Students come from all kinds of environments. For some school is a sanctuary away from brutality. For others it is pit of snakes to avoid at all costs. For most students it is just a part of life to be lived.
Some events will happen which will require firmness, sometimes patience, sometimes
authority. Students who are interested in what is being taught will rarely cause problems.
When using discipline make sure it is administered with a big dose of love!
He was a stud! Broad shoulders, square chin, and attractive olive skin. Just a generation away from his Italian heritage. He was bright, but his personality could cause serious concern if pressed in the wrong direction. He was athletic and I believe earned his letter in wrestling. As strong as he was, I am glad I never had to meet him on the mat. Marc asked a question; I do not remember what it was about. But I do
remember that I tried to answer it and he let me know I was wrong. I did not challenge him, but said, “Look up your information and come to class tomorrow prepared to defend your point of view.”
“Okay,” he said with a gruff tone of voice.
The next day I asked Marc to respond. His head was on the desk with his face covered in his arms. It was his way of saying I am not going to do it! “Come on Marc, let’s hear from you, you are the one who started this!”
His next statement raised the decibel of difference between us just short of conflict. “Marc, get up and share what you have learned.”
The next words out of his mouth crossed the line. I firmly told him he was excused and needed to go to the office. He stomped out of the room, and I followed him just a few steps behind his firm, angry body.
“Marc, wait,” I said, as I touched him on the shoulder. He turned quickly and cocked his fist, prepared to throw a wicked punch. I put my hand up to ward off the blow and said, “Marc, I love you!”
His hands dropped to his side and the blustering teenager began to cry. We talked briefly. “Why don’t you go for a walk, I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”
Another student I interviewed remembered the confrontation and recalled that when I came back to the room I had tears in my eyes.
Let the Students Do the Discipline!
One warm, Fall week many of the students gathered outside my classroom to eat their lunch. There were two lunch periods and I was trying to hold class. The students learned their loud talk disturbed the class. That egged them on to see what would happen. It made lunch for them a lot more fun!
For a couple of days it was a contest. I tried to communicate with them from the windows and had no success. The classroom was two-thirds basement and it was not an effective setting to make a point. I finally went outside and personally talked to the kids. “We are trying to hold class and you make it hard to teach.”
It did not work. I was exasperated, and turned to the students for help. Is this only me, or are you bothered by what is going on?” I got the support of the class to do something about it. They knew several of the people who were causing the disturbance. “If you go out and invite them to come into the class, will you be willing to ask them to be quiet?”
I had a consensus to try that approach. They were able to get five or six of the culprits to come into the classroom and I asked the class, “Will you tell your friends how you feel?” They were kind and very straight. “Please let us enjoy our class!” It solved the problem.
Don’t Bother Me Donna
The setting for the class was very difficult. I had 48 students in a room without windows. It was a smaller than average classroom and was composed of desks and bodies. Donna had a mind of her own and it had nothing to do with
school work. Whatever she felt like she wanted to do, she did it! She wrote a note I tossed in the waste basket and a big fellow in class told me to give it back to her. That note came from Donna. She didn’t get it back and the big fellow at last left the room for the principal’s office. I gave her special attention in class. I talked to her after class asking one- on-one for her cooperation. I may well have been trying to influence a crowbar. I sat her in the seat right in front of me. She still talked to whomever she wanted at anytime she wished and wrote notes or doodled without any pretense at all that
there was a class going on. She absolutely cared not a whit how I felt. This escapade went on for two or three weeks. I finally had all I could take. I asked her to step out in the hall and I gave persuasion one more chance. Water off a duck’s back!
I finally said to her, “Donna, if everyone in America was just like you, I’d rather live in Russia!”
The statement stunned us both. That was a Friday afternoon class. The next day I was walking downtown with no one else on the sidewalk. I saw Donna approaching about a half-block away. She saw who was approaching and crossed to the other side of the street so she did not have to pass me. The incident did not totally solve the problem. I eventually got her attention and the circumstances changed a little.
Sultry Dee Ann
I was pleased to get an interview, because I thought she might refuse. I never remembered her smiling once while she was a member of my class. She let me know about her life when she attended school. She had a very difficult step-mother. Along with other events, she never thought well of herself. School was a
“I remember you teaching about two political parties and the variety of powers that unions had. My father was a union man, and you made what my father tried to teach me very understandable. It caused me to have lots of talks with my father.
“I was impressed when you became unhappy with the class and told us that no one has the right to prevent anyone else from learning. In fact you said,‘You are the cream of the crop and you are not doing what you should be doing.’
“I remember the last week of class you telling us our strengths and weaknesses.”
Millie was a charming, beautiful, young girl with a pleasant personality. She could shmooze her way through any assignment by talking her way out of the reality of any situation. The major problem I experienced as her teacher was her inability to get anything in on time. It didn’t matter what the rules were you could “go to the bank” that her paper would not make it on time. Several conversations were held with her to correct this deficiency. Her
parents were informed, and they were aware of the problem and were also frustrated.
I finally had a meeting with her, a school counselor, and Mr. Keddington. During the year, my seniors had a project which had to be finished if they wanted credit for the class. She knew that she needed the class to
graduate. She was informed when the paper was due and was told a week ahead of time if she did not get the paper in she should would flunk my class and would not be able to graduate. I remember telling her pecifically, “If your paper is not in, I will come out to the graduation practice and pull you out of the line.”
“Oh, it will be in,” she said. Alas, it was not! I checked with the principal and got the green light to flunk her. Her parents knew it would happen, and it did. This was not a pleasant thing to do. About two years later I met her on Main Street in Salt Lake City. I was embarrassed running into her for I thought there would be ill feelings. Millie thanked me being firm in my resolution! She said it did teach her that deadlines count. It took a load off my mind. The fact that she approached me tells me she had found peace with herself.
Just next to my classroom were the stairs I used when I headed to the office. At the foot of the stairs was a little corner which became a convenient place for teenage lovers. This was still early in the 60's and relationships between boys and girls were becoming more and more familiar. One time I left the office
after the tardy bell had rung. The young couple was still exploring each other to
the extent they thought they could get away with in a not-so-private area of the school.
I had suggested to them before that what they were doing was not appropriate, but alas I was ignored. I thought it was time to raise the ante a little bit. I went to my first period class which had six or seven boys who were on the wrestling team.
“Come see what I have to show you wrestlers. Anyone else who wants to see is welcome. About half the class followed me out to observe the overly engaged couple. “See that hold?” I asked. “Take some notes and you’ll never lose another wrestling match.” The couple slowly slipped away and never used the spot again
for their adventures as far as I know.