Wow, what an interesting realization I had today. A week ago Friday, one of the boys (I’ll call him Mikey) from my difficult seventh grade class got in a fight and was suspended for five days. I will confess to being just a little bit happy at the idea of his impending weeklong absence. (remember, I am “that” teacher, and he is the one I yelled at. But this fight and suspension had nothing at all to do with me or my classroom.) All last week, while he was gone, we read Hunger Games during 4th period, and everyone, every single student, was completely rapt for as long as I wanted to read. During 5th period, after lunch, it was a little louder, but I could deal with that. I just had to read before lunch and do something more verbal, more active after lunch. What a revelation – I couldn’t believe I hadn’t figured that out earlier than February.
Today Mikey came back from suspension, and the classroom reverted to its earlier chaos. Reading Hunger Games only lasted about ten minutes, and accomplishing the other work of the day was incredibly difficult. This time I managed to keep my wits about me, and observe him. What is so different when this one boy is present?
As I watched (and took notes) I realized that he makes sure to keep the attention of the boys in the class at all times. He makes little faces, rolls his eyes, and never releases them from his grasp, even when he is in his own seat and isn’t even near them. Occasionally he gets up to sharpen his pencil or get a paper towel. It doesn’t matter that I redirect him to his seat immediately. He didn’t really need those things, he just needed to maintain the attention of the other students. Eventually, it didn’t matter what he did, because they were launched.
Balls of paper flew around the room, I gave out lunch detention immediately, and he was as happy as can be. The detention didn’t go to him, so he had nothing to complain about. At one point I sent him outside the room to do his work, but again, they were launched so it didn’t really change anything.
I wonder how I can use this realization to reclaim the class. I don’t want to just wait for him to fight again!