Saturday, April 21, 2012

It's Okay to Ask Them to Stop Talking

The book about my first-year of teaching might be called It's Okay to Ask Them to Stop Talking. The other contender is a gem uttered in first block this week: I Wasn't Talking. I Was Just Telling Him What He Could Get at McDonald's for Four Dollars. That one might be too long.  

 It may seem really simple and obvious, but something occurred to me at the end of last week talking to my mentor: It's my job to ask students to be quiet and respectful. It's not personal. I don't need to be angry. I just need to do my job.

"Duh, Maggie," says you.

But this realization has been a long time coming for me. I've tried a lot of strategies to get students to behave professionally and to understand why they need to. I've invested in their social and emotional learning just as much as their content knowledge. For those of you who know me in the real world, it will come as no surprise to know that I've thought about this a lot. Maybe I've over-thought it. So much of the literature first-year teachers are encouraged to read emphasize plans and procedures and rules. These tools can be helpful, but more helpful to me is a mindset.

The past week, the first with this mindset, went really smoothly. On Tuesday, one kid in first block got his warning and knew that if he showed disrespect again, he'd be sent to the office. He's fourteen and he couldn't help talking. That's okay. His brain isn't developed. My job is to help him as he grows and learns, so I sent him to the office saying the following, "This is where we are in your discipline plan right now. It's not the end of the world. Talking out of turn is just something you need to go work on." And it worked. He talked to the wonderful ninth grade assistant principal, got a consequence in after-school detention, and came back ready to work the rest of the week. I think this new mindset is going to make my work a lot less stressful.

I still have a couple of kids in first block who love to talk, especially about inappropriate topics, because they love attention. Two boys from that class came to me to ask me to send those two kids out more often. I felt gratified that those boys felt comfortable coming to talk to me about it, and I knew they were right. Both of the kids who are asking for attention just need to go talk to an administrator about how to seek attention in a healthy way. It's my job to get them there.

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