I've had the luxury this week to watch two awesome MICA interns run the show in my classroom. I need do nothing--they have a signal if they're in over their heads, but they haven't used it yet. So I've been able to observe the room and see things I typically miss from up front.
Yesterday I snatched 6 notes being passed second period. Each time I told the kids "If you are PERFECT for the remainder of class, I won't read this, and I'll return it to you. If you screw up once, I'll read it and recycle it. If you screw up twice, I'll read it and give it to the Big Cheese."
One of the notes I ended up reading because the kids passing it goofed off again. It was a chart listing boob sizes in the class: None, Small, Average, Large. Two of the categories had been filled in with names by two different boys. I took the boys out in the hall and walked them down to the copier machine. I photocopied their boob chart and said "these copies go in your folders. I dare you to screw up in my class again this year. If you do I'ma show them to your parents and the Big Cheese." I took the original and shredded it. Then we had a talk about disrespect and emotional safety.
Today I played counselor second period. We're working on collages of a situation from our lives in which we played the role of oppressor, victim, bystander, or rescuer. All of this is to help synthesize what we learned studying Hitler and the Holocaust. Many of the kids have awful things to share: a father shot and killed this summer, a sister who leapt to her death from a high-rise in September, a drive-by at the front stoop, etc. I spent an hour taking kids out one by one as they broke down in class. When the MICA kids planned their lessons I never thought to say "we might get some really raw stuff--be prepared for that!"
Last period today was a zoo. The sixth graders just can't handle the freedom of "here's several piles of collage materials and a hot glue gun--help yourself!" I thought about reining things in a few times, but let it ride, intervening only on a small scale. The interns never flashed the emergency sign, so I hung fire. I did, however, step in at the end. There were kids running rampant with clothespins, pinching each other. I jacked them up. I thought the interns should get a taste of what can happen when things go off the rails. They did! Tomorrow we'll debrief what went right and what went wrong.