I worked again today, back in the same classes I was in yesterday.
I’ll be honest: for most of last night I was completely dreading it. It was long, challenging day and it was not my favourite. But when I woke up this morning I decided just to put on a brave face and get it over with… and I decided to take a new approach with my classes.
When I walked in to my classroom this morning, I laid down the law. I usually try to be a laid back fun teacher, but it did not work with my classes yesterday. So, nice teacher went away and I decided it was hammer time. I wasn’t mean, but I laid out very clear expectations with clear, fair consequences. I separated some of the groups that caused problems yesterday, and most importantly, I banned cell phones from the room. They abused this privilidge like crazy yesterday and the phones caused so many problems, so as they didn’t need them for their work today, I made sure they were all away for the entire class.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference it made.
Yesterday these classes were rowdy, rough, loud and out of control. They were unmotivated, didn’t listen well and there was a huge lack of respect in the room–for me and each other. When I made them put their phones away, it was like a different group of kids. I tested the waters with my first period class, and from the get-go they were more focused and on task, they were quieter and they actually spoke to the kids sitting near them, rather than yelling across the room about a photo or video they were watching. I was almost in awe at how much work we got through today, when yesterday we accomplished next to nothing.
I had the most issues with my last period class yesterday, so it was the one I was most apprehensive about. I met the students at the door and explained the cell phone ban as they walked in, so there would be no questions later. Again, it was night and day. Yesterday I couldn’t even get this group to listen to me, and today I completely won them over. A group of girls who were very disruptive yesterday worked pretty quietly through the whole period. I went over to tell them what an awesome job they were doing, and was beyond touched when they told me that they wished I was their full-time teacher. I expected a rebellion when I set the new rules, but each class responded so well to some structure and clear expectations.
As I sat watching the kids work today, I couldn’t help but notice what a difference banning the phones made in the room. I was in the same classes, but it was like being with an entirely different group of kids. I’m all for assistive technology and 21st century learning, but today I saw first hand what a complete and utter distraction phones are. It was almost like the entire class was in a fog, and when I made them get rid of the phones, they all finally looked up and could see more clearly. They listened, they worked, and most interestingly, they spoke to each other with more respect. I certainly see that cell phones could be used as a learning tool, but for the most part, they really aren’t. Kids use them to play games, text constantly, look up google images, watch ridiculous Youtube videos, take photos with filters or scroll Instagram. I really believe that a lot of teenagers (and adults) are addicted to them… and I personally prefer a classroom without them.
I’m really glad that I got a chance to go back again today–it was like I got to have a “do-over” for yesterday, and I left feeling much better. Yesterday I left feeling like a failure. Today I left feeling like I had made a small difference, and had done my job well. I feel like I won over some really challenging classes and I’m a wee bit proud of that.
Tomorrow is just a half day, and I’m so excited. The long weekend starts at lunch!!