“I have an ounce at home…”

Second period was a little more rambunctious than usual today.  One group in particular would not stop talking, laughing and messing around, even when my CT was leading a class wide activity where each group went to the board to work a problem; they were not a problem at the beginning of class since only two of the four students in the group were present, however, once another student, Raul, arrived, their conduct went disruptive, fast.  In an attempt to get them to quiet down, I walked by their table a couple of times but they did not stop acting up, so I decided to sit down in one of remaining empty desk in their group.  Even this did not stop them until I told one student, Salvador, to stop cutting slices into a piece of paper he was snipping and put the scissors into the supply box at his table.  Salvador looked at me, as if he were going to question me or protest, then put them away; I found out later that Salvador is known for creating trouble on campus, and has gang affiliations.

The group quieted down and started taking notes again.  This did not last long since Salvador started to ask me questions, presumably wanting to get to know me better, or see where my boundaries lay, more likely; there was a break in between groups going to the board which creates a huge void that students willingly fill with chatter.  In sync with other group’s rise in chatter, Salvador asked me if I was in a nearby town yesterday, since he thought he saw me, and I said I had not been there.  He then asked me where I lived and I answered.  He asked where in the city, and I said the district.  He then asked if I lived near a major arterial and I said yes.  This sequence took about 15-30 seconds when I realized that he had me doing what I wanted them to stop doing: talking.  I raised my finger to my lip to signal quiet at the same time as a new group started explaining their problem at the board.

Salvador was quiet for a bit when he turned to me and asked me if I smoked?  I shook my head, no.  He then asked if I drank?  This started Raul and Jose laughing.  I did not respond this time except to ask them to be quiet and pay attention.  Salvador was on a roll, so he then blurted out “I have an ounce at home” at which both Raul and Jose burst out laughing near uncontrollably.  I signaled for them to be quiet and when they did not calm down, I asked Raul to step outside with me since he was making the most noise laughing and having the harder time controlling himself; he is also someone that I have worked closely with the past two months, showed that he was capable of paying attention and learning in class, and whom I felt would appreciate my discussion more than Salvador.

Raul went outside willingly, with some snickering from the class, and listened to what I had to say which effectively was that I treated him with respect in class and I expected that he treat my CT and me similarly.  I asked him if he agreed that I treated him with respect and he said yes.  I asked him if he could respect me by behaving in class, and he said yes.  I thanked him and held out my hand to shake and he took it and shook.  We went back into the classroom and he behaved for the remaining few minutes of class.

I dd not address Salvador’s comment with him.  I will see how he acts tomorrow and other days then decide how to respond.  While he may have a reputation as a troublemaker on campus, I have not seen him misbehave before today, and today’s was fairly benign.  My desire is to treat my students with respect, without yielding my authority, so I can model proper, respectful behavior for them.  Let’s hope Salvador sees that soon.

***********************

After 2nd period finished, I headed out the door for a restroom break.  As soon as I opened the door, two students who were immediately in front of the door jumped into action one of whom quickly stuffed what looked like rolling paper, contents unknown, into his pocket.  When I said that they should not be doing that at school, the one who stuffed the papers into his right pocket, pulls an orange out of his left pocket and shrugs his shoulder saying it was nothing.  I looked at him showing that I knew what was up, repeated my statement then headed to the restroom.  After I was about 15 feet away, I heard “police” and decided, why I am not sure, to head back to the boys.  I repeated my statement and said that I treated them with respect, these are the same boys who I played handball with a few weeks ago, and requested that they treat me with respect as well.  I repeated my statement not to do whatever they were doing at school then finally headed off for a break.

When I arrived back at the class, the lights were out and I thought my CT was at a rally, this is spirit week and the majority of students were in the quad celebrating the spirit of the Sophomore Class of 2013.  After my CT came back, she told me she had to take a student to the office since he slapped another student.  These were the same boys I had spoken with moments earlier.  I told her what I saw and she said that, next time, I needed to alert the attendance office so they could send someone over to investigate and ideally break up the crowd of boys.  All of this was very timely since I just completed a “Survival Guide” for Classroom Management; while this specific situation was not covered, it is one I might suggest for inclusion in next year’s version!

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About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Secondary math teacher teaching math intervention, algebra 1, honors precalculus, and AP Calculus AB. I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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