I am overwhelmed by six small boys.
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.
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.
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