My online journal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Desperately Seeking Discipline

Because I can scarcely keep track of my own stuff, I do not expect you to. So before I launch into this post, I remind you, dear reader, that on Tuesdays I teach elementary-school kids a "theatre class" consisting of acting, singing, and dancing.

So despite the godawful timing and logistics of the class (it's 3:30-5pm on Tuesdays in Mahtomedi, and Daycare Dee can only keep the kids until, like, 4:45 and we only have one set of car seats so Joel has to scramble out of work to get the kids and then hang out at Target for half an hour until I can pick the three of them up and really I need to find a better solution because Joel is getting peeved), I do love teaching it.

Except for the talking.

The class is right after school, so the kids have a LOT of energy to expend and a LOT to catch up on. Understandable. And some activities we do do seem to hold their attention enough. But during some of the other stuff, there is nonstop chattering going on. Waiting in line to take a turn speaking? Chattering.

Or this one kid is doing handstands instead of watching his peers take their turns performing. I ask him to stop. I joke -- handstands are awesome, I love doing them myself, I'm all for tumbling but this is not tumbling class! And the next time I turn around, there's Tyler, doing another handstand.

It drives me insaaaaane and as someone with no education training, I feel desperately ill-equipped to deal with it. I want to just scream at them, but that's totally not the right thing to do -- not to mention I am still trying to get my voice back 100% after my brave battle with the double dose of chest cold/marathon cheering. The only thing I really know how to do is give time-outs, so I don't call them that but I did send 2 kids to go sit out and not participate in whatever activity we were doing at the time. The girl took it well (despite the fact that "Sheila was talking to me FIRST!") and came back at the end of the activity to take her turn. But poor Tyler the Handstand Boy sat out the entire rest of the class, refusing to rejoin even when I went over and asked him nicely to please come back, we're all having fun, and maybe if your mother would cut your hair I could actually see your face to talk to you.

So I guess next week they get a little talk about respecting each other's performances by paying attention, blah bah... I wish I knew what to do.

Oh rats I have to get up at the crack of dawn and make apple cake for ECFE tomorrow. But I really want to see how the Red Sox-Indians game ends. Blast it!!


Alison Strobel Morrow said...

What age are these kids? Here are my educator suggestions:

1. Start EVERY class with a review of the rules. No more than 5 rules, and you're not taking, like, twenty minutes to discuss them, but seriously, I'd make a poster with the rules written on them (if these kids are old enough to read) and go over each one at the next class, then at each class after that just start with, "Okay, real quick, let's look at the rules for class!" Since you don't have them every day, and they're coming to you at a time when they're not as focused as would be ideal, they're going to need you to reinforce the rules every single time you see them.

2. Come up with a three-step discipline system for when someone breaks the rules. For example: first offense = a warning (everyone deserves a second chance, right?), second = sit out of the activity for a minute or two (or whatever is logical given a) the activity you're in and b) the offense the kid committed, and third = sit out of the rest of the class. THEY WILL TEST YOU ON THIS, especially the first day you introduce it, so do NOT be surprised if you end up with a handful of kids having to sit things out.

3. Set them up for success--since they're coming straight from school, most likely, start class with some large motor movement--running, jumping, "swirling around like the fall leaves" or something largely unstructured like that for a good five minutes (longer if you can spare the time) to help them get the wiggles out. Then have them come back and chill/stretch out/go over the rules/whatever that is more quiet and calm.

4. Explain the day's schedule, especially if it changes weekly. "Okay, we're going to start with some stretching, then we're going to review the moves we learned last week, then we'll learn a new move and add it to the dance you know so far." Or whatever. Some kids really struggle when they don't know what to expect, and their stress over the unknown manifests itself in acting out.

5. Give them permission to do what they need to do to make sure they have a successful day in class. For example, if they're standing next to someone they KNOW is going to make them talk or act goofy, tell them they have the right at any time to move to a different part of the room so that person isn't a temptation to them. Don't draw attention to it when it happens, just let them do their thing.

If there's a particular kid who is ALWAYS getting in trouble, talk to him alone before or after class. Don't make it an adversarial thing; let him know you really want him to enjoy the class and get something out of it, but you notice he's having some trouble paying attention/following directions/not talking/whatever, and ask him if there's a way he can think of that you can help him to succeed and not give into whatever temptation he keeps falling for. Maybe he needs to be right up front by you at all times; maybe he needs a code word that you can toss out when you notice he's getting off creative and let him know he's part of the solution, too, and that you're on his side.

Okay, those are my ideas. Let me know if you need any more, or if there's a specific situation that isn't addressed by these ideas. :)

Rebecca said...

Make visuals of the rules/expectations.

Instead of time-out, create a focus area. Perhaps where kids can look at "dance/theater" type books or something...just to redirect, calm down, focus, re-group. Set a timer in this area so the kids know when they can/should return to group.

Don't let them have the control. Their choices are limited, but they do have them. Be creative in using your word-phrasing to direct them to where you need them to be.

I have more...ask if you need...

Gay Sladkey said...

I say you throw on a fat suit and shriek out "The endoplasmic reticulum is located HERE!!!"
Then smack your hand against a chalkboard with the anatomy of a cell drawn on it. That always worked for me.

Or you could gently burn the palms of their hands...
Try doing handstands now, Tyler! Heh heh.