Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Art of Randomness

Students can be set off by little things.  In my younger years, I taught summer school and I returned an assignment to a student who had just put her head down.  I laid the assignment on her desk and as soon as I turned to the next student, it fell to the ground. She screamed, "You ALWAYS throw my papers on the ground!" and proceeded to throw her desk across the room before running out.

I found this a quite interesting reaction.  Even if I was intentionally dropping her papers on the floor (which I do not recall doing), why react that vehemently?

The older (and wiser) I get, the more I seek out ways to minimize setting students off.  There are plenty of things out of our control such as:

  • girlfriend/boyfriend problems
  • drug issues
  • overbearing parents
  • indifferent parents
  • hateful parents (I had one kid who, when his father was upset, was made to sleep on the porch, regardless of the temperature)
  • any number of things
However, there is one thing that drives students crazy that you can control - 
Saying their name aloud

The best way I have found to avoid doing that is to 1. give redirection as general as possible (doesn't always work, but saying, "OK, everyone to your seats" rather than "Kyle, go to your seat" sometimes gets the job done without it seeming personal, even if Kyle is the only one out of his seat).  The other method  is to be random.



What you see here is the Container of Kismet.and a $5 Magic 8-Ball.  Kismet means fate or destiny, but I like the alliterative qualities of it with the word container.  I put all of their names in the box (this is a baby formula container - works great!).  Then, if I need someone to read or mark grammar on the board, I just pull the name from the box.  This way, I am not picking on Kyle, fate has chosen Kyle.  And who are we to fight fate?  It is unbelievable how much of a difference this stupid difference makes.  

Now, to really sell it, you need to also use the Container of Kismet for good, too.  Sometimes after a quiz, I will say, "Someone here has done something nice and has not been rewarded for it."  So I pull a name from the box and give that person 5 bonus points.

The 8 Ball is great for when kids are trying to finagle something that you really don't care too much about, but don't want to always just give in on.  For example, a kid says, "Will you take (insert wrong answer) for this question?"  It is close enough, but not what I would really want to accept normally, so we go to the 8 Ball.  I always let another student read off the result so that I am not accused of cheating.  Students will accept their fate from a stupid toy faster than they will for you.  You gave them a fair chance, after all.

So, what crazy methods do you employ to get your kids to behave in class?  Let us know in the comments (even if you are finding this article way past the post date).

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