Tough Times at Ridgemont High

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the worst offenses in my classroom to be from a kid like Spicoli ordering a pizza to be delivered during the middle of class. Jeez. Those were the days.

We have moved way beyond slackers and ‘reluctant learners.’ In the past few years, teachers have encountered the resistant learners, the defiant learners, the loathe to learn, and the ones who regularly and clearly communicate “Go ahead–I dare you to teach me anything.” And, the kids that I am talking about are only eleven years old! It ain’t easy being ‘tween. 

Should five or more of students of this ilk gather in one class, there can be hell to pay. We thought that we had seen most everything; the latest disruptive strategy has been dubbed “lawyering.” EX: Teacher speaks to Jason* about his nonstop talking during instruction. Jason denies talking because for the exact five seconds that the teacher spoke to him, he actually was not in the act of speaking—he was taking in a deep breath to allow him to carry on with the conversation. All of a sudden, there is another voice in the fray. It is Seth*, pronouncing, “What did he do? He wasn’t talking.” [“Your Honor, if it please the Court, my client was not involved in the oration of which he is being so unfairly accused.”]

All we want is silence so that we may continue the lesson.

Picture the arcade game, Whack-a-Mole. Settle down one disrupter, and another one pops up over there. Quiet her down, and another one surfaces. It ain’t pretty, and it is extremely disconcerting to any sentient adult. Try to keep a teaching train of thought under these circumstances. Try to maintain one’s cool.

It does not take many of them–maybe 10-20% of the population, but enough to impact a class or two for each of us. And, it can start to wear us down. I am good with slow learners. I can get low achievers to make progress AND feel good about themselves. I am an ace at working with many of our special education students. However, I am no match for the kid who tells me, after I have spent one entire hour showing a group of four how to practice and memorize and strategize in order to study for a particular test, “Miss, you just wasted a whole hour working with me. I’m not going to study–I’m gonna fail this test tomorrow.” No amount of cajoling or coaxing or coaching, or, God-forbid, teaching, looks like it will crack the tough exterior/interior of some of these kids.

And, if one or two of us can make some headway with Rhonda*–like getting her to settle down in our English class or complete some class work or turn in some homework or pass a test, the rest of us may rarely see that kind of small success with that particular student. 

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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6 Responses to Tough Times at Ridgemont High

  1. Pingback: Tough Times at Ridgemont High (via Does Experience Count?) « Kilroy's delaware

  2. Gilda says:

    I have used my Smartboard Whack-A-Mole template for many legit purposes in trying to teach reading to Jason and Rhonda-know them all too well. Every time I use the random name generator to select students to be the whacker, I secretly fantasize about whether the mallet is hitting Jason, Rhonda or one of their equally disruptive and disengaged classmates. Sometimes the game is the highlight of my instructional day.

  3. gg says:

    Is this what a smart board is intended for???

  4. Get Real! says:

    As we have been watching the news from Tuscon and details about the shooter, I can’t help but think of at least two students I have this year who seems very similiar in their behaviors…………..scary! Sadly, these students do not get the help they need and go on to serious offenses that hurt others and themselves. I have too many former students in jail or dead because of violence and perhaps if these students were educated in an alternative setting where they could get the counseling and support they need, the outcome could have been different! Where is counseling and discipline being addressed in the RTTT grant?

  5. Frederika says:

    Get Real cites some pretty extreme situations–real, but extreme. Teachers spotted some of these kids as having serious potential for mayhem as early as elementary and middle school.

    However, my day-to-day concern focuses on the daily disrupters–and on the frequency, intensity, and duration of disruption by a few kids who can throw a real monkey wrench into the works. I take a lot of time and work very hard to craft a viable, workable, mindful lesson (standards-based) on the structure-function relationships of the chamber, valves, and vessels of the human heart, only to have it disrupted. Every disruption takes us two steps back. One step forward, two steps back. Multiple disruptions can leave a great and proven lesson in tatters, many of our students in confusion, and me with AGITA, like you wouldn’t believe.

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