Friday, November 30, 2007

keep on chuggin'

Today was a rather strange day at school, but the week has been going okay. We've been working on integers, numbers lines, absolute value, comparing positive and negative numbers, etc. The kids have been loving it. They've caught on very quickly and even my students in special ed (well, most of them) have been active participants. Of course, it helps that they are now getting paid.

Welcome to the real world, kiddies, where people who work get paid and people who don't work get left out. It's called "Positive Behavior Support" in education language but in reality it is pure bribery. Today I caught myself saying, "Who wants to make five dollars? Alright, then get in line." Like magic. I've got fake money that I printed out and starting dispensing to the kids on money. Doing their bell work, following directions, starting their class assignment in a timely manner, raising their hand, finishing their class assignment, cleaning their desk, sitting down and shutting up--all these things get you paid. Except that I don't tell them how much they are going to make (most of the time) or when they will make it (most of the time). Maybe bell work is worth a dollar today but tomorrow I'll hand out five dollars. Maybe you get five dollars for a clean desk today, but ten tomorrow. Maybe I'll hand out a dollar to every student who raises their hand now, stop, and then start up again without telling them. I have to keep these kids on their toes right now to keep them interested, keep them from getting comfortable and exploiting the system. They are dishonest, conniving little monsters (well, they ARE adolescent) and I have to stay one step ahead of them.

This has been working extremely well with my homeroom class. This week they have been on exponentially improved behavior and two of my special ed kids (and subsequently, as a norm, the cause of many behavior disasters) have been amazing (well, relatively--I'll take it). My second class is a tougher bunch and I remain frustrated. They still talk incessantly and don't pay attention and they still bicker and treat each other like crap, snapping insults at each other in the middle of lessons. For a few of my students in my class, the system is working. For most, they still haven't got the picture so I will have to be patient. My third class is also a problem, but less so. I have two or three students who will take more time to crack but most of the class is doing well.

Unfortunately, in my third class, I had two friends get into a fight today and get suspended. One of the girls was one who tore up her progress report and threw it at my feet. The other is generally a good kid, but lets herself get distracted by a bad crowd and is consequently failing my class. I'm not looking forward to seeing the fallout of that scrape when they both return to class sometime next week.

We've got an auction in class tomorrow. I went to the dollar store and bought a lot of crap and candy that the kids are all very excited about. I'm a little wary of the process, but we'll see how it goes. Tomorrow is also the principal's birthday, so there will be an assembly for him at the end of the day. My homeroom got to make a banner for him (because they rock the negative numbers' socks off) in class today. I let the others make birthday cards, but they didn't get to have all the fun.

Really, I can't complain about this week. But every day is something new, every week is some other challenge. I can't get lulled into a false sense of well-being with this group. I have to admit that there have been second thoughts lately, about whether I made the right choice to be here. To be teaching. But I can't quit. It is really tempting, just to go and sit on my ass and not do anything for a while, not worry about the kids and the paperwork and what's going to happen. But I'll have two weeks to do that in December. I have to remind myself that I have the best vacation plan ever, that this is just my first year, that one of these days the kids are going to do something that will make all this bullshit worth it. I had a little hint of that today, reading some of the things that my students were writing to Mr. G on the birthday banner. They really love him and that is a good sign--for the school, for the kids. It will get better.

It has to get better.

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