post #100 – surveillance

yesterday…

there was a kid in my class who was being mildly disruptive during “reading time”…i had warned him a couple of times, but he wasn’t heeding my words…

since there wasn’t a lot of time left for reading …maybe 5-7 minutes…i sent him out to the hall (instead of sending him to the ISS program) and said…

i want you sit out there, right there (pointing to the mid-point on my classroom wall) in the hallway, where i can see you, where the video camera is.

i could tell he was a bit puzzled, so i walked out of the classroom with him…when we were both out in the hall and he was seated on the floor, i pointed up to the ceiling, to the small camera above my head and said…

see that, that’s a video camera…that’s how i can make sure you’re reading–i can see you on that camera.

i left him in the hall for a minute, then i went back out there and said…

you’re a little out my view/picture…move down the hall a foot.

he did…he got up, gave a weary stare to the camera, grabbed his backpack and book, and moved down the hall…thinking that i could see him on my laptop…

which i couldn’t…of course…the only people who have access to the video feed are the school resource officer and administrator…but, he didn’t know that…

[my goal was to separate him from his classmates while simultaneously making sure that he didn’t “make mischief” in the halls–mission accomplished!]

about 6 minutes later, i brought him back into class and we went ahead with the rest of the day — no other students were in on it, or really even knew what was happening…i’m not into the “shame game”, people! yet, it was still a jolly good time for me, myself and i ūüôā

who says you can’t have fun as a classroom teacher these days?!

cheers!

somebody’s son

as a teacher, you have a lot of power…

and, depending on how you use it…it, and you, can either be a force for good or for evil, you know…

a couple of weeks ago, i was in a position to use my power for good…to stand up for a student…something that’s always been important for me…it’s always been important for me because i’ve always had a strong sense of justice and fairness (some might call it an overdeveloped one;)…i can trace the origins of this kind of mindset and posture back to my youth, back to elementary school…back to one week in elementary school to be exact–the week when we watched the movie ‘roots’ in class…that movie blew my mind…sitting there, watching it, i couldn’t believe that one human being could treat another human being so harshly just because they were a different color, just because they were a different race and culture, just because they had power and the other person was powerless…it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right…that movie had a great impact on my life, then and now…

anyways, here’s what happened in class…

we were watching a video in class and i had called a student up to the front of the room to help me with something…so, he got up and came towards the front of the room…right away, when he got up, a few other students started snickering…that got my attention…so, i looked over…my eye caught an object, a thin strip of paper peeking out from behind the student who had stood up…so, i told him…young man,¬†you’ve got a piece of paper on your back…

[one thing, there are 43 kids in this particular class…which makes it a bit difficult to see what the kids are doing all the time, especially those that are a few rows deep…i wish i could say i was the only teacher in the u.s. that had this problem, but i’m not…and it’s an issue for learning and classroom management–and for student safety…anyways, had i not had him come up to my desk i probably wouldn’t have even have seen it, maybe he wouldn’t have seen it until later]

when i told him that he had a piece of paper stuck to his back, he spun around and awkwardly pulled it off his back…he looked down, read it, then looked up and walked straight towards a group of guys a few rows back…i got up from my desk and followed him…a heated verbal exchange ensued between several young men (the guy who had the note stuck to his back was standing in front of two students who were sitting at their desks)…one of the guys who was sitting at his desk grabbed the piece of notebook paper and started to crumple it up…

when i got to his desk, i said, hey let me see that…¬†

reluctantly, he gave me the piece of paper…i un-crumpled it and read it…immediately, i looked up (and at the two students who were sitting in front of me) and said (in a low growl), who wrote this?!

one of the boys spoke up…i did…

i looked at him and said, plain as you like, pick up your stuff and head to the clas program…

[clas program = iss]

we resumed class…

when i got back to my desk, i sat down and re-read the words on the piece of paper…

it read: he likes it in the ass

at the end of the class period i addressed the entire class, with a quiet intensity (it’s a register i hit when i really want something to stick), saying…

a student, a person…should be able to go through daily life, walk down the street, and most of all–come to class without being bothered, without being harassed…when something like this happens, there’s usually more than one student involved, i got one of the offenders today, and he’ll be out of here for tomorrow’s class as well…so, if you were in on it, i’m talking to you right now…don’t do it again.

when the class was dismissed, the student, the one who made the mistake of putting that note on his peer’s back came back to my room from the clas program…as i requested…

i asked him, why did you do it?

he said, i don’t know, it was stupid…

i told him, i can tell you regret it…but, just to remind you–that kind of behavior doesn’t fly in here, got it?! it’s serious enough that i’m going to keep you out of class for another day…please don’t do that again.

he said, yes, i’m sorry…

i said, we’ll see…

[and i didn’t say “we’ll see” to provoke him further or to belittle him…i told him that because i’ve told all my students that–on occasion–saying “i’m sorry” is important and does mean something…but, a lot people say it and it doesn’t mean a damn thing…teenagers and adults…so, i’ve told them i don’t want to hear i’m sorry, i want to see it–so, do it different next time!!!]

after he left, i emailed my principal and ‘the other powers that be’ to document the situation and allow them to follow-up if they wanted to…

we’ll see how the next few weeks go…

if i had a heightened sense of justice before i had kids, it has only magnified (x1000) since my own kids came along…i guess i’m like parents everywhere–when i send jack and grace out to daycare in the morning, i want to know that they will be safe and secure…and believe me, it’s a risky proposition, a high stakes game…sending your children out into the world…i want to know that their daycare provider, teachers, coaches and other trusted adults will be looking out for them when i’m not there…i want to know that they’ll be alright, you know…

it’s what i try to do for my students…it’s what i was able to do for the kid who was ridiculed with the sign on his back…

it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right…what happened…he deserves to be treated with respect and with dignity…

because he’s a person, because he’s a human being…

because he’s somebody’s son…

tradecraft…boundaries (part IV)

fun with boundaries (in structured settings) exhibit A

o.k., so we’ve covered a lot of ground…and more recently, we’ve covered a lot of the serious stuff surrounding boundaries (in structured settings)–but at the end of the day, one of the best things you can do is give yourself some grace with this kind of thing…holding kids accountable; setting and enforcing boundaries is not easy…but, you can get better at it–with time and practice (lots and lots of practice)…

while you know how important boundaries can be for an individual, group and/or community…it’s also really important to note that boundaries and boundary setting can be a lot of fun, too!!!

to illustrate that point, here’s a story from my¬†classroom case files:

one day i was giving a presentation to my class (fyi-it was the last hour of the day, with two weeks left before summer vacation) when another group of students from our school (cosmetology class) came out into the courtyard near my room (my classroom has a row of windows that runs down one wall…it’s the wall that faces the courtyard)…

things were going along fine, when suddenly, a student started ‘making a racket’ right outside one of my windows (we, of course, had the classroom windows open–it was almost summer-time, after all!)…the student got ‘loud and obnoxious’…

so, i glanced outside (and so did my students)…to see what all the fuss was about…i stood there for a minute, watching and listening, as this one girl carried on about some boy…i had seen this kind of frenetic behavior before, it’s what i call:¬†the¬†typical cosmetology drama…think: 90210¬†on speed

i watched, thinking–God bless the teachers in that program…mercy!

anyways…i looked around the courtyard and didn’t see her teachers anywhere…must be on the way….but, she was still carrying on…she continued to distract and disrupt my students…so, i went over to an open window (near the front of the class) and called her over…as she walked to the window, i glanced back at my students…and at that moment, i saw them… simultaneously and as a whole…lean forward in their chairs…like they had practiced that synchronized move all year-long…

so, i turned back to the window and talked to the girl (library-quiet style) who was making mischief…she on one side of the open window (screen-less), me on the other…

me: hey, nice day, isn’t it?! ¬†hey, i can understand why you’d be so pumped up to be outside, but would you mind toning it down a little…we’ve got class going on in here?

student: sure, no problem

me: thanks

after our exchange, i turned away from the window and faced my class…and immediately, my students made their next collective move…

in unison, they were up and out of their chairs, pointing and shouting:

mr. d!!!, mr. d!!! she just gave you ‘the finger’!!!

i looked¬†at my class as if to say, “really?!”…they continued shouting and pointing towards the windows…

so, i glanced outside and saw the girl i had just visited with…she was talking and laughing with her friend on the other side of the courtyard (the other 20 girls in the group continued working on their assignments–they seemed to be unaware of what was going on)…

i still didn’t see the cosmetology instructors…

i turned back to my students…and calmed them all down…then, i zeroed in on one particular student (the most honest one in the class) and asked her quietly:

did she really do that?!¬†(just to confirm what had ‘gone down’)

she nodded back to me and said:

yes

momentarily, i drifted off to dreamland and imagined myself running back and forth along the bank of windows with my arms outstretched, my fists clenched–save for my¬†middle fingers (which i’d locked in the upright position)–pumping my hands up and down like pistols…all the while, shouting p-pow, pow–p-pow, pow–p-pow, powwhat’s up now?! ¬†(press play on bon jovi’s, ‘blaze of glory’)…

but, eventually, i “came to”, snapped out of it, and shook off the daydream…

now, normally…99.9% of the time, i would’ve just talked about the behavior with one of her instructors (after school) and left it to them to ‘consequence her’…and they would’ve (most certainly) clamped down on her the next day (we’ve¬†‘got each other’s backs’ when it comes to student discipline, no doubt–which is awesome!)…and i would’ve been done with it…

but, this time, i decided to handle it myself (for the fun of it)…

so, i went over to my desk and spent a little time at work…my class was stone silent, of course…waiting, wondering…what’s going to happen next?!

after a moment, i got up, walked to the window, and called the girl over (once again)…behind me, i heard movement…and i knew my class was, once again, ‘leaning in’…

she came over and we started talking…

me (library-quiet once more): so, you know…you owe me something

student: what do you mean?!

me: you know, for your hand gesture…for the ‘disrespect’

student: really, ‘the finger’?! ¬†that was nothing!¬†(admission)

me: hmmmm…

[i handed her a sheet of paper…at the top, it read: 20 things you could’ve done–instead of flippin’ a teacher off*…]

[she looked at it, was quiet for a beat, then looked up at me…and stared me down]

student: no way, not doing it

me: ok, you can do “20” for me today, or “40” for your teachers tomorrow

[she thought about it for a moment, frowned, and slowly walked toward the other side of the courtyard…then, she sat down at a bench, took out a pen, and started writing…i smiled to myself ūüôā ]

at this point, trying to teach anything was completely futile…so, i told my class about the consequence i gave her…and waited…perched on the edge of my desk…

after a little while, i saw one of her teachers come out to the courtyard and talk to some of the students about an assignment…then quickly, she headed back into the school (before i got a chance to ‘wave her over’)…

anyways, not long after that, the girl got up and came toward the window again…

at the window, she handed me her list of “20 things”…

it read:

  1. smiled
  2. waved
  3. walk away
  4. thumbs up
  5. yelled
  6. talked about it
  7. stayed calm
  8. wait until you weren’t there
  9. laughed
  10. ignore it
  11. screamed
  12. gone back inside
  13. listened
  14. been upset to myself
  15. wrote a note
  16. flicked off someone else say hi
  17. punched my hand
  18. not gone outside
  19. stayed at home
  20. ran away

as i read it over, i thought it was spectacular (and funny, too)…and in our exchange, i had her change #16 (for obvious reasons)…when she did, i thanked her politely and we went our separate ways…

at that point, i turned back to the class, held up the list, and said (with a smile):

“20 things”–no one messes with criminal justice, peeps!

[they clapped and cheered¬†as i pinned it to my bulletin board…then, we moved on with what was left of the day]

later, i talked to my friends (the cosmetology teachers) about what ‘had gone down’ in the courtyard…they were ‘cool with my response’ for their student and appreciated me holding her accountable…

proposition: boundary setting is no ‘piece of cake’…but, sometimes, it sure can be fun! cheers!

*the “20 things” is something i got from my wife, who happens to be a stellar middle-school teacher!!!

note:¬†the consequence(s) imposed should be reasonable-meaning, it should fit the offense…getting ‘the finger’ is a really minor offense in my world (then again, i’ve been punched, kicked, spit at, grabbed, pushed, slapped, poked, (vehemently) ‘swore at’ and had objects thrown at me over the course of my career…so, my perspective is skewed off of that…heh, heh)…so, giving/recommending the ‘clas program’ or an ‘in-school suspension (ISS)’ for this particular offense would’ve been¬†over-the-top, in my opinion…but, again, my response was based on my specific work situation/experience/prior history with the ‘youth in question’–and ultimately, my discretion…your situation/setting and¬†(to some degree) your perspective will dictate your boundaries and how you respond to certain behaviors…

tradecraft…boundaries (part III)

boundaries in structured settings — an example (for professional youth workers):

in settings like schools, juvenile rehabilitation centers, faith-based organizations, summer camps, etc…professionals have the luxury of being guided by state laws and organizational policies in boundary setting…at the same time, depending on the individual group plan within a structured system, the boundaries may look very different:

different programs = different expectations & consequences

student/teacher classroom scenario:

expectation: no talking in class (when the instructor is presenting–unless we’re in a discussion, of course)

consequence: if you disrupt the class by constant talking you can a) be moved to another seat; b) be moved to the clas program; c) be given ISS

note: the clas program is an option at our school; it is a ‘intermediate removal action’ — where the student is removed from the classroom and sent to the clas program room (near the front office)…typically, for only an hour or two – it’s the step we use before ISS (ISS stands for ‘in-school suspension’ which is an entire day stay) –“b” and “c” can be implemented if “consequence a” doesn’t make a dent in the behavior…and the student continues to exhibit disruptive behavior that interferes with the learning process…

here’s a pattern/pathway i’ve followed before…

john commits a boundary violation:¬†john talks loudly about the great time he had at a party over the weekend and disrupts a lesson; his talking distracts other students and pulls them into his story…¬†

me (response = a choice is offered):  john, would you rather stop talking and continue to sit by your friends or continue talking and move to this seat (near the front of the class)???*

john: stop talking, i guess…

me: ok, let’s move on then…

[a few minutes later…]

john repeats the same boundary violation: talks in class and disrupts a lesson

me (response/action = consequence):¬†i say, “john,¬†your talking is interrupting my teaching–please move to this seat”**

note: i¬†didn’t say, “who do you think you are? you never learn, do you, john?! i can’t stand you–move over here”

*importantly…offering choices can be an extremely valuable thing to do within the “expectation-consequence” scheme…doing so, puts the ball back in their court, where they have some power over ‘the outcome’ & can decide on a course of action–though, all choices/options are ones that you are alright with (as the authority figure) — in other words, the only options on the table are the ones that can get what you want, what you expect…as far as boundaries go…offering choices also keeps things from “getting heated” or “escalating” — nobody likes a tyrant ūüôā

**the response that i gave here was the right one…because it focuses on the behavior–what the student did, not who the student is …the response that “i didn’t say”, on the other hand, would’ve been wrong…because it makes the issue personal, confrontational, and (often) an “instant battle”…in fact, taking that tact may very well escalate the situation…by making it about who john is as a person and not about john’s behavior-his talking in class…not what we want to be doing as professionals…

anyways, let’s say that…john ‘behaves’ for the rest of the class period

the next day i might allow him to go back to his original seat (i might even give him “a carrot” in the middle of a consequence …or thereafter…and let him know that he may be able to return to his original seat tomorrow if he can handle his new location for the rest of the day)~

note: in this scenario, i didn’t keep giving the student¬†choices and choices and choices and choices and choices¬†or keep doing the ask, ask, ask, ask, ask thing–which, honestly–doesn’t do a damn bit of good–but, some people go that route in these situations…usually, they are new and inexperienced…and often…they are unsure, afraid or lacking confidence in their authority (or, they want to be seen as ‘cool’ or they want to be ‘friends’ with the kids–one of my least favorite incarnations of a ‘professional youth worker’)…so, if you give an expectation for behavior…it’s really important to¬†follow through¬†(consistently) with the known/stated consequence–pull the trigger, people!–in doing so, you will gain the respect of the kids in your charge and there will be no limits on what you can accomplish together; if you, on the other hand, give an expectation for behavior and don’t follow through with a known/stated consequence–then, not only will you lose the respect of the kids…but, it will become increasingly difficult to manage their behaviors…therefore, making anything you try to accomplish with them much more difficult, if not impossible–

consistent follow through is key in ‘boundaries work’ in structured settings–it shows them (the kid who is ‘acting out’ and the rest of the group) that you’re “not playin'” and “mean business”…¬†

tradecraft…boundaries (part I)

boundaries: preface

one of the best things that an adult…who is working with kids (and especially, an adult who is raising kids)…can do–to bring up responsible young people–is to give their toddlers, children, and teens boundaries…even their ‘tweens’ in a lot cases–especially, when you consider that the pre-frontal cortex isn’t fully developed until people are on their way past ‘legal adulthood’ as defined by state laws…you know the part of the brain i’m talking about…the part that controls impulsive behavior and the ability to make good decisions ūüôā

in my opinon, all kids need boundaries…expecting a kid to function positively and responsibly in the world without good boundaries is like expecting a house to stand without a solid foundation…it’s just not gonna happen, folks…

one of my favorite gems on this topic comes from child and family expert, dr. david walsh:

“it’s a kid’s job to test limits, it’s our job (responsible parents and other adults) to set limits–in saying ‘no’ to our kids…we are (hopefully) teaching them to say ‘no’ to themselves (some day)” (walsh, 2014)…

importantly, one of the single most important ‘trade skills’ in working effectively with young people is establishing good and reasonable boundaries for kids to know and follow…i mean, how can any teacher, counselor, para, social worker, coach, youth leader, juvenile justice worker, or parent instruct a young person if that young person is doing what they want to do when they want to do it…with no regard for anyone else around them?!

this is a part of instructing our youth that we need to return to wholeheartedly and fearlessly in our society, in america…i would argue that there’s never been a more important time for us to get back to the ‘world of boundaries’ than right now…because it’s something we’ve strayed away from…and we can see the results reflected in how young people see themselves and act in the world today…it’s not a pretty sight

so, with that…we begin a new series on boundaries…

stay tuned…

[i would like give a special ‘shout out’ to family friend and proud parent of two, rachel s.–who called for some special attention to this subject back when i wrote the post titled, ‘know your role’–so, while it’s a bit late in coming…this series is for you, sister! cheers!]

hit me with your best shot

along with the “i don’t wanna’s” and the “no’s” (as mentioned in the last post), another way that our twin’s behavior has turned is in the “physical aggression department”…

importantly, this is not the type of behavior that is described in the post titled love bites…this is different…this is intentional and deliberate aggression…

let me tell you about the first time that we saw this type of behavior in one of our kids…

well, it happened a couple of months ago, when the twins were 22 months old…we had just spent an hour visiting with a small group of people (that included family and friends)…we had been hanging out in our living room, having some snacks, and playing…it had been a good time…eventually, a few family members left and we were continuing to visit…

i remember looking across the room, my son and daughter were playing on the couch…at first everything was fine–they were laughing and having fun…my son had a thomas the train engine in his right hand and he was rolling it over one of the cushions…then, it happened…as i watched, i saw my son pull back his right arm, swing it towards my daughter and smash the train engine right into her face–hard…my daughter wailed and wailed…

and, i thought…

cinders and ashes!!! (the thomas the train version of profanity)

at this point, we took the train away from my son, scolded him, and set him in “time out” for 2 minutes…while our son was in “time-out”, we consoled our daughter…and when that was done, we brought my son out and talked to him for a minute (about what not to do) and had him ‘mend fences’ with our daughter…

it was the first time we had to discipline one of our kids for that kind of thing…and now that i think about it, it was the first time we had to discipline one of our kids for anything…since then, we’ve had to discipline them (yes, both son and daughter) for a variety of other aggressive actions…

because even the most innocent human beings, like these two, can take things too far…

hard lessons

one of the hardest things to admit about working with kids is the fact–the reality–that you can’t reach all kids–which is one really good reason why we need a lot of good and different teachers, youth workers, counselors, etc–because someone probably can reach them, even if you can’t…

this past semester has been one of the most difficult semester’s i’ve experienced since becoming a high school teacher…there are a handful of kids who are really causing problems in class, and ultimately, interfering and blocking other students’ ability to learn…

you might think that because i teach elective courses…that all of the students in my classes would want to be there and want to learn–not true…and it is hard to believe, i mean, i teach criminal justice…the subject matter is interesting and fun to learn about, right?! ¬†i would’ve loved to have had the chance to take a class like that in high school…but, some kids still don’t want to be there or participate…it blows my mind?! ¬†and, in addition to the quiet non-compliant ones, you get kids who ‘want to be bad’ or ‘take an attitude’–and take as many other kids down with them as they can…which has been more often the case this semester…

this kind of thing is exhausting and it’s what a lot of teachers are up against each and every day…most people don’t have the faintest idea about what kind of energy it takes to do this kind of work (the worst detractors have called our occupation ‘part-time employment’–such a statement tells you more about the person making that kind of comment than the realities of teaching in american public schools)…i worked construction for a couple of years and the only occupation that is as tiring as that–is teaching…and it’s the student behaviors that take their toll–i spend more than half of my time each day motivating, persuading, re-directing, confronting, reminding, pushing/pulling, disciplining, and¬†herding students re: appropriate classroom behaviors–then, once i’ve got ’em where i want ’em–wham, i teach ’em!!!ūüôā granted, i work in an alternative environment…but, not all my kids have been ‘in trouble’ or ‘at risk’…

anyways, this is all to say that…because of the state of things this semester i’ve had to have 2 kids permanently removed (and not to be back next semester), with another group “on deck” for the same treatment…this is a big deal…to permanently kick a kid out of class–and it is something that is not done lightly…because if it happens enough, a kid can end up being permenantly kicked out of school–and for the kid, for society–we want to keep kids in school until they graduate, as much as we can (don’t believe me, spend a few hours looking over the research on juvenile delinquency in the u.s.–there is a strong correlation between not having a high school diploma and criminality)…

a lot of time, energy, and behavioral strategies have gone into the last four months (including a few sleepless nights)–incidents, consequences, ‘encouragements’, one-on-one conversations, and home contacts have all led up to this moment (at the same time, i haven’t been giving my time, energy and attention to the students who are doing what they’re supposed to be doing–which, of course, is the majority of my kids)…so, as much as i hate to admit it…i have to acknowledge that i just can’t reach these few troubled ones–i’m not getting through, didn’t even make a dent…

i hope there’s someone out there that can…

present day: lookin’ out

not long after the “spiderman entry”…

i¬†sent a kid to the CLAS¬†program (for an hour)–our version of ISS…for messin’ with another student…i had warned him, “keep your hands to yourself”…but, he wasn’t getting the message…and continued his¬†troublesome ways–pickin’ on¬†a¬† student, instigating and aggravating…so…

take a walk, son

it’s important that…once you get a whiff of something like that…harassment/bullying…as a teacher, counselor, youth director, coach, juvenile justice worker, etc…you take action (right away)…in this case, my response says/reinforces don’t do that, not around me

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