Saturday, November 15, 2014

Middle School Mayhem Part 2: Praise

I once heard someone say "an ounce of prevention prevents a lifetime of cure." The saying was something along those lines, although I think I changed it to fit what I needed to know. Basically, it means those who take the extra effort in the beginning will reap the rewards of that action in the end.

This saying holds true with Middle School Students. (I am going to shorten the name to MSM from this point forward.) If the first interaction you have with a MSM is negative, then you have already lost the battle.

Any kid, no matter what the age, responds to positive comments. In most cases, it only takes one positive interaction in the beginning to set up a communcation highway between you and the MSM. Whether it be telling them individually that you have heard great things about them and are excited to have them in your class, to something as generic as "I think you are a neat kid", you have taken the time to acknowledge that they are SOMEBODY. So many kids today feel lost and left out. If you say something nice, and you sound like you mean it, you have validated that student's presence in your eyes.

When you know your audience, the positive interaction can be creative. For example, there are students in my school that are obsessed with creating and ordering their own unique sneaker. I stopped one in the hallway and called him over. I asked him where he got such cool looking shoes. He told me he ordered them, and I peppered him with a few more questions about the process. Did I care to know how he obtained the shoe? Not really, but I engaged him in a positive conversation about something he cares about, and he responded. I had done my homework, and I knew this student would be in one of my upcoming classes. Additionally, I knew that this student had the reputation of being quite the troublemaker for attention. I won the war.

Our second term started almost 5 weeks ago, and when I saw the roster of students scheduled for one of my classes, I literally sat down and cried. I CRIED. Working in ISS one period hearing horror stories from core teachers, combined with seeing these students in the office every single day that I went down to check my box, I knew I was going to be miserable for an entire 9 weeks. After a period of week long mourning, I decided that I had to take action before I became a statistic.

The first day of the new term brought exactly what I expected. I could hear them in the hallway, and it sounded like a riot outside my door. When they walked in my room, I made them stand at the door until I acknowledged each one by name. I then told every single student where their seat would be. They came in, and when they sat down I told them not to touch anything because we were going to have a discussion first.

I started to tell them about myself, and what my expectations were for every student in my class. As I told them about what was allowed and not allowed, I suddenly stopped mid sentence and turned to look at them. I told them that I had to go over these rules, even though I could tell they were going to be my best class and I was wasting my breath. I paused, and I could hear crickets in my head because the silence was deafening. Two kids actually looked around with the expression "is she insane?" I went on, never cracking a smile and never tipping my hand. BOOM - I had them.

I had three days before THE NIGHTMARE got off of out of school suspension and joined our class. THE NIGHTMARE had already been suspended out of school on five different occasions, and had a reputation like no other. For the three days he was out, I heaped constructive praise on the students individually, and as a group. They were like putty in my hands, which I needed in order to be able to handle the addition of THE NIGHTMARE to the class.

THE NIGHTMARE showed up exactly like I had expected. He walked in, trying to catch the eye of the other strategically placed students as he passed. None of them even blinked. I reviewed the directions, and I could tell he was already on the computer and not listening to the discussion. I did not call him out, but instead rehashed my first day presentation. As he got up to leave at the end of class, I asked him to stay for a moment so I could talk to him. He had a small smile on his face, because he was sure that I wanted to discipline him for not following directions.

As he stood at my podium, I turned so the other kids could not hear what I was going to say to him. It was then that I told him I was so excited he was back to school, and that when I saw his name on my class roster, it made my day. I let him know that I KNEW he was going to be the best kid in the class, and that if he proved me right, I was going to need his help on special projects. He shrugged his shoulders and walked out of the class.

I was not sure my strategy had worked. The next day, THE NIGHTMARE walked into my classroom and sat right down. He logged in and was waiting for instruction, and I kid you not, he WAS being the best kid in the class. He immediately went from being THE NIGHTMARE to MY FAVORITE. MY FAVORITE made me cry a few weeks later, but not for the reason you would expect. That will be in a later post.

Every kid needs some positive light in their life. Be the one place where a kid feels loved.

1 comment:

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