Sunday, November 07, 2010

Dealing with open classroom “oops” moments

I have a pretty open classroom.  What that means is that the flow of ideas is hardly ever impaired by things that might not be acceptable in someone else’s classroom.  I deal with Seniors in a Government/Economics setting, something that demands openness if the subject matter is going to come across as relevant. 

That openness straddles a very transparent line.  Take swearing.  I don’t condone swearing, but I do allow for a little more latitude to the use of language.  My rule is that if you slip, fix it and move on.  We talk about controversial stuff and kids get passionate sometimes.  I don’t allow anyone to call anyone else out.  Then the boundary has been crossed.  But seriously, in dealing with 17/18 year old students, what’s worse….

-“I can’t believe that people voted for some bullshit policy that deals with marriage, something that is none of anyone’s business".


-“You’re stupid”.

Context people.

Today’s incident wasn’t about swearing, it was about a student getting too relaxed with the open atmosphere and popping off to me.  Everyone knew it too because that line of tack and taste was far enough crossed that a collective “ohhhhhhhhhhhhh” rang out in my classroom.  I asked him to step outside of the classroom for a moment.

I’ve seen students written up with referrals (disciplinary notes) for far less.  We aren’t talking belligerent kids here, we are talking young adults who would rather be in my classroom than A-24 (the bad place) waiting to get detentions.  What’s worse, I’ve seen teachers set a mood for a classroom and then ring up a student who pushes those limits just a little bit.  Hey, if you set the environment and style of your room, you better be prepared to enact a sane method of consequences for small infractions.  Mountains out of molehills, especially those you helped build, don’t help the students.

So I wandered outside and the student immediately apologized.  He knew he crossed the line and any further punishment was going to be a strong overreaction to a minor event.  I let him know that the comment of was to far, reminded him that I enjoyed his participation, and let him off with the suggestion that he be a little more careful with his commentary.  That was it.  Problem solved and the rest of the class notes where the boundary was set without resentment from overreaction. 

The testing of boundaries will only get worse later in the Spring as Seniors realize they are almost out of here.  It isn’t mean, it’s just a boundary thing.  It culminates with graduation parties in June, where I’m invited to parent initiated gatherings where students are often drinking, and not a simple glass of champagne.  Yeah, I avoid grad parties more and more as the years go by.   

blog comments powered by Disqus