Learning on the River

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 29 2010

Snuggies and High Kicks

It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon down here in the Delta, which is not super conducive for getting much work done.  Nothing says work like a blue Snuggie.  At the current moment, I am finishing this week’s lesson plans.  Teaching is a job that has many cogs constantly turning:  planning, grading, teaching, working extra duties, and communicating with parents.  Noticeably absent from that list is free time.  I never thought that I would have a job that would require me to actively schedule fun time.  I’m such an adult now; it is sickening.

Last week may prove to be a turning point with my kiddos.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were the typically rough days I had come to expect.  My management was slowly slipping into oblivion.  I would come home from school hoarse from yelling.  If I finished my lesson, I considered it a success.  I stopped giving consequences to my kids because no one cared about behavior reflections, phone calls home, detention, or referrals.

On Wednesday, Jamie (my TFA program director) observed my fourth block.  It was business as usual.  A student was stealing stuff off my desk while Jamie was sitting there.  Others were yelling and throwing paper in the back.  I yelled.  Nothing changed.  That night, we had a big group meeting and we discussed this management technique called 100%.  I sat there and listened, but all I could think about was how lame it was.  I thought my kiddos were way too buck-wild to have 100% compliance.  Jamie was talking about “calm cool finesse.”  Apparently, yelling doesn’t always work.

I left the meeting and felt even more defeated.  I had sat in a meeting for 1.5 hours and was no closer to my children actually learning than when I arrived.  Thursday morning came and my first block was crazy.  They are generally my most well behaved block, but even they had recognized my shortcomings.  They knew I was frustrated, that I didn’t really give out consequences any more, and they leapt on the opportunity.  During my planning, I decided that I could not keep doing the same thing.  I decided to try the 100% compliance mumbo-jumbo.  I really had nothing to lose.

My third block came in and I didn’t raise my voice.  I told them they had 3 seconds to be silently working on their bell ringer.  I walked around and starting giving out consequences again.  I didn’t yell.  I started framing my consequences and positive narration around purpose, instead of power.  I would say things like, “Jasmine’s ACT score is going up because she’s silently taking notes,” or “the only thing I should hear right now is you acing the SATP and that is silent.”  I would say “I need eyes on me and mouths closed in 3, 2, 1,” and I wouldn’t continue until every kiddo was compliant.  It was great.  The students seemed to really respond to it. 

I’m going into this week and I have resolved to keep this 100% stuff up.  It seems to work.  It also allows me to be more like myself when teaching.  Instead of having to yell all the time, I can be a little crazier and still have compliance from the class.  On Friday, during independent practice, some of my third block started to get off task.  Instead of yelling, I high kicked to get everyone’s attention.  When they all looked at me, I said, “It’s almost the weekend.  Let’s knock this last thing out quickly and quietly, raise our SATP pass rate, get the heck out of class, and go to the football game!”  They got back on task and were quiet the rest of class!  Tomorrow’s a new week and I am ready to roll.  Now I just need to find a way to incorporate my Snuggie into my management plan.

One Response

  1. This 100% technique is intriguing. I’m not quite clear what it is but it seems like a constant narrative of expectations. I’m 62, a former teacher, therapist and trainer for the Federal Office of Education in the early 80′s. I did in-services all over the nation for teachers on things like Cooperative Learning and Assertive Discipline. I wonder if these things still hold credibility in today’s classrooms.

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Details of a Delta English Teacher

Mississippi Delta
High School

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