Monday, January 12, 2009

I should have joined the circus.

This year, I have the smallest class I've ever had: 14 students.

But there are two boys in my room that have enough energy to make it seem like I'm teaching 20 kids.

Very condensed synopsis of the boys: One boy has severe ADHD and has been evaluated, parents were supposed to make doctors appointments and have regular meetings with school counselor, but they haven't followed through. He loves to help in the classroom, but he's extremely disorganized, rarely completes assignments, and is currently failing 2 subjects. The other boy is the youngest of three (his next oldest brother is in high school), mom tends to baby him, he thrives on attention and seems to think that everyone and everything should revolve around him. He's very bright, imaginative and loves to write. Both boys are impulsive, hyper, loud and energetic. They rarely stay in their seats and are often in fights with each other.

Both boys have been this way since Pre-K, and I've spent the first 4 months of the year trying to manage their behavior through parent meetings, individualized behavior charts, positive reinforcement, classroom rewards (i.e. extra computer time, class jobs that they enjoy), school-issued consequences (i.e. lunch detention, incident reports), and in the case of one of the boys, an evaluation with the school psychologist.

Despite my efforts, not much has changed in the classroom. And now every day I'm faced with a dilemma. There are some days when I see that one of the boys is trying hard, and I go out of my way to encourage him so that he can bring good news back to his mother. Some days I am so frustrated with the CONSTANT interruptions, and I crack down on them everytime they start up. And then there are the days like today... when I feel so bad for the other 12 kids in my room that I want to ignore their noise (and arguing, seat-leaving, calling out, etc) and just teach over it.

I know consistency is the key to working with children. But it's starting to feel like I'm attacking them when I single them out for their behavior. On the other hand, the rest of my students don't have behavior problems as severe as those boys. And if I don't correct the boys when they do these things, I might be sending the wrong message to them, and to my other students.

And the bigger question... Is it wrong that I sometimes want to ignore them? Does that make me a bad teacher? I certainly don't claim to be the perfect teacher, but classroom management has always been my strong point. When everything I've tried isn't working, what do I do? Is it more important to teach the children who are doing the right thing? Or is it better to interrupt my lessons every few minutes to correct the ones who aren't? Is there something I haven't tried?

This is my 9th year teaching and it's still like a constant juggling act - trying to monitor all of my students, praise the good behavior, correct the disruptive behavior, AND teach ... oh yes, let's not forget the job that I was actually hired to do, lol. I have to do all of this (and more) and not lose my cool. Can you blame me if I drop a ball once in awhile?


bakerlady said...

Oh, gosh, no, don't feel bad because you ignore them sometimes. I am a first grade teacher also, and I understand what you are going through! They may be small, but can sure get things going!!! Don't you hate being ignored? Maybe they will, too! :)

kate said...

Actually, maybe you should ignore them when they interrupt. That might give them the message that you pay attention to them when they use the correct procedure (raising their hand or whatever.)

Also, have you seen the book "How to Reach and Teach Children With ADD/ADHD"? It's a huge book with lots of info and might have something useful for you.

Not that I should be giving advice to a teacher of 9 years! I am about to start my student teaching in a first grade classroom, so I have no experience yet to speak of (though I have a first-grader for a son...)

Good luck!