Saturday, October 3, 2009

Drama, advocacy, and oops...

This may come as a shock to you all, so please be sure you're sitting down.

Sometimes 8th grade students don't react in the way you intended.

Are you okay? Breathing? Should I get you some oxygen? Because I know that's a shock to your system!

Here's the story.

No, here's the background.

Our school has an Advisory class. Students in this class stay together for each subject instead of splitting up and going their separate ways. They have different teachers and go to different rooms, but we work to achieve truly tight-knit teams.

Sometimes that backfires.

Now here's the story.

On Friday, I checked homework for one of the classes, whose Advisory teacher happens to be fairly new to the school and is having a hard time being consistent with all-school practices. The Language Arts class usually ends with a reflection, and I started the time with a conversation about the homework that I had just checked. I explained that based on the quality of this work compared to what they have created in the past, I could tell that they were not using their homework and Advisory time well. After a brief discussion of what they could do and where they needed help, they started writing. The question for the written reflection had two parts: "Are you doing your best in Advisory?" and "What do you need to do to make your class better?"

Now, I expected that a few students might realize that their Advisory class could be a LOT better if they controlled themselves, rather than relying on the teacher to control them. They're not little children, after all. I hoped that they would step up and lead the class.

However, it slipped my mind that we've also been emphasizing the skill of self-advocacy. These students will be leaving our little cocoon next year and jumping into large high schools, and we've been talking a lot about how important is to speak up for what you need.

So, this class took the written reflection, and apparently combined it with the self-advocacy lessons...and had a class meeting during lunch. Based on the random conversations I heard after school, they drew up a list of everything that was wrong with their class, especially the Advisory teacher, and presented it to him after lunch. They chose to "make their Advisory better" by telling the teacher what was wrong with him!

I don't know much more than that, and I don't know how much to worry.

Are the kids truly working to improve their class, or have I given them silent permission to be rebellious? Is this going to deal a blow to the school culture, or will it be the crisis that turns us all toward a better path?

Am I going to be seen as an instigator? This other teacher and I don't always see eye-to-eye and, although I try to be professional, the kids have surely noticed by now, especially since he has made a habit of criticizing me in front of them while I'm in the room. I didn't actively want to cause trouble in this class, but trouble has been brewing since the first week of school. Am I an instigator? Is this my silent revenge?

How do I handle this?

1 comment:

  1. From your post it doesn't sound as if you were being an instigator. It seems as if the kids were taking the reflection to heart and acting on it. Maybe you could talk to your class about empathy and how the advisory teacher might feel after being handed their list, without warning or background on the situation. Just a thought...
    -Pigtailed Teacher