volatile climate, it’s worth reposting…

NRA spokesman LaPierre once said that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This was, at the time, one of NRA’s first responses to the Sandy Hook massacre as they proposed to create a force of armed security guards to be posted at schools across the country-(more in that article from COLLEEN CURRY and SARAH PARNASS)

Here’s my idea Mr. LaPierre: Why not an armed guard at every door to make sure we don’t miss any entry points? Better yet, lets arm all the teachers and staff, this way when the shooter takes out the armed guard with his high-powered rifle from a distance, school staff can be ready to shoot. But if that fails too, why not arm the children too, right? This way every fear-ridden American, young and old alike can enjoy the right to live in an intense state of constant panic as well as the right to open fire at a moment’s notice and kill. Oh, yes, the Founding Fathers would be proud. No doubt, these are the rights and freedoms they envisioned for the 2nd Amendment (not protection from British soldiers invading their homes and violating their rights back in the 1770’s, but rather the right of every citizen today to live in an armed world surrounded by danger and fear). “Liberty, justice and a gun for all”–Think what that would do for the gun manufacturer’s profit margin–a gun for every citizen?–I gotta wonder how we ever survived The Wild Wild West? Oh, I know, with gun-control laws, regulations and common sense!

This post was inspired by a GREAT article posted by EDUCATION WORLD.

IN THE LINK BELOW, they provide an exhaustive list of how to infuse fun back into the classroom without losing the integrity of the learning process…

http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/archives/friday.shtml

I will be the first one to admit, that as a teacher, I was never one for sacrificing time-on-task for so-called “learning games” – but I soon learned that structured playtime implemented effectively can actually be more beneficial than any lecture or collaborative group project, especially come Friday afternoon when most of us (yes, including the teacher) start to mentally check out of the work week and begin daydreaming about our precious weekend leisure time.

But when I introduced “Fun Fridays” in my high school English class as a curricular strategy to improve engagement on those tough, low-energy Fridays, students were eager to join in. And when teens (which are wayyyyyy too cool for most things) join in the fun, you know you’ve done something right. Our “Fun Fridays” were engineered to showcase the week’s team debates on hot topics or current events students had been writing mini-Pros&Cons articles on – I figured what better way to give meaning and life to these (otherwise boring) English homework assignments, than to allow students a ten-minute prep time to collaborate and organize their strongest ideas against the opposing team by using their homework findings then spending the rest of the class period polishing those rusty argumentative, speaking, listening and collaborative skills.

IT WAS LIKE KILLING FIVE BIRDS WITH ONE STONE – not that I condone the killing of birds or killing of any kind btw – just saying that this informal debate game (made their HW relevant and allowed for practice of multiple skills). So the next time my admin or colleague questioned my choice to “waist” Friday away, I could turn to them confidently and challenge with a loaded question, “When was the last time you covered 5 state standards with one activity in which 100% of your students were fully engaged and having fun?”

AVOID THIS SCENARIO…

TRY ONE OF THESE IDEAS AND PUT THE SPARK BACK INTO LEARNING!

“KILL THOSE BIRDS!” (wink wink)

This post was inspired by a creative list published back in 1998 by NCTE’s Diana Mitchell. It’s a list of alternative activities/projects to reimagine the dreaded “boring” book report. Here is the link: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/EJ/0871-jan98/EJ0871Ideas.PDF

The caveat is…as a teacher, you MUST (whether the prompt specifies it or not) THAT EVERY CREATIVE ANSWER BE BACKED UP BY A STUDENT RATIONALE WHICH MUST INCLUDE TEXT EVIDENCE – otherwise too many of these prompts can be answered by savvy students without having read or understood the text, characters or plot at all. Demanding a rationale ensures that students are using text evidence-based answers that clearly and accurately connect back to the reading. AVOID FICTION in your fiction book reports; ask them to highlight the text evidence they based their conclusions on!!!


This article is a response to a post I came across today labeled “What a Great Idea.” A teacher (who has apparently had enough of dealing with the disruptions and distractions caused by cellphones in the classroom) finally initiated her very own cellphone policy. According to her new rule, students will only be marked “present” in her class if they agree to relinquish their cellphones upon entering the classroom and store them in a pocket chart on her wall until the end of the period. Students who do not comply with her phone procedure will be marked “absent” from class. Seems pretty straightforward. Many teachers, parents, and even some of those inept administrators discussed previously, would delight in the idea—thinking it’s creative and proactive. These people may fool themselves into believing that this is a viable solution against the evils of cellphone use. But just because students tuck away their devices doesn’t mean they will magically engage in the day’s lesson or participate.

#1: Not only is this policy far from a “great” idea, it is ILLEGAL! Attendance records are legal school district records. These official records are protected by confidentiality laws and must be accurate for the purposes of student graduation requirements, college admissions, truancy disputes, and often serve as prosecutory evidence in court cases. A teacher cannot mark students absent because they refuse to turn over their phones, or because they are disruptive in any other way. By law if a student is in class (learning or not) more than half the class period, they are legally present.

#2: By creating this policy (if she first manages to avoid prosecution for falsifying attendance records) the teacher has demonstrated a complete lack of trust in her students. Hers is not just a pocket chart for those who are caught using their phones in class and are asked to comply with the consequences; this rule is in place so all students must surrender their phones if they wish to be marked present. The message the students are hearing when they receive a classroom policy like this one is as follows: “Everyone, turn in your phones because I don’t trust any of you to make it to the end of class without using your cellphones during today’s lesson.” And now this teacher (whose initial intentions may have been noble) has created one of the most counterproductive scenarios in the classroom: a You-Versus-Them attitude.

#3: The idea that once the phones are removed students will engage in the learning is an illusion; a complete misconception. Teachers everywhere are deluding themselves if they truly believe that a student will all of a sudden become interested in the subject, the lesson or the classroom activity simply because he or she does not have a cellphone to text or Instagram with. Have we (the adults) forgotten the phenomenon once referred to as passing notes? Back in our “cellphoneless” time when the teachers bored us, or we hated the subject, or we were more interested in everything but the learning, we passed notes. Cellphones are the new notes and the responsibility of engaging the students still rests with the teacher. So whether we are dealing with written notes, texting or other distracting devices, if the teacher presented students with relevant, active, collaborative and creative lessons they would start to see cellphones disappear. Cellphones are not the disease, they are the symptom of a much greater problem: a poorly planned or executed lesson.

My cellphone policy is simple: I don’t have one. I have never made a big deal about students on cellphones even when administration at my school was on a cellphone confiscating spree. I will clarify, for those who would burn me at the stake, that having no cellphone policy is not the same as not caring if and when students are distracted and unengaged due to their phone use. I simply focus on the “distracted” rather than on the “distraction” because my ultimate goal is to find out (always in a one-on-one conference with the student) why he is not engaging with the day’s learning. I inquire until I understand the obstacle or the students admit (as is often the case) that phone use has become somewhat of an addiction for them. Together we formulate a plan—one where I recommend the student go for a few days, a week or even a whole month without removing the phone from his bag during class. I assure him that I believe he can do it and that more importantly he will see an immediate improvement in his classroom grade and achievement. After all, student success and achievement is all I, as his teacher, should focus on.

Every time I’ve share this no-policy policy with my colleagues, a follow-up question always surfaces: What about the student who has her cellphone out and is texting but is not disruptive and successfully completes her classwork and consistently scores proficient on assessments?

My answer: What about her? Is she learning? Is she completing assignments? Is she proficient on tests? Is she complying with the behavior expectations of the class? Is she participating when called to do so? If the answers to the questions above are “yes” than I congratulate for a good well done. I don’t undermine her efforts by taking her property away just because on some personal level it bothers me that she’s texting during class. I accept that this generation can multitask effectively beyond our comprehension and that despite some expert findings that say kids can’t perform multiple tasks well, if that student (and others like her) show me they can, I leave them to it and put my energy into planning and designing more engaging lessons.

Finally, after all your efforts and redirection, if a student still chooses to neglect her classwork, the lesson or refuses to participate (and is not disrupting the learning of others) use STEP #4 from my first post: Leave the student alone. Remember that as much as students have a right to an education, they have the right to refuse said privilege.

Just make sure that as the person responsible for their education, you need alert the parents or guardians of the issue and your attempts to correct the behavior. You should also hold set a meeting to formulate a solid plan with the student, family and other school resources (such as counselors and other teachers) to create an actionable contract of student goals and expectations moving forward.

NOTE: In a future article, I will address how the appropriate use of cellphones and other devices can enhance many lessons in the classroom.

REMEMBER:

*Don’t Make It Personal, Make It Positive.

*Focus on the Student, Not the Infraction.

Every Student Is Someone’s Child: Proceed With Caution!

A dear friend, Aida Rodriguez, comedian, actress, writer, director, and all-around entertainer said it best on the show, Truth Serum. She asked her listeners to remember Matthew McConaughey’s words when he asked them to envision that the student being brutalized was related to them. That it would change the way they viewed authorities in school using excessive force against students.

Sadly, most, if not ALL, classroom problems are avoidable if teachers made a point to address disruptive or unmotivated students, without taking it personally. Without seeing it as a challenge or an attack. Teachers must equip themselves with self-control and common sense every day. As humans, teachers must ignore everything that tells them to yell at the student or to “teach her a lesson” by embarrassing her in front of classmates. If they do, they have initiated a war that will obliterate any chance they have of creating a productive learning environment in the future. Students are like elephants; they never forgot (and seldom forgive).

Teachers must also ignore any impulse they may have to throw the disruptive student out of the room–they must understand and accept that it’s the student’s classroom too. Removing disruptive students or sending them to the principal’s office creates only the illusion of control. In reality, it’s equivalent to using a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding from a shotgun wound—this temporary remedy will just reinforce the message that if students don’t want to learn, they can simply cause a disruption to be sent out. An effective teacher should want his students to want to learn, not give them an easy way out of it.

“DON’T FORCE THEM TO EAT CAKE!” – A Satire of Yummy Proportions

*NOTE: My script was inspired by the video “Tea and Consent” written by rockstart dinosaur pirate princess, narrated by Graham Wheeler & animated by Rachel Brian https://vimeo.com/126553913

If, as a teacher, you are still fighting with students to learn, imagine (for the sake of this blog) you are a baker instead of a teacher.

Think of yourself as a proud owner of a bakery that specializes in cakes.

Think of students as customers. They come through the door and you offer them the day’s freshly baked special.

You point to the well-crafted, incredibly delicious and time-consuming cake.

It took you hours to bake to perfection, delicately ice every layer and artfully decorate it, so of course we understand that you would want your customers to sample it, buy and enjoy eating it.

So you start by asking your customer if he or she would like to taste one of the sample slices you’ve eagerly set out on a presentation platter.

Fear not – If your cake is as good as you say and your baking skills are as good as you think they are – your customers will absolutely try the tasty slices and say, “Yes, I would love to buy the whole cake. It’s delicious!”

But if at any point you have a customer that comes into your store and decides to just browse and says, “No, thank you. No cake for me.” Do not attack them with a slice of cake and force it down their throat.

Every customer has the right to refuse your cake.

Maybe they have had too much cake that day and need a cake-break.

Maybe their doctor told them to stay away from sweets for a week.

Maybe they are diabetic and cannot eat cake.

If they eat your cake it could send them into a diabetic coma resulting from high blood sugar levels.

But above all else, you must just accept the fact that the customer has refused your cake offer despite how scrumptious it is.

Just because you took all that time and effort to make it doesn’t entitle you to force them to eat it.

Avoid getting angry with your customers if they don’t want cake.

Respect the customer’s choice and accept that customers know what they want and what they don’t want so avoid forcing them to taste the cake.

Forcing your costumers can result in a disgruntled patron and possible assault charges.

Not to mention, that in the interim, all the other customers in your store that were going to buy and eat your cake and a few who were thinking about the purchase have reconsidered cake all together because you’re coming off as crazy.

Yes, crazy! It is crazy for you to try shoveling slices of gourmet cake into people’s faces after they have declined your cake offer.

We understand that it is annoying to work so hard and put so much time and effort into your cakes and have customers who are unwilling to even try a little taste.

But remember they’re under no obligation to eat the cake just because you baked it.

So please, remember that in order to run a successful cake business you should…

…keep baking well-crafted, finely decorated, gourmet cake creations…

…keep putting out delicious samples of cake slices on fancy silver trays…

…keep offering every customer in your store the yummy samples…

…keep boxing the cakes for all those who want to buy and enjoy you cakes…

…but never, ever force a customer to try your cake.

Remember that not everyone likes cake, wants cake or can eat cake.

At the end of the day, you cannot make someone who doesn’t want cake to eat your cake, no matter what you do.

If you can understand how ridiculous it is for bakers to run around their stores force-feeding handfuls of cake to their customers, than it should be easy to understand that teachers cannot force students to learn.

This logic should be a piece of cake (pardon my pun), but I won’t force you to eat it 🙂

*Here’s to hoping I can turn this transcript into a video – still waiting for students to take the video-making project challenge on.

ADMINISTRATION: A CONTINUATION

November 1, 2015

After talking to my editor (a.k.a. husband), he very astutely pointed out that unlike my first 2 posts, this most recent one about administrators was too “ranty.” That I should add the “solution” part in order to continue with my “fix it” focus. He said (and I am paraphrasing here) that if we just shout from the rooftops of a burning building without taking action or formulating a plan we are doomed to watch it collapse. And so, I propose that every administrator not only be required to teach a minimum of one section (or class period) regularly but also be evaluated based on the same criteria teachers are.

No matter how we define administration, it should be obvious that administration is just a teacher with a larger classroom: the school at large. Therefore, they should be required to posses the same (if not more) of the qualities of an effective teacher. The following are just a few that have been agreed upon by education experts for decades after extensive studies in the field, such as Stanford University’s own Eric Hanushek.

In my humble, non-Ph.D. opinion, here are the 10 most crucial qualities for effective educators out of a comprehensive list of 20. These actionable traits should be evident through proven practice by successful administrators in order for them to receive a proficient rating and keep their position as leaders of the school. Instead of giving them bonuses for proficient student test scores (which they have no direct impact on), lets reward them for exemplary leadership based on the following:

Firm, but Fair
Respectful
Caring
Approachable
Consistent
Enthusiastic
Knowledgeable
Good communicator
Good listener
Trustworthy

While presenting these specific qualities, I quickly envision an onslaught of eager hands in the air waiting for their turn to ask the obvious: how do we evaluate these qualities in a quantitative way in order to determine effectiveness? How does one measure genuine “caring” by observing a professional at work? Is there a checklist of what “caring” people do? My answer may appear too straightforward but with qualities like caring, respectful, approachable, enthusiastic , etc. it is often what the person is NOT DOING, rather than what they are. So instead of a checklist of what to evaluate or measure, perhaps a more efficient way to determine these traits is by developing a list that includes what they should NOT BE DOING as well.

CARING people don’t put their needs first. They prioritize the needs of others and actively work to meet those needs. Caring people don’t ignore or push people away even when they are extremely busy. They would acknowledge the other person, genuinely show concern over what they are trying to communicate and briefly but with empathy explain that they are in the middle of a task they must complete but at the next available moment they will get to addressing or discussing the issue at hand. Caring people don’t lack follow-through. They understand that you are depending on their actions, decisions, or advice in order to proceed and they don’t allow days or weeks to go by without updating you or “touching base” in order to keep you informed about the progress or possible lack of progress with your situation. I could continue adding to this list ad nauseum but instead let me demonstrate how this may look in an evaluative form as ready to use in an observation:

Example #1 – Administrator’s Actions Can Reflect Care/Lack of Care by:

Greeting student/faculty with a smile and positive greeting.
Extending an immediate response for assistance/advice to the student or faculty member in need.
Initiating a follow-up conversation with student/faculty about a pending matter
OR by…

Refusing to greet student/faculty with smile or positive phrase. (Make a note of absence of greeting as evidence of action not taken)
Employing strategies or techniques to avoid or delay involvement with the student’s or faculty’s immediate needs (quote verbal response as evidence).

Example #2 – Administrator’s Actions Can Reflect Listening/or Lack of Listening by:

Making eye contact and actively listening to the student or faculty without interrupting.
Asking follow-up or clarifying questions about the matter before rushing to decision-making or giving advice.
Allowing time to reflect on all angles/perspectives of the situation.
OR by…

Interrupting the student/faculty before they finish explaining their situation.
Rushing to decision-making without further inquiry, research, clarification, or contrasting perspectives
Refusal to allow reflection or time to confer with other administrative personnel in order to achieve a more informed, unbiased decision.

These are just a few simple examples of a possible format for an evaluation form but ultimately, administration evaluations – if they are to be valid – cannot be administered once or twice a year, under a scheduled meeting because this would ignore administrations day-to-day actions, comments and decisions. Students, parents and faculty should execute these evaluations on a regular “pop-quiz” basis without any scheduled planning in order to collect real-time evidence of proficiency or excellence. These daily or weekly administrative write-ups should be collected, filed and used in an end-of-year evaluation. By the time the year ends, there should be enough write-ups to clearly establish a pattern of behavior and professionalism, with observable data – positive and negative. Like with surveys, we must ignore the extreme low and high scores to conserve the validity of the write-ups and avoid extreme bias or emotionally charged entries.

Food For ThoughtI will close this topic for now by stating the obvious: if teachers are being evaluated and rated for the proficiency levels of their day-to-day strategies, lessons, and achievements, why should it be any different for administration (who have a greater responsibility to the community at large and reap the greatest financial benefits)?

Administration: Some Facts Behind the Farce in Public Schools

October 31, 2015

The word administration is synonymous with LEADERSHIP, management, command, operations, direction and supervision. So why are the acts of directing new teachers and students, managing a positive school environment, commanding the respect of faculty, running a smooth operation, leading and motivating others, and supervising and supporting staff, the tasks that school administrators struggle with consistently?

Many administrative personnel will say that corralling stubborn teachers is too difficult a job but it is no more difficult than managing the throngs of challenging students in a classroom. So who is supervising the supervisors to ensure the critical job of running an effective school is taking place? Do we leave this daily battle to be determined and evaluated during the once-a-year scheduled walkthrough the superintendent of the district performs while she is taken to handpicked classrooms to observe rehearsed, and often uncommon, practices?
I am the first to admit that finger-pointing is not effective in exacting positive change in our schools, but how can we sit idle and not ask these difficult questions? It’s impossible for me to see failing students, failing classrooms and struggling teachers without asking: what is administration doing to improve schools? Or more to the point, what are they NOT doing? If, by definition, administrators must know how to be effective leaders that exact positive change and have the tools, strategies and vision to maintain or improve education from its broadest sense to its most granular issues, why are the actions of so many highly-paid administrators (principals, vice principals, counselors, and student management personnel) downright detrimental to the functionality of a thriving school?

In more recent media coverage, the Spring Valley High incident where a female student was said to be disrupting a math classroom, is a prime example of not just teaching gone wrong, but another school scenario in which the administration failed the student. They failed to address her misconduct properly. They failed to administer a consequence that was appropriate to her actions (as in “the punishment did NOT fit the crime”). This girl’s administrators were her last line of defense. They needed to have shown up (as they did) and strategize with the teacher (who had already failed in managing the situation). Their jobs demand that they considered what is going on with the student, before any action is taken. Instead they stood by -these adult “professionals”- in the classroom while this young lady was flipped, yanked, and thrown from her seat by an officer who outweighed her by more than a hundred pounds. So I wonder: why is the officer the only resource fired? Why are the teacher and administrators who failed to do their jobs not reprimanded, forced to undergo additional training, or dismissed all together? Is it easier for friends, family, and the community at large to find comfort in the officer’s punishments? Yet the ROOT OF THE PROBLEM is the lack of appropriate administrative action.

If teaching is decidedly such a difficult job (some say one of the toughest) then why isn’t education and the schools providing it, reinforced with capable, assertive and effective administrators? Why do departments of education all across the country continue to put the budget-focused, standardized testing enthusiast, and all-around incompetent administrator in control of the dynamic, challenging day-to-day struggle of running an educational facility? It’s not because they come cheap. The anti-social administrator I referenced previously is cashing in a six-figure salary paid by the very families she is failing everyday.

Given the political nature of this issue, how do we: the regular citizen, mother, uncle, and taxpayer work to demand that the administrators in our schools are properly trained professionals that meet with a high rate of success in over 90% of school-related incidents (because we must agree that not all situations are going to have a viable solution). Dare to imagine a decision-maker that not only leads, but inspires his teachers to work harder and gives them the tools to work smarter, while always keeping the school’s mission and vision in mind with the safety and educational success (not just testing success) of all students as the primary focus. And, beyond dreaming, dare to act on those expectations!

Disclaimer: This is not to say that there aren’t schools with great administrators who not only do their job well but often go above and beyond the “call of duty.” I worked under such an exemplary leader my first four years in this profession. Without that great principal, the tools she gave me and the lessons she instilled, I would be a statistic (one of the many burnt out, unprepared brand new teachers that quit within the first three years) – Thank you, Ms. Somma! Perhaps the answer is staring me in the face because this great principal wasn’t just an effective teacher-leader, she was first and foremost an incredibly effective classroom teacher; a master of her craft.

FOOD-FOR-THOUGHT: What if it was a requirement that every administrator had to also be a part-time classroom teacher?

Teachers Are Responsible. Period!

After the event at Spring Valley High and other avoidable incidents occurring within our nation’s schools – it would be irresponsible of me, as a veteran teacher, to keep silent. For more than fourteen years I have worked with teens and pre-teens in diverse and challenging school environments across the nation and it is time I said it: THE TEACHER IS ALWAYS RESPONSIBLE. PERIOD! Whether things are going great in the classroom or horrendously, it is the adult in charge of the class that must take full responsibility for all outcomes. But based on the violent nature of the video, the media will spin it so the sole culprit is the officer involved when the true culpability starts with the teacher. A teacher who failed to manage the classroom effectively and failed to avoid the whole terrible incident by using what I refer to as the Sledgehammer Method.

The REAL Question in the Spring Valley Incident: Was calling the Resource Officer who subsequently slammed and threw the female student violently from her seat to arrest her, the ONLY option in this (or any) disruptive scenario in a classroom? Absolutely not! As teachers we have the responsibility to train ourselves, even when our administrators fail to do so (which is common in too many districts). We, the teacher, must employ and exhaust numerous strategies to defuse and deescalate disruptive situations and negotiate a peaceful alternative with the challenging student. A Resource Officer being called in for a discipline matter is the equivalent of using a sledgehammer to tap a stubborn pushpin into your drywall—you will end up obliterating the pushpin and destroying your drywall completely. In this metaphor, it is clear that the sledgehammer is the officer; the teacher is the individual struggling with a stubborn pushpin that refuses to go easily into the wall; the student the stubborn pushpin; and the wall is the learning environment.

This sledgehammer method is counterproductive to any present and future learning. Think about what the goal was here: a student is not learning and being disruptive in class during a teacher’s lesson. What does the teacher ultimately want? All teachers just want the student to stop the disruption and engage in the lesson. Simple right? Well, it’s not. The teacher’s patience will be tested, they must know how to subdue their own angry response and think solution instead of punishment—these are responses that don’t come naturally to our species (especially after a long exhaustive week of managing student demands, unrealistic administrative deadlines, complicated initiatives from district, and a handful of irate parents and frustrating run-ins with colleagues). But if the one person in charge of the situation succumbs to feelings of anger, frustration and fear (fear of being belittled, disrespected, embarrassed, undermined, etc.) than that teacher has taken her eyes off what should be their primary focus: the student’s needs. Only by truly knowing (and caring about) what the student needs, can the teacher start to work toward a solution.

Spring Valley High is a clear case of excessive force, not just by the officer (who we hope justice will serve with a large plate of felony charges and a hefty jail sentence) but an irresponsible and inappropriate response from the teacher and administration. Had they made a different call, the violent incident would have been avoided. Unless the student was hurting herself, putting others in harms way, or threatening to do so, NO disruption calls for what took place. These professionals should have attempted other measures. School policies and procedures are in place in every school to deal with students that don’t comply. Why weren’t these steps used prior to involving the officer?

The Origin of All Things: the tougher question we never ask…

Question #1 – had the teacher built rapport with the students and used best practices and effective strategies in the math class to fully engage students in the learning?

Question Rationale: even students who claim they don’t want to learn, when respected, acknowledged and properly engaged (in the most difficult of subjects and the most challenging of schools) will respond positively when the teacher has created a risk-free and supportive environment, instead of the “do-it-because-I’m-the-teacher-and-I’m-in-charge” approach that too many teachers continue to employ despite their failures.

Food-for-Thought: why should a student who has his own personal problems, long list of fears, endless worries about life, has experienced his share of tragedy, and has issues at home, with family or friends, respond to you, the teacher? What is in this “teacher” title that allows you to demand instant compliance from students to buy what you are selling without first extending them that same respect, that same sense of trust, that same positive engagement you want them to exhibit? Think three words: give-and-take.

5-Step Option for Managing Disruptions (Total time invested = 40 seconds):

Ask the student: “Would you please step outside with me for a quick second? I’m worried about you and I want to talk in private because it’s no one’s business.” *Note: This lets students know you have no intention of publically embarrassing them (An approximate 7 seconds investment)

If student refuses follow up with: “Okay, I just wanted to see if I could help with whatever was bothering you today. Would it help to take a walk and get some water? Try walking it off. Sometimes that helps.” (Another 10 seconds invested)

If student still refuses: “I have to finish today’s lesson but I would really like to talk to you after class; see if I can help at all.” *Note: This is an affirmation that you genuinely care about their issue/s. (An additional 6 seconds invested)

If student stops disruption but still refuses to engage in lesson: Leave the student alone. He has the right to refuse the free education we are attempting to impart. *Note: Don’t take it personally! He is not attacking you. He may have hundred worries, painful issues or matters to work through that are more pressing than your quadratic formula. (No time invested – beware, pride may be battered because attempts to problem-solve are not working. Proceed on course with the rest of the class and revisit helping the student the next day before class)

If student continues to disrupt learning: “I respect your decision not to engage today, but it’s my job to teach this lesson. I would like it if you joined us, but if the disruption continues I’m forced to call for help. Can we figure something out to avoid that? It’s not something I want to do.” *Note: this gives the student an opportunity to make the right choice. (These last 17 seconds invested before you call administration or security to escort the student out are priceless)