For the first time in at least five or six years I have a class that is out of control (well, was out of control). It is at the end of the day (classes in this timeslot have always been tougher) and I have had a tough time connecting with them. A big part of it is that I can’t seem to get their attention long enough to build up a rapport.
Now my classroom management style is pretty relaxed. I demand an environment of mutual respect – especially with the potential topics that always arise. I don’t write many behavior referrals to the vice principal’s office. Only a couple in the last two or three years and those were ones that had to be written – the students were caught cheating, one student was subconsciously flicking his lighter in the middle of class, and two guys were seconds away from trying to hurt each other. If I have a few students who are pushing it, I pull them aside and have a chat. I usually see a dramatic improvement.
This class is different. One on one, I have no problems with these students. They are not troublemakers or openly defiant. Their crimes are indifference and an inability to stay focused because they are talking to their neighbors or making hand signals to their friends across the class.
A couple days ago I had enough. I implemented a policy that I had successfully used when I taught freshmen nine years ago. If they are off task, talking, or being disrespectful in some manner (we had a nice discussion about this), then they got a check by their name on the seating chart. Three checks = a lunch detention with me (a fate worse then death). Two detentions mean a referral and a call home (another dreaded punishment). Guess what, two great days in a row and only three kids got a check. We will see how it works over the next couple of weeks.
I probably should have started this policy a month ago, but I kept hoping it would improve (as it had before) and we were doing a lot of group work and individual projects that minimize that part of the problem.