Posted by: Magistra | February 15, 2008

Power of Seven

Today there were seven minutes in Algebra when I was afraid to breathe. Seven minutes during which I could hear students pressing the buttons on their calculators. At the end of class one student came up, trying to give me his completed assignment. I told him to turn it in. He looked perplexed, and he is new this semester, so I asked him if he knew where to turn work in. “No, I never do anything, so I never turn anything in.” And he was part of the seven golden minutes today. (By the way, strictly speaking, he wasn’t telling the truth, but pretty close to it.)

Those seven minutes weren’t the only miracle. I spoke with two girls who are consistently obnoxious. One wouldn’t stop making sarcastic comments after every thing I said or did today, so I told her to step outside (not her first trip). A couple minutes later, I told her I wanted her to come back to class, but she needed to stop making comments like that. She consented and went back inside. Ten minutes later when she made another comment, I asked her what the agreement was to stay in class. She said (without her usual grin), “to do my work and not make comments” and then she went back to doing just that.

The other girl just blew up at the special-ed aide, and I told her publicly that discourtesy would not be tolerated and to step outside and calm down. Again, I went outside and again had a good discussion. It wasn’t perfect, she was never willing to take full responsibility for her rudeness (blaming the aide for helping her when she didn’t ask for help and giving me a line about “speaking truth and truth hurts”), but we managed to talk about what exactly bothers her (physical proximity) and she reluctantly agreed that I would speak with the aide and that she would try to ask the aide politely to talk to her from farther away if it happened again.

As far as I can tell, there was nothing significantly different about how I approached the girls or the words I used.  My induction program advisor wants to put it down to consistency paying off, but I think a post-Valentine’s slump in energy or the hypnotic effect of  graphing calculators is just as likely responsible. Whatever it was, it was a good start to my day. I honestly can’t remember the last time Algebra started my day off well. There have been plenty of okay days this semester, but not a good day.

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