While working on math with a small group during our intervention block, I had 2 out of 4 students that quickly became complete uncooperative. “Jeremy” was fine at the beginning. He was finished answering the problems early. He tried helping one of the other students but grew frustrated because they were not “getting it” quickly enough. “Jeremy” then started distracting other students by talking to them, he was drawing all over his worksheet, not responding when I would call on him, and simply not cooperating when his cooperation was needed. “Phillip” soon followed “Jeremy’s” lead. Out of nowhere, Phillip starts giving me attitude when I call on him. He completely ignored me when I would ask him a question. Eventually, I got fed up with their antics and demanded that both of them return back to their desks since they obviously did not want to cooperate. They both stomped off, snatching papers and pouting all the way back to their seats.
This was a very difficult situation for me. I ended up spending more time trying to get them to focus on the material than I did making sure that the math concepts for clear with everyone. Because I wanted to make sure that everyone benefited from the small group work, I think I put up with their behavior for longer than I should have. This impacted the students because the other two students who were working diligently lost valuable time with me. Also, Jeremy and Phillip got the attention they were looking for, but in the process sent me to a level of frustration that I had not experienced so far in the two weeks of school. I was mad at myself that I neglected the other two students but also irritated that I was not able to successfully get Jeremy and Phillip back on track.
I have now been exposed to the reality that students do not always want to work when and how I want them to work. Looking back, I think that Jeremy was off task because he was bored with the pace of the small group. He is one that takes a little while to understand a concept but when he gets it, he gets it. When seeing that he understood what he was doing, I should have had something else lined up to keep him occupied and challenged. I think he was subconsciously trying to tell me he needed something else, but I misread what he was doing. I later talked with him about his behavior and explained to him that if he is frustrated, upset, or even bored, he needs to let me know because otherwise I think he is just misbehaving. He was very receptive to my suggestions and I think going forward, both him and I will be more aware. Phillip on the other hand, would not even make eye contact with me afterward. I know he is very stubborn and holds grudges for about as long as he can. I just understand now that he is a follower and will behave as others are if he sees it gets them attention. Perhaps the most important thing I have discovered is that there must be zero tolerance for misbehaving because the learning experience for others is compromised. I can stop thinking about what more could have been accomplished in the group if I didn’t spend half of the time trying to get the other two on track. Student learning is my first priority and I will set the expectation that unruly behavior is not going to be tolerated. I also want students to know that it is their responsibility to communicate with me how they are feeling because I cannot read minds. I think that by establishing those expectations, I will hopefully be able to ensure that learning is taking up the majority of the time in the classroom.
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