Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 02 2011

Sweet Silence

A boy who is in my first period math class and my last period intervention class has started getting really annoying. He’s been a behavior problem all year and been suspended a couple of times, but he wasn’t seriously on my radar in my classroom until recently. He’s started calling out way too often… and not the “I’m eager to participate” calling out, but the “I want attention and am going to say something annoying to distract my peers” calling out. On Tuesday, I finally completely lost my patience with him.

I didn’t deal with it in front of his classmates, but I pulled him out of class during my prep to lay down the law. I realized that I probably hadn’t doled out consequences frequently enough or early enough, and I wanted to make it seem like I was changing course rather than finally catching up to what I meant to be doing all along. I started out by talking to him about what he was doing, why he was doing it, and why it was so annoying for me. He admitted, without me prodding, that he was just looking for attention.

I laid down a behavior plan for him. I told him he’d get one strike, and his second call-out was a detention. I told him a 3rd call-out would get him sent to the office… not so the principal can deal with him (it’s rarely effective to have someone else do your discipline for you) but so he could wait for me to come down and deal with him. I said it in as threatening a tone as possible and then gave him a saccharine-sweet smile. He got the message.

He did test me in my intervention class (which is where he usually has problems…not in regular class, but with all the other low math kids at the very end of a long day), and all it took was for me to assign detention the second time he opened his mouth. Suddenly he realized I’m serious, and he has not made a PEEP since. It is the most beautiful silence ever… I’ve had three and a half classes without hearing his voice once, and it just makes me smile every time I look at him.

The catch is that he has decided he hates me with a burning passion since I assigned that detention. It’s good he’s 11 and I know he’ll get over it, and part of the reason he’s quiet is because he’s too busy sulking. The lovely thing is that since the discipline has been so incredibly quiet, his friends don’t know why he’s mad and so won’t take his side. So he’s stuck in this silent little bubble by himself, and has no choice but to sit and learn math. I’m not even a little sorry.

One Response

  1. Sam

    Just a suggestion to use or throw away…

    A lot of times, a low student will act out because it distracts everyone (including him/herself) from the fact that he/she doesn’t know the material. Right now he’s being quiet, but he might start plotting new, quieter ways to get back at you.

    If that happens, you might want to consider addressing the actual problem (finding a constructive way for him to get attention, helping him succeed with even more easier problems so that the more difficult ones are cushioned, giving him advance warnings or secret signals so that he knows in advance when he will be called on and can have the correct answer prepared, etc).

    Glad he’s staying quiet for now. It sounds like a very irritating situation.

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