Twitter told me not to start with my rules but I did it any way. On the other hand, I did follow the advice of strangers on the internet when it came to getting to know my students at the start of the year, and I'm glad I did.
The first change I made to my routine was to add these questions from Edutopia at the start of the year:
The second Twitter-influenced change came from my lurking on the #ClearTheAir discussion of Troublemakers and reading the book when I had the time later (I cannot emphasize the work of Val Brown and others in asking really helpful questions and pointing toward great resources enough). We have some kids with long discipline records this year and I committed to doing better by my troublemakers. Reading about Marcus's desire to be known and Zora's desire to be original in the classroom highlighted the desires I could see in some of the kids who'd already started acting out. I added in an assignment in which students get to be experts.
Our one minute speech has to cover something a student is good at that at least three people in the class can't do. This allowed my rowdy fishermen (we're rural) to teach knot-making, my gearheads to teach how to change brake pads, and my nerds to teach cool moves on Rainbox Six Siege. One student ,who like Marcus in Troublemakers was almost entirely ignored by classmates used to his misbehavior, taught the whole class to make bird whistles by blowing on our knuckles yesterday. He has also been much more open to participating with his full attention so far.
I am also trying to examine my method of talking with kids privately. Up to now, I've had some really healing and re-setting conversations with students in the hallway. We might "re-set" with some breathing or jumping jacks, make a plan to move forward, or just rediscuss our plans. I make a big deal at the beginning of the year about how a quick convo in the hallway just gives us a chance to cool down. After reading Troublemakers, I want to hear Shalaby's concern that isolation hurts the classroom community. I still don't think I have the wherewithal to have a restorative moment in front of 25 other eighth graders, but I am keeping a journal of every discipline conversation this year and tracking the problem, the race of the kid, and the conclusion so I can analyze my approach.
So, thanks Twitter. I'm listening. And I think we're taking steps to an even more positive class culture where the students know they're valued and seen.
Collaborative rule-making is something I’ve been encouraged to try since I was an education student. It’s just never worked out for me. When I started teaching, most of my freshmen ESL students didn’t speak English at the beginning of the year, and it’s hard to draw “Follow directions,” so..I skipped them.