|8th grade "Word Expression" painting|
Middle school + teen hormones + spring + drama + upcoming holiday = more gray hair
Do you have a survival plan for the week or two before Spring Break?
This has been one of the toughest times of the year for my middle school students to behave.
For three days in a row, one student has openly and quietly defied my authority, despite my best efforts. There have been several fights at school (none of which were near my room, thank goodness). I disciplined thirteen 6th graders (today) for their failure to follow classroom procedures. It is a "mucho grande" labor of love to be consistent right now!The natives are getting restless.........
This seems to be hands down the worst time of year for middle school students to maintain self-control: what are some of your ideas to survive it without losing your cool?
We recently started an "*email help line" here in Alabama for middle school art teachers through which I asked my colleagues about their Spring Break Survival Plans:
Lisa Phipps: "You can offer to have a game day on Friday if they cooperate and behave. A few decks of cards, UNO cards, or board games gives them ‘motivation’ to behave. Students who do not finish their project, or do not behave will not participate in game day. They will finish their work, or complete extra work assigned to them.
This also helps you get your room cleaned up and organized before the break! (The students who don’t like to play games are always great help when it comes to cleaning & organizing!!)"
Larry Gibson: "I don't change up a great deal before Spring Break. Usually at this time of the year we're doing Empty Bowls and Found Object Sculpture. After all the chaos of the "snow days" things have actually calmed down quite a bit (knock on wood. :)"
Trenton White: "I have always done newspaper sculptures this week. I used to do a clay project - something to keep their hands busy. I have found the newspaper to work well because it is cheap, easy to clean up, and can be never ending. I have them build the structure for 3 days then paint them the last 2 days."
Beau Brown: "I just have them always do a simple project and encourage them to get done early (not to be around the last days of the week). Then, I'll put a movie on for that Thursday and Friday."
Beau also set up a management system this year using one-liter soda bottles and paper confetti: each class receives some confetti in their container for doing well:
"I started to award them with a Free Friday every two weeks if they got enough points: points are awarded by doing work, following rules, not being loud, etc. Points are taken away for doing the opposite. Those are soda bottles I cut to make tubes and velcroed to the wall and I fill them with pieces of paper confetti."
One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was to use more incentives during times like these than you do consequences. All my classes are painting right now, which I have learned is one of the best ways to calm the wild-child tendencies. Next week I am getting out the prize box! My Survival Plan "A" right now is called “The Alternative Assignment” and it lives permanently on the board. Anybody who chooses to be foolish (being disrespectful, irresponsible, or unsafe after being warned) gets to do The Alternative Assignment instead of getting to use the art supplies. Survival Plan "B" = Tootsie Rolls :)
Finally, Michael Linsin and Jessica Balsley address this issue in the following superb articles:
"At a time when you should be most enjoying your students, when rapport is at its apex, it becomes one battle after another. And unless you’re careful, it’s easy to lose your cool. It’s easy to take misbehavior personally and fall into harmful methods that cause resentment and threaten to sully a joyous, memorable end to the school year. Combined with an emboldened group of students more determined than ever to dig in their heels, the last few weeks can deteriorate into a grinding, scraping claw to the finish line. But it’s all avoidable."
"Surviving Middle School Until Spring Break" article by Mrs. Anna Nichols
Editor's note: the series of articles addressing the issue of poverty and classroom management will be continued next week.
*We would like to extend an invitation to any Alabama middle school art teacher to join the "email help" group. Please contact me at email@example.com for more information. If you are interested in joining a similar group for high school or elementary school art teachers, please let me know!