Math = Love: Demanding Respect

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Demanding Respect

I've been reflecting on my new semester resolutions.  I wrote about my resolutions here.  And, I've already posted about confiscating cell phones and timing my students like their lives depended on it.  

To refresh your memory, here are my resolutions as I presented them to my students on the first day of our second semester.  

Keep / Change / Start / Stop Resolutions for New Semester
Our first week back, I kept a sort of diary regarding my experiences with carrying out these resolutions in my classroom.  Enjoy!

Day 1

So, I told my students today about my Keep/Change/Start/Stop Resolutions.  I let them fill out their reflection forms first.  Then, I told them of the changes I was going to make.  They were less than excited.  They immediately wanted their reflection forms back so they could tell me that they didn't like my changes.  Others questioned why I asked them for feedback if I was going to decide what changes to make on my own anyway. 

Form Students Must Fill Out For Disrespect/Misbehavior

I only handed out one Respect Form today.  One of my students who is notorious for talking at the wrong time (and spends a lot of time out in the hall) was talking when I was trying to talk.  I hadn't explained the form to my students.  I just asked him to stand up, grab his pencil, and fill out the form I was going to hand him.  When he was done, he was to return to the classroom, put the form in my tray, and get back to work. 

He wasn't gone very long.  His answers:
What were you doing? Being stupid
What were you supposed to be doing? Taking notes
Were you doing it? Yes
What are you going to do about it now? Shut up and do my work

I like the process.  I didn't argue with the student.  He had an opportunity to tell his side of the story.  He was taking notes.  But, he was also given the opportunity to own up for his actions.  He wrote out his plan of action.  And, that's something I can hold my students to.  If a student continues to misbehave/disrespect me, then I can show them in their own handwriting what they should be doing.  I can also show their parents what the students told me they were going to do (in their own handwriting) if the misbehavior persists!  

I didn't end up in an argument.  There was no backtalking with this student like there usually is after I hand out a punishment.  I should have handed out some more of these today, but I guess I am still too nice.  I will get better at this.  I will get better at taking charge of my classroom. 

I almost chickened out and didn't tell my classes about the changes I want to make.  How sad is that?  It was in my Smart Board file, though, so I went through with it. 

As I was cleaning up my room at the end of the day (which was much cleaner than usual.  Voicing my expectations is a powerful thing.  When I tell students that I expect them to put up everything in its right place, they do it for the most part.), I noticed a folded-up piece of paper on the back table.  Curious, I unfolded it.  There, I saw the four questions, handwritten. 

What was I doing? Going "Yeah"
What am I supposed to be doing? Taking notes
Were you doing it? Yes
What are you going to do about it? Do work

I guess someone was curious about what the paper said.  So, my student I sent out in the hall recreated it for them.  Teenagers... 

Quote of the Day: "I don't think I like the new Ms. Hagan."

Day 2

Today, I gave students a "friendly reminder" about my new cell phone policy right as the bell rang and class began.  I also posted a reminder on the dry erase board.  I didn't see ANY phones until 6th hour.  I felt kinda bad for taking the student's phone because I could tell that he really was "just checking the time."  But, a rule is a rule.  And, if I'm not consistent, my students are going to run right over me.  I took his phone.  And, I called and left a message for his parents.  I'm not making the parents come up to retrieve the phone (yet) because that seems like such a hassle. 

One of my students today said that their new year's resolution is to make me decide to stop enforcing my new year's resolutions. 

My Algebra 2 classes are still chatty when I'm trying to teach, and it's driving me CRAZY.  I haven't handed out the 4 question forms that I made for disrespect because I would have to hand it to like half the class.  But, tomorrow I just may.  If I make an example of a few students, then the rest should see just how serious I am and fall in line. 

I need to just stop letting my students get to me.  I don't know if I'm worried about hurting their feelings or what?  Why is it so hard for me to discipline my students?  I'm just too nice of a person, or something. 
A coworker suggested once that I consider getting my master's in Educational Administration.  I just don't think I would make a very good disciplinarian in a school setting if I can't control my students in my very own classroom.  Plus, there's the fact that I can't picture myself ever leaving the classroom at this point in time.  I think my heart is with students in the classroom. 

I think things are going better.  But, maybe this is just another honey moon period like we had at the very beginning of the school year.  I have got to become tougher.  I've got to grow tougher skin.

Day 3

I think my students are definitely noticing a change in me.

Students asked me several questions today:

"Did you maybe decide to stop taking your medicine over Christmas Break?  Because you've been different ever since we came back."

"Did your meth lab get busted?"

Yeah.  I don't quite have a response for these questions.  Either my students think that my former classroom management style was a result of drugs or...

Day 4

Apparently, my taking cell phones away has become a topic of conversation in other classes.  They try to know the names of all the people represented by a tally on my board.

Cell Phone Confiscation Tally

I wish I had gotten more serious about cell phones sooner.  I think that my looking the other way when students had cell phones out caused a lot of my problems.  After all, if I will look the other way regarding cell phones, students probably assumed that I would look the other way regarding other rules.

I've still got to get tougher.  This is a good start.  But, I'm still letting my Algebra 2 classes walk all over me.  My Algebra 1 classes have fell in line, for the most part.  I would fully expect it to be the other way around.  Hmm...


  1. My school has a very strict school-wide policy, we can't confiscate phones but students instead get detention, Saturday school, and then suspension in that order for their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offense. Problem is, not all teachers enforce it-- some are actually fine with having cell phones out in class. Which makes it tough for those of us who actually try to enforce it. So, my solution is this: If a student has a phone out in class they have to bring in "Restitution Treats" (cookies, candy, or other deliciousness) to make-up for the wasted educational time we had to spend on account of their naughtiness. Here's the beauty of this system: everyone loves a good snack in math class, so the students actually rat each other out! No longer is the onus solely on me to identify cell phone users. The kids LOVE it. And instead of being a contentious situation, it because something to chuckle about and look forward to the next day. I almost never have cell phone issues in my classes anymore. And when I do, I get treats. :-) By the way, students are given the option of having their detention instead if they don't want to bring food in, but no one ever takes it. Just wanted to share, thanks for sharing all of your great ideas.

  2. @Always Trying to Make It Better: Beautiful!

  3. Bravo for trying a new strategy! It's tough for me too to change a behavior that isn't working when I know the kids are going to be upset.
    Here's something I tried with the phones: bought a shoe rack: one of the opaque cloth ones, 8 bucks. I told them they could keep their phone INSIDE a bag or put it in their own slot. I let them claim it with their name in permanent marker and put mine in their too. I asked them to accept their powerlessness over the distraction of their phone. I haven't seen a cellphone in a week. Thought it was worth sharing. Good luck

    1. I like the idea of the shoe rack! I really want one of those to organize my graphing calculators. My only problem is I have no wall space to hang one. Hmmm... I'm going to have to think of another way to try to implement this idea.

      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Our school has gone totally tech-friendly and 1-to-1. Students have their phones in class to take pictures of homework, add items to calendars, and in general, be more productive. I almost never see someone texting - and if they do, I ask them to put the phone on their desk. Usually stops the whole thing.

    I understand that you are looking for a solution for a very tough problem because this isn't your school culture yet. I would like to see something else, however, on your "Respect" list: Respect your classmates' right to learn. Respect your education.

    Actually I talked a lot about respect in my first years of teaching. Then I stopped, and started acting respected, and modeling respect, even in conflict. And the dynamic in my classroom got a lot better. I think the word "respect" has become a buzzword for these kids and has lost its power. Now I talk a lot more about "learning community" and "agreements". But guess who is still in charge...

    Just some thinking points. Thanks for sharing your strategies - we are all trying to get better.

    1. Thanks for this thought-provoking comment. I definitely agree with your additions to the list. What does it look like to act respected? I just don't know if I've ever been treated with respect by a classroom full of students. I don't know if my students have ever been asked to practice respect.

      I went to a professional development training where the speaker urged us to have our students create and sign a social contract. That's something I also want to look into. You may be right about the word "respect" losing its power. When I say the word respect, I think what I mean and what students perceive me meaning are totally different things.

      Oh, there's so much I want to go back and change. I guess that's one of the beauties of teaching. We get a fresh start every year.

  5. I borrowed your "Keep, Change, Start, Stop" for my first day of the second semester with new kids. They were really interesting. We are going to put them in their notebook to refer to throughout the semester. My administrator saw them and really liked it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love the idea of putting the keep, change, start, stop goals in the interactive notebook! That's brilliant!