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Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm sorry, Covington.

I started something with the student mentioned in the previous post wherein I have a timer go off ever X minutes (a painfully short amount of time), and if the student is vaguely on task (meaning, kind of paying attention to what is going on, and NOT using classroom materials I have explicitly said not to) the student will get a sticker. After collecting X stickers (a painfully small number of stickers) the student is allowed to use the one classroom material that always engages the student.

I began this after spending an afternoon fishing for advice from anyone and everyone who would give me some. This was kind of a conglomeration of of the advice I culled from a handful of different people.

This worked amazingly well, for one day. That first day, this student filled up something like 4 charts, receiving a sticker nearly every time the buzzer went of. The one downside was that the rest of the students were startled/districted when the buzzer went off ever X minutes ALL day - especially when we were in the middle of centers; (They thought that the buzzer meant it was time to switch centers). After a few days though, they began to distinguish between the two different buzzers. One is my watch timer (which goes off every X minutes) and one is the kitchen timer that I have used for centers and to signal the end of activities since the first day of school.

The first day I thought "wow, this is a lot of work, but if it works, I'll do it!" After that day though, it didn't work as well. The student kept wandering off to use the one forbidden classroom material without being given permission to do so. Since being allowed to use this material is also the reward for good behavior, it kind of screws up the whole plan when the student sneaks around and uses it without first displaying the good behavior.

This whole plan would make Covington (and wow! You can read the entire book Making The Grade on Google Books, I think!) cry, and it does kind of make me cringe. It makes me even more uncomfortable when I think about it in the abstract. Though of course, that is where it would make me most uncomfortable. In practice, it may work to some degree. When I think about it in the context of everything I believe about learning and motivation though, it makes me want to take my stickers and throw them out the window.

In my comments, On Teaching had mentioned that she had a student who, as is my student, was very smart but had an incredibly difficult time focusing in class. Her student was a few years older than mine, but she had given him extra/additional assignments. Of course, this is really the best thing to do - much better and more effective in the long term than bribing (motivating?) your student with stickers and a few minutes using the coveted classroom materials. So, I guess that's my ultimate goal. It's not going to happen in any truly effective way for a while yet, probably. I'm spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to plan around this student the way it is. The other grade 1 teacher I have been talking to the most keeps commenting on how it is not fair to the student or to me that we were placed together, but I don't think that's true. Or rather, it's not fair to the student that s/he was put with an inexperienced teacher (when a more experienced teacher has more tricks up her sleeve), but it's perfectly fair for me. I signed up to teach whoever was put in my classroom. This student is in my class, so I will keep working my hardest to find ways to simultaneously accommodate both him/her and the rest of the class.


OpenID onteaching said...

"...but it's perfectly fair for me. I signed up to teach whoever was put in my classroom."

You are a much bigger person (and teacher) than I.

If you - and/or your kids - need a break from this student, could you send him/her to work independently in another teacher's room? Perhaps is he/she were in a class with older students he/she would be either "intimidated" (not in the mean, fear-striking way, but in the shy-around-the-older-kids way) to sit still and work; or he/she might feel "honored" to be sent to work with the older kids, and be on his/her best behavior to keep this priviledge. The first-grade teacher sent me one of her kids during math class, because he told her he "already knew" all the first-grade math. He was a bit of a show-off in his own classroom, but he say quietly and worked in my room.

(I know some states/districts/schools have a "no time-out" policy that frowns on separating students on sending them to another classroom, but if you have another teacher who is willing to let your student use an empty desk in the back of the room, you should be able to do this. As long as the student is working/has work with him/her to do, and is not sent "to the corner" with nothing to do, therefore missing out on instructional time. And remember: you're a first-year teacher, you can claim ignorance often... and as one of my professors told us repeatedly, it is easier to get forgiveness than permission...)

9:36 PM  

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