The more things change...
I felt like I'd turned a corner last week with the 7th grade boys class. They are a headache: inattentive, loud, rude, silly. They poke each other with sharp objects, they talk about pussy, they can't sit still, they are disrespectful. But I'm used to all that stuff, with disturbing violence mixed in--without the violence the other stuff is just annoying. I worked to get them to a point where we had two great days to end last week.
Then, the weekend. The 7th grade boys were off in a big way yesterday. It was like starting over. I decided to put the Norms and Needs and all the progressive stuff I really like about my school on hold and I dropped 30 minutes of detention on they assess. Then today two boys came in fussing over a lead pencil and one pushed the other hard and I immediately restrained him and put him face down over his desk and the room got very quiet. I let Elmore up and he was pissed and crying from humiliation--he is, after all, the burliest kid in his grade--and no one expected a teacher to put hands on him. "I'm going to tell my father what you did! You are not my father! He's going to kick your ass." I responded the way I always do. "I have talked to your father five times over the phone, and once in person. I am going to call him and tell him I had to restrain you today, because that's my responsibility. I only restrain kids when I fear for their safety. Half the time when I call, the parents tell me to take their kids out around behind the building for a whooping." This broke the silence as kids fell out a bit. They started packing Elmore and I had to intervene to stop it, to which he responded "fuck you I can defend myself," tears rolling. But I let that one to go to give him some space.
So there's still work to be done. I've made great strides with my sixth grade classes, however. I've had a handful of parent conferences, made a few phone calls, but for the most part they are on point. We're investigating national symbols in order to choose one to represent each homeroom. I don't do much teaching or talking, I make up their folders of images and their build background knowledge worksheets, then I run a PowerPoint with directions and kind of stand down. I'm learning about how the kids learn and work right now. I'm liking what I see.