How to Deal with Unruly High School Students?
I am having a problem with two of my high school students. I will call these students "Bob" and "Jane" which are not their real names.
I have previously written about Jane. Last semester she was absent for 27 days ... the equivalent of nearly 5 1/2 weeks of school.
She had to file an appeal with the school's review board to receive credit for the semester. Amazingly enough, the review board granted her appeal with the provision that she receive a passing grade. She made a 63 and was barely able to earn credit.
I have also previously written about Bob. Bob was a decent culinary arts student until the building administrator confiscated his cell phone towards the end of last semester. According to school policy, we had to keep the phone for five school days. Bob's father came to school and DEMANDED the return of the phone. When the principal wouldn't return the phone, the father pulled his kid from school for five days.
The father demanded makeup work from all teachers. I issued five make up assignments but since Bob isn't allowed to use the family kitchen, he was unable to complete his work. His grade point average plummeted from an A- to a D.
Bob was never the same following his voluntary suspension. He made snide comments, badmouthed the building administrator, and refused to participate in class. He was sent to the office two days in a row. After calling an African American classmate a stupid n-----, he spent a third day at the office, this time with an in school suspension during which time he had to write a research report on the history of the civil rights movement.
Some time during the Christmas break, Bob and Jane became an "item."
The two students now feed off each other and support each other.
When one student interrupts me and gets reprimanded, the other student jumps in to support the other. When I turn my attention to the interrupting student, the first student either laughs or speaks up in defense of his or her buddy.
Today I tried to talk to the class about the fact that "group" participation in a culinary arts activity does not mean that two people sit in a corner talking while one person does all the work.
Bob and Jane began laughing.
"What seems to be the problem?" I asked.
"Oh nothing," snickered Jane.
When I tried to continue my talk about teamwork, Bob leaned back in his chair, folded his hands behind his head, and loudly said, "That's stupid."
"Oh really?" I said. "What is so 'stupid' about supporting the members of your team? If you were working in a restaurant, do you think your manager would continue employing you if you didn't pull your weight and do your job?"
Jane howled with laughter. When I glared at her, she shrugged and said, "Bob made me laugh."
Since Bob and Jane were both behaving badly ... though not quite badly enough to be sent to the office, I gave both of them a culinary math assignment and took the remaining students to the kitchen to continue our discussion on the nature of teamwork.
I have already decided that if Bob or Jane give me any grief tomorrow, I will further separate them. Not only will they not be allowed to participate in the production of tomorrow's Pepperjack Fondue that we'll be serving with grilled chicken, toasted garlic bread, deep fried sweet potatoes, and steamed baby carrots, but they will also be physically separated. I'll have one student scrub sinks and counters in the culinary arts lab while the other cleans the charbroiler in the kitchen.
The problem with this consequence is that it's only a short term solution. I can if necessary, come up with cleaning activities for these students to work on, on a daily basis ... but while the students are working on these punitive cleaning assignments, they won't be learning anything. We'll also be down two students for lunch preparation.
I have tried talking to each student separately.
Jane has made it very clear that she doesn't care about school. She has five zeros for makeup that was never turned in and nine absences for this semester.
If she had transportation, she'd go to a local alternate school ... but since that school is too far away for her to walk to, she is reluctantly coming to my school where her poor attitude is interfering with her ability to learn anything.
In the meanwhile, Bob is turning into a mirror image of his father who is a loud mouthed verbally abusive bully. I am absolutely convinced that most of what Bob says are statements that he's actually parroting from his father i.e. the building administrator is a gutless coward who hides in his office when a real man comes to school ... anyone who really knows how to do anything doesn't teach because teachers are losers who can't handle jobs in the 'real world.'
Bob's attitude is deplorable. Jane's attitude is even worse. The two of them are a bad combination. Last week I introduced assigned seating to keep Bob and Jane from playing "slap and tickle" with each other.
Short of sending them both to the office, I really don't know what to do with them. If any of you have constructive suggestions, I'd appreciate hearing them.
You are correct in assessing Bob/Dad in that apples don't fall far from the tree. Assigned seating - out of eye sight as well as touch - should help. As for lippy back talk it's all about control and agendas - yours or theirs. If you respond to back talk a verbal volleyball match often begins with a sort of "No you can't" - "Yes I can" flavor. The more the teacher talks the more fuel for response.
Don't know where you stand during instruction but consider after moving these two standing next to each and teaching from there. Sort of move around the room like working the crowd but focus on targets. Most kids stifle their act when teacher gets close (no guarantee) and increase the farther the teacher moves or stands.
If you really want to have students like these eating out of your palm (pun, sorry) consider a look at Fred Jones' Tools For Teaching.
Last edited by Mountshasta; 02-06-2008 at 10:27 PM.
Don't apologize for your pun!
It gets interesting in working with the various strategies. Some students know no shame and will think nothing of continuing their banter across the room. Or getting up to get a kleenex, use the trash, or sharpen a pencil to get some contact with each other. These two might need several back-up plans.
I agree that it isn't fun to misbehave if no one responds.
In reference to the interruptions during your talk, I might have done something like this:
"Bob, do you have an opinion on teamwork?"
"It is stupid"
"Since you feel that way, you can prepare your assignment, cook your assignemnt, and clean up your assignment all by yourself. Go get started at that table." Point to an isolated table that has been positioned especially for incidents like this.
This morning I wrote out individual culinay assignments for use with my fourth period class. I included two "Suffer the consequences" cards that assigned unpleasant cleaning duties for the bearer.
As I introduced our lesson on Swiss fondue, one student interrupted me. I pulled out my job cards and briefly talked about how students would now be graded on individual performance instead of group participation. I also introduced the concept of the "Suffer the Consequences" card and read off a list of detailed instructions for cleaning the charbroiler.
The students were very quiet. They subsequently raised hands to ask intelligent questions. Nobody interrupted me. Nobody made smart alecky comments. Nobody complained about their job assignment ... and the result? We had a wonderful time making a pepperjack fondue. Students grilled chicken, toasted bread, and steamed vegetables to dip in the fondue ... and Jane who hitherto has been extremely disdainful of everything that we've made, actually tried a bit of grilled chicken dipped in fondue and exclaimed, "Oh my God ... this is SO GOOD!"
So ... we will see how tomorrow goes and will take everything one day at a time. I will continue assigning individual tasks that include cleaning components so that my manager and I aren't stuck with four sinks worth of pots and pans at the end of the day.
I think I can turn this class around.
We'll see ...
Thank you all for your comments.
Last edited by Chef Dave; 02-07-2008 at 03:40 PM.
Congradulations on your success today!
Just a note to let you know that things continue to go well. I now carry "Suffer the Consequence" cards in my jacket pocket. The cards are highlighted in light red.
Yesterday, while introducing a recipe for the chicken quesadillas, one student began acting up. When I began reaching for a consequence card, he abruptly stopped. I continued the lesson as though nothing had happened. The pace of instruction was not disrupted.
Since I'm a great believer in the concept of the "carrot and the stick," I gave the students a reward for their hard work. Since we were 4 plates over our production quota, I gave the plates to the students to share. I also gave them permission to get complimentary sodas and juice from our beverage dispensers.