Wednesday, October 03, 2007

School Days

Time to post about school. Surveys show that most fans of Hobbled Runner attended school – so there’s an instant connection. Also, I hope that by posting about school and education, and using terms like school and education over and over again, my Google Ads will change for the better, I will banish that beer-bearing hussy that often appears in my right pane Ads.

I haven’t posted much about kids and school lately, because things are going well – generally. M seems to be settling in to the new routine that is 5th grade. She has a new teacher this year. This is a tremendous improvement on the less than stellar arrangement she was in for grades 3 and 4 when she had the same teacher and classmates for two years running. I won’t belabor that – it’s water under the bridge – and besides, I don’t think the teacher is a public figure for defamation purposes (you lawyers out there know what I’m getting at.)

The Dude still has his moments. We haven’t noticed any outright “School Avoidance” as it’s known, but he did report an interesting classroom control tactic. At one point yesterday, the entire class had to miss “learning time” because 2 or 3 kids were acting up. Translation: They all sat in silence because 2 or 3 kids were being disruptive. I’m not sure how long the silence lasted, and I don’t know if the few troublemakers got the message, but the Dude was upset. This seems to be a very ineffective discipline tactic. Why punish the whole, for the sins of a few? Are the “good” kids expected to take these 2 or 3 aside at recess and administer some sort of rough justice so it doesn’t happen again? I highly doubt that – given the school’s general mission.

The Hobbled Family has spent a great deal of time trying to redirect the Dude’s attention and sensitivity to what’s going on around him in the classroom. To his credit, he’s a very emphatic kid. He worries a lot about what other kids are doing: Why are they acting up? Why don’t they want to learn? But that much concern for one’s fellows can create a lot of stress and anxiety, energy better spent learning. We’ve been pretty successful keeping him focused on what he can control (his own actions), and setting aside what he can’t control (other kids’ disruptive behavior).

So now we have to coach him through the classroom silence event. He and I discussed it while driving to school this morning. I told him it was a pretty ineffective way to handle a class, thus introducing the theme that adults don’t always make the best choices. I suggested that we could talk to the teachers involved. “No, don’t do that,” he said. “You can always tell when someone’s parents have contacted the teacher, because then the teacher has to take them aside and discuss the issue.”

I asked, “What would you have done differently?” and he relayed the story of how his P.E. teacher handles similar events.

His PE teacher handles miscreants by making only the trouble-makers sit-out for a short time. That seems the right message – you are responsible for your own actions. If you act up (cheat, don’t play by rules), you will be asked to sit out a few minutes. Your classmates will not suffer at your expense.

3 comments:

amy said...

Oh, I can recall MANY times when the whole class was punished for one or two kids involved. I spent my whole 6th grade year sitting behind "the troublemaker". I think I was put near him precisely because I wasn't a trouble maker. You might ask JJ if it makes sense that the teacher might pick that method of punishment because SHE NEEDS a moment of silence to keep her cool and it really has nothing to do with the kids at all! Good to try and depersonalize it. He might also chat with his G'pa about this topic...ie how G'pa gets all bent out of shape about political stuff over which he has no control....YOu might give him something fun to think about in those moments when he gets so frustrated...like popping popcorn in the microwave!

crossons said...

oh, love the popping popcorn concept! We'll try that one.

JJ was put by a troublemaker last year for the same reason you were, ames. And it totally backfired for him - look at the result! He also gets so stressed out when he sees the teachers getting stressed. And he comes up with very adult sounding analysis of the situation. Sometimes his perceptions are way beyond his age... it's really not helpful!

Too much writing here...but in 7th grade art class, my entire semester was spent doing nothing but really boring projects because someone threw a mannikin (sp??) out the window....

Cate Ross said...

Wow--it's time to learn about the difference between "enforcement" and "justice." Sure, the whole class shouldn't be punished, but maybe the teacher doesn't know who the perps are. Or, the perps are by now such hardened criminal types that the usual responses don't work, and the teacher has to try something new. Maybe if their friends get mad at them, they might respond to peer pressure where they don't respond to teacher reprimands.

I always hated this, just like the Dude does--I didn't do anything wrong, so why am I punished? All you can do is learn that there will be people like that his whole life.