The Trouble Table

I am overwhelmed by six small boys.
Bad Guys Trouble Table From Muppet Movie

This Table DOES Look Like Trouble

There are six boys intermingled in my class who are unbelievably out of control.  They shout, throw small objects, laugh loudly, hit others joyfully “in fun”, and in general make it clear that they are not at school to learn.  I learned well from my first year’s experience that The Office will be no help at all.  What will I do?
By the third week of class, I am already at my wit’s end.  No matter where I seat each boy or what incentives or disincentives are used, each child is determined to be disruptive.  It doesn’t even seem to matter if the boys are widely separated…Wait a minute!  That’s it!
The students all watch as I start moving desks.
“Argie, Juan, Angel, Chris, Alberto, Robert—Come here!”
I seat all six boys closely together, at their own separate table in a corner of the room.
“Welcome to ‘The Trouble Table’.  Meet your new group partners.  You boys will be more comfortable seated with others like you.  Talk all you want.”
I have just broken a cardinal rule of The District and The Office.  I am NEVER to label a student as “trouble”, or describe her or him in any other derogatory way.

I'm Such a Bad Girl

The boys are amazed.  “You mean, we can talk all we want?  You’re just gonna ignore us?”  “That’s right,” I answer, “but try to keep the volume down for the rest of us who want to learn.”
You have never seen such happy boys.  They have been coming to school for five years with no intention of trying to learn, but never was their behavior endorsed (except by the lack of response by their parents and The Office, of course). What a treat!  They proceed to indulge in their favorite activities, described earlier.
I have a theory.   Only time will tell if I am right.
After three days, I notice that the amount and volume of talk from The Trouble Table has dropped off slightly.  A couple of the boys look a little tired—one might almost say “frazzled.”  I even notice some quick glances at the occasionally-industrious other students.
I walk back to the table and lean in.   In a quiet voice, I say:
“Boys, I suspect by now that one or two of you might be getting a little tired of sitting in this group.   I am here to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity.   Today, and only today, you may opt to leave this group and join the rest of us in trying to learn.   If you do make that choice, it is with the understanding that you are going to try your best to change your behavior and effort.  I will try my best to teach you and make you feel proud of yourself.   What do you say?”
I wait.  And wait.  At last, Argie looks down shyly and says “I’d like to try.”  Enrique stares at him and then adds “Me, too.”  I am so PROUD of them!  With a big smile, I welcome them to the class:
“Class—Argie and Enrique have decided to be students!”
Everyone knows exactly what I mean, and the class bursts into applause.

Dang, My Fifth-Graders Sure Were Held Back a Lot of Times!

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  1. I attended catholic school my entire life and recall in elementary, a small circle of children delegated to a table, apart from the rest of us. It was not dubbed the “trouble table” but instead was given no name. It was apparent that this group of children learned at a slower pace than the rest of our class. Perhaps grouping the children together somehow helped the teacher teach that group in a different manner but I find a heartache in that I can still recall the name of all six of those children at that little table in the corner of the classroom. Bravo for your clever technique. That table was no doubt of a thicker skin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is sad that you recall their names.

      Thank you for the “Bravo”, but what was, and is still, maddening to me–I am long out of the classroom–is that I, or any teacher, had to put up with such behaviors at all, and had to struggle constantly with devising means to teach despite them. Wholly unfair to the very few children who were there to learn, and the few parents who actually parented.

      Most of the parents in the neighborhood in which I taught placed little value on an education–this, not only per me, but also per two of our staff members from the neighborhood, BTW–and viewed school as a free babysitting service.

      In my opinion, schools should film the classrooms, turn to parents, and say: Control your child, or lose your privilege to free education.”

      Sounds harsh? All we are doing now is damaging the other 3/4 of the students. I’d bet you’d see a remarkable change almost overnight if parents didn’t have their freedom to a) go to work, or b) sit around watching soaps uninterrupted.


  2. Charter Schools are the only answer! Thank god we discovered them! They have better teachers who work harder, are smarter, better educated and who are also willing to do it all for less pay and without waste because they care about doing a good job for America that is union free! This is where we have to get back to…an America where teachers are free once again. Free to care…and not just about themselves! (sorry, I tell naughty lie also 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Um…YES to charter schools. NO to less pay. That is bullsh#t, frankly. I don’t know the figures now, but when I was teaching, the gov’t had approx. $10,000 per pupil per year to spend, total, to cover everything: facilties maintenance, administrative and teacher salaries, and teaching supplies. That is a whole lotta beans. I see no reason why every charter school doesn’t get a d#mn good share of that per-pupil pie. No need for low salaries then.


  3. Another memory of my catholic school upbringing (and there are many) was of Paul Cantwell, a trouble-maker from the get go, in the sixth grade, taking the long handled window pole opener used to open unreachable top windows (from category of things no more) and attempting to use the instrument to unhook Elaine Burke’s bra. Our teacher had left the room momentarily and upon returning walked into the chaos as school mates yipped and delighted in the show. I believe she stood befuddled momentarily before grabbing the pole from his hands but that was just one mild incident she had to deal with as a teacher. Paul, incidentally, was in that a fore mentioned group of six children so perhaps his misbehavior was a result of frustration in learning.. I have changed the names to protect both parties. .I think an idea for a future blog is in the making. Perhaps I shall entitle “Nuns, Catechism, and Chaos, Memories of My Catholic School Upbringing” Could be candidate for fresh pressed. You and all teachers should earn a special reward in your next life (since you won’t get in this one) for the penance you put in (there I go again with the Catholic buzz words!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, Kathy, you have to give the boy points for creativity!

    In all five of my years, had the worst boys had access to that tool–which I remember from my very youngest years–we were in old, old buildings–I doubt anything so mild or subtle would have occurred. If backpacks and chairs were picked up and thrown, imagine what damage swinging a long wooden pole with a metal hook could have achieved? I shudder.

    You SHOULD do that blog.

    And I remember penance. Ex-Catholic here. Actually have a small post waiting in the wings about confession!



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