Posted by: Patti Dickinson | 07/14/2015

Ear wax

33344354A kid in my classroom, who had not even a smidge of the I-want-to-get-my-work done mentality, raised his hand and asked to go to the nurse. He thought he had ear wax. No kidding.

Not happening.

This was a clear indication that the student needed time to roam the halls and if he was lucky, run into a friend and have a wet paper towel goofing-around session in the bathroom. Ten minutes later, he thought maybe he was developing bumps on his neck. Clearly, I am just a captivating teacher.

I’m used to these excuses to leave the classroom. Those are, but are not limited to, calling home from the office, getting something out of their locker, needing to use the bathroom, wanting a drink of water, talking to a teacher, unburdening on the school counselor, or feeling like they could throw up. (That one usually makes me at least pause for consideration!) But when I come to my senses, it leads to a trash can placement next to their desk.

If escaping the classroom doesn’t work, then we head into Plan B. Plan B is contained to the classroom.  That includes a headache that would require them to put their head on their desk and sleep until lunch, needing to sharpen their pencil, then having it break within four seconds of their return to their seat, and yup, up goes the hand for the second run at the pencil sharpener. Then there are the Eddie Haskell’s. “Do you need any help doing anything, Mrs. Dickinson?” Or a kid looking at a newly assigned worksheet, “I don’t know how to do this (having not even glanced at it, nor paid attention, nor read the directions). “I lost the notes for this worksheet. Can I go ask my teacher for them?” (This is actually a Plan A ploy, disguised as Plan B.) “He called me gay/stupid/m***** f*****” in a ridiculous attempt to bring drama to the class, as if there isn’t enough to go around —- ten times over.

None of these requests are made maliciously. None of these things would be considered grounds for police intervention. They are kids. Being kids. Learning how to negotiate their world. Seeing what they can get away with.  Middle schoolers pulling away. Making their own decisions. Even though they’re not sterling choices.

That’s what I love about our discipline system. It would consider all these behaviors as indication that these kids are missing a skill. That has to be taught – a work ethic, prioritizing, bringing supplies ready to work, enough of the distractions.  What makes this discipline system work so well is that it is not subjective. It is optimistic. It is non-judgmental. It doesn’t believe in bad kids. It’s about learning a skill not yet mastered, not about a kid one step closer to incarceration.

About halfway through the year, when any of the requests are made, I look up and with the barest hint of a smile don’t even have to say anything. The kids know they’re not going anywhere and  I am no rookie believing their fabricated medical emergencies, including ear wax.

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