I had a really rough class last week with my 8th graders. They'd been using a Chinese word pretty regularly in class that I suspected was a swear word. So I decided to call them out on it. When I heard a student using the word, I'd ask them what they said. And what did they do? As you can probably imagine, they totally lied to me. Then their classmates backed them up.
I left that class pretty furious and went directly to the Mandarin teacher to confirm my suspicions (it's like the worst word you can say in Mandarin). Then I started stewing... Losing sleep... Plotting my revenge...
Because of the schedule, it turned out that I didn't see this class again for a week, which was probably a good thing. I asked a colleague for five minutes with them at the end of her class the next day, and I let them know that I knew what they were saying, and I was really disappointed with them. I tried to make sure they understood that it wasn't the profanity that really bugged me (I use profanity, although I don't throw it around in public), it was the dishonesty. Also, that this was an indicator of a bigger problem with this class: the lack of academic language in our daily discourse.
Silence... Blank stares... Some guilty looks... Some grins...
So then we all had a week to think about it. I spent a lot of mental energy on it, although I doubt they did. I got an email from one of the students involved apologizing for the profanity, but didn't hear anything else.
The next time I had them in class, I started out by making sure they understood the problems:
I sat at my desk in the corner and left them to have a conversation. Slow start... leaders emerge... They ended up having a pretty decent conversation for 8th grade students.
After about 45 minutes, I stepped in and gave a little direction to solidify and wrap things up, and then led them through some roleplaying scenarios (1 plays teacher and 2 play students).
The school trip is coming up, so again, we have a long period of time until our next class. I feel like they did some good work today, and I hope it sticks. At least it got them talking and thinking about this.
Take-aways, Lessons Learned:
Let's see if I can keep up with a blog!