Here are some questions I got from my wonderful father: I (as a humble blog reader), would like to get a little better feeling about who your 5th grade class is, vs your 7th grade class. What do they do or say that is challenging or characteristic (this class compared to that one), or are they fairly willing or passive students? Are you doing better with one age or study group vs the other? Since you don't beat them, how is discipline going as compared to your other teachers? It is interesting that you like your problem students more. Why is that?
And the answers (as best I can convey them):
My 5th grade class is the biggest. They speak the least English and are by far the worst behaved. There are some kids who quite literally act out just to get me riled up (they like to push my buttons). I have to dumb down the lessons a lot because of the English comprehension factor, and the class is never quiet. Generally they stress me out the most, but there are a few students I really like and connect with.
Grade 6 is the one you have heard the most about because they are the ones I see the most. They are the smallest and best behaved and have the kids that I know the best. I know each of their names and personalities, and even a bit about most of their lives. Recently they have been frustrating me a lot for some reason, which is a new development, but that might be more a reflection of my state of mind than their behavior.
Grade 7 is basically in between. Most of them are well behaved and pay attention most of the time but there is a small fraction that don’t. They are also the easiest to reason with since their English is the best and they are the oldest, so a chat about respect that I had with them actually went a long way. Sometimes the class is dominated by Matias, a boy who is… very involved. He has about 100 questions and loves to talk, which can be very helpful in moving the class along as long as he’s on topic… but I can tell you more about him later.
The question of whether they are willing or passive is interesting. I have been talking a lot with one friend about motivation and our conversations tell me this will not be easy to summarize but here goes: the kids here are willing to do a lot—they will run any errand, clean the classroom, write 14 pages… as long as it requires little mental effort or creativity. As soon as I ask them to figure something out for themselves (things I know they can do- I’m not a monsrer) even the best students will start to pout. It is very frustrating, but that’s what they have been brought up to expect from school.
And now for the discipline issue. It has been difficult not beating my students. Ha well that came out wrong, but I mean they do try to see what they can get away with knowing I won’t hit them. And a lot of the time when someone misbehaves the other students say, “Miss just beat him”. I learned from a return volunteer the good response of “he needs to learn to behave without being beaten” which they seem to understand but it is still difficult. I was talking to my friend Kristen about how difficult it is because we both came in thinking we could eradicate corporal punishment at our schools but that will be very hard to do if we, as the only teachers who don’t beat students, have discipline problems. It has been difficult too because I feel like I don’t have backup in my principal or the other teachers because if I try to get help, they will just beat the students for me. It has been difficult, but I’m hoping the idea of using respect and responsive punishments will just take time to get through to them. We’ll see.
Lastly, I have no idea why I like my problem students the best. It may be because they tend to be the most animated and frequently the most talkative (usually the problem). Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. I honestly don’t know.