Archive for February, 2008

Never underestimate the power of having them stay after class. I’ve forgotten how much students hate that.

It’s the last period of the day, and my kids are out of control. Rather than continue yelling over their talking, I quietly announce that it’s wasting my time will cost them a minute after class. By the time it gets to four minutes, the talkers are quiet.

Things go smoothly until the bell rings. I stand in front of the door, and one of my testiest and most talkative students confronts my now firmly established authority.

“I have a bus to catch.”

“I don’t care. Sit down.”

“I won’t.”

“Maybe four minutes after the bell wasn’t enough. Let’s make it five minutes. Now, sit down.”

“I won’t sit down. I have a bus. I hope you’re giving me a ride or something, because I’m going to miss my bus.”

“Five minutes it is.” I direct my attention to the rest of the class. “Hey, guys? Maybe you should convince her to sit down?”

They groan in such a way that she acquiesces. Halfheartedly leaning against her desk, her posterior nonetheless makes contact.

I’ll consider that sitting.

I lectured them for a bit, and then I let them stew for a few minutes before I let them go. My master teacher thought it a wonderful move, at least.

Moral of the story? Two drops of keeping them past the bell plus a dash of peer pressure is a recipe for success. Add humiliation to taste.

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I received the following forwarded message, from my high school band director. As soon as I read it, it worried me:

This Thursday, the school board members will be seeking input and discussing a list of proposed budget cuts. On the list of proposed cuts for next year is all elementary music and 6th to 8th grade band.

If the cuts are approved the only band in the school district will be the high school band which will last only a couple of years as it dies away with the lack of lower grade participation. Please come to this meeting and voice your support for the music programs.

Please make every effort to attend. If you cannot, feel free to email or call any of the school board members.

We need to let the board know that the community feels music is an essential part of a child’s education and nothing less. I know we can muster support from board members, but they need to see that the community believes music is a priority.

I sent each of the board members an e-mail praising them for their judgment. The letter, of course, assumes that they don’t drop elementary and middle school band. I didn’t just say that carte blanche, though. I promised to send them a nasty e-mail if they did drop music.

To think I had thought my school district immune to this sort of short-sightedness. Alas, no more.

It’s a nasty word, but why don’t a few administrative types volunteer a temporary pay cut? It worked for Steve Jobs.

Something makes me think that ain’t gonna fly.

Moral of the story? In such situations, defer to Mel Brooks. “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”

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There’s something to be said for our principal. He’s a shortish man with a mustache; he’d look a little like Super Mario if he wore red overalls and a matching hat.

Principal of an inner city high school with the highest dropout rate in the district, he showed us this video at the latest staff meeting.

Then he gave a little monologue I decided to transcribe about halfway in. Here are the excerpts I ended up with:

“This video represents our kids. This guy was, what? Some guy with a regular job? He went all the way to the top. Our kids have hidden talents. We may not see it all the time; sometimes we never see it. Never stop believing in them. I don’t care if they don’t do anything all year long, but never stop believing in them.”

And:

“I had three students in my office today. They weren’t all good students. In fact, they were all pretty poor students. But they all told me, ‘Don’t give up on me. I know I’m screwing around, but as soon as the teacher writes me off, that’s when I really give up.'”

If there’s a school this supportive of the students, and has this approach when dealing with teachers, it might just be one of those rare flocks in the education world worth joining and worth sticking with.

Inner-city setting be damned, I want to work here.