Discipline – Miles

I wanted to post this earlier b/c it addresses classroom discipline (now is the time for that), but it has been hectic lately.

Writing about Mildred made me think of Miles, a twin soul to Mildred – a guy – well they are very different and very similar at the same time.

Miles, who has an I.Q. of 145, never did well in school. His A.D.D. caused him to always be in opposition to his teachers. They hated him and the feeling was mutual. To Miles, it seemed like his teachers hoped he would fail, reflecting a line in an old Merle Haggard song: “Mama used to pray that my crops would fail.”

When Miles came into my classroom in the fall of 2006, I sensed that he was bringing this oppositional personality, which we can label Personality A (as we did with Mildred), with him.

I made a good move right away, as I did with Mildred. After welcoming the students into my classroom for that new academic year, I started right in with some comprehensible input and really slow circling with Miles as the focus.

Some teachers may think that circling this early is not possible, and that the TPR phase and vocabulary building must come first. I disagree. I don’t have a few weeks to burn while Miles fires up Personality A. I must circle now.

Besides, I do focus on vocabulary building in the first week. I do BOTH vocabulary building and identity building. But if you ask me which I think is more important, I would say P.

In that interest, I avoid TPR at this point in the year, if there is even one Miles or Mildred in the room. En masse TPR puts Miles out of his seat, and I don’t want that, because Miles has fifteen girls who need to know that he plays football and happens to be available now in my classroom.

So I prefer being the only one standing for the first weeks of class, unless I do any Three Ring Circus stuff. But no Three Ring Circus for Miles. He knows why.

Together, with me taking the lead, in the first week of the year, Miles and I just set out to build another personality, Personality B, for him, just like we did with Mildred.

By the time we are done, Personality B feels so comfortable for Miles, so much more confortable than Personality A, that he ends up keeping it all year. Why not? What student wouldn’t want to be referred to as The Smartest Kid in the World thousands of times in a year in all kinds of PQA and extended PQA and stories and readings?

Besides, Miles knows he can still use his other personality in all his other classes, and he also senses that Personality A is just plain not going to work in my classroom anyway.

Miles knows that it would require a tremendous psychological struggle with me, his teacher, not his friend, to get Personality A cranked up. I have given Miles every opportunity to be civil in my classroom now at the beginning of the year by treating him in a civil way.

I was happy that the Personality B that I had built with Miles suited him, but, much more importantly, I was happy that Miles’ Personality B felt comfortable TO ME. I was not about to embroil myself in oppositional behavior with Miles’s Personality A. I had worked far too hard at TPRS to have one kid taint all my efforts to do TPRS well in my classroom that year.

When we work with our Miles and Mildreds in creating a Personality B, we are reflecting a truth: our students, so young and just getting started on their life journeys, are probably going to become the people whom we think they are in our classrooms, thus reflecting the old maxim: “Let me be the person my dog thinks I am.”

In fact, Personality B worked so well for Miles last year, he was such a force in class, that at the awards ceremony at the end of the year, when it was my turn to present one of the awards (for Excellence in French), I presented it to Miles, the Smartest Kid in the World and the superstar of many stories and the subject of many readings. He didn’t have the highest grade point average, but he was the best student, because he showed up for class every day and, frighteningly, seemed always about three thoughts ahead of me in the TL in class (there are kids like that).

When I presented this award, I heard hushed whispering, almost gasping, behind me on the stage. I found out later that it came from the language arts teacher and the math teacher, both of whom HAD FLUNKED Miles that year. To be clear, this and the story about Mildred are true, with names changed.

Those teachers couldn’t believe that Miles was getting the award in French because they never knew Miles, just his Personality A. They never got to know his Personality B, which was delightful, that of a superstar and, actually, a very kind person.

Sobering, isn’t it, that our Mildreds and our Miles are not really jerks, but good people?

Miles’ parents told me later that Miles had never had any success in school, and that the only reason he went to school at all was because of my class. Otherwise he would have been homeschooled.

How did I activate Personality B in Miles? How can you do this in your classroom?

First, refer often to their (Anne Lambert) questionnaires on the first day. Ask them to do so carefully, to make an effort, because it will count a lot in class. Make it clear that if you read any joke answers you will return the questionnaire to the student and have him or her redo it, and that it is a serious matter.

Then, place the questionnaire of the student in whom you sense the most defiance, in this case Miles, on top of the stack and begin class. Formally welcome the kids into your classroom, give out a syllabus if you want, but remember that most of the kids want the syllabus about as much as they want a root canal.

Then start right in with this one student whom you have identified as a possible problem, and go. After a few days, and with the first kid thoroughly pleased with their Personality B, go to the next. Watch your discipline problems disappear, as you dance the Personality A/Personality B Shuffle joyfully on down into June.


One Response to “Discipline – Miles”

  1. Jerrytq Says:

    favorited this one, guy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: