I’ve decided that the best way I can illustrate a Love and Logic classroom is to share the experiences I’ve had – both the successes and the failures.
So hold on tight, you are about to get an inside look into the alternative school.
First of all, help me spread the word that Code Academy no longer exists. Doesn’t that seem kind of petty? I get it – it’s just a name. But if you saw the sighs of relief we get from parents and the glimmers of hope we get from our new students when we explain just how different we are…well, you’d get it.
Secondly, we feel your pain. We all remember what it was like to teach students that we’d pray got sent to the alternative school so that we could keep on teaching. Please know that a major focus in all of our classes is teaching how to be a productive member of society – and that includes your classroom.
With that said, I am going to start by sharing with you our little “flowchart” for our kids to go through whenever they are about to flip out, along with how it looks in my class.
*While my students are rarely described as “innocent”, names still have been changed to protect them.
1. Is this the TIME and PLACE? My middle-schoolers simply LOVE to make an inappropriate comment. There is not just one class clown, it is a whole circus. This is a “Time and Place” issue. When Billy Bob played “shit” while we were playing Scrabble, I was a little surprised. This is not a student I would expect to do that right in front of his teacher. I looked at him and so no trace of a sneer or a suppressed giggle. He was looking as confused as I was.
“Sweetie, you can’t play that word.”
“Why not? It’s a word!”
This type of question is information-seeking, as opposed to attention-seeking. I have found that my students want justification for everything. Many times, when they ask why they have to do something, they really do want an answer. It’s all in the tone of the question, and we’re working on it – promise!
So, Billy Bob and I had a brief talk about time and place.
“It’s a word, but not one you use in front of a teacher. That’s how you let the teacher that respects you know that you feel the same way. Same thing goes for your parents, your boss, your bus driver, etc.”
“But what if I don’t respect them?”
“Then it’s how you let them know you win. You’re better than they think you are.”
Billy Bob took the word off of the board, and we went back to playing. Now when I call out, “Time and place?” the students know that it’s time to make a choice. Whether it will be a good or bad choice will be up to them. More on that later…
2. Is it WORTH it? And if it is…don’t complain about the consequences! Our students get practice in deciding if the momentary satisfication they will undoubtedly experience by cussing us out will be worth having to sit at the conference table off our main office and listen to at least three of us turn their PE time into a two hour “teachable moment”.
I make it a point to memorize the mothers’ first names (shout-out to Andrea Moss of Seneca Middle for this trick!). A well-timed, “Should we go call Betty? I’d love to hear her opinion,” gives great practice on this technique.
3. Don’t make it PUBLIC! If a student believes that it is the time and place, and that what is coming around the turn is worth it, they are required to remove themselves from their audience. We have a Recovery Room for some cool-down time, distinct from ISS, which I will be discussing in detail in an upcoming post. Students may also ask to speak to us in private.
Don’t do this in your classroom, if at all possible. Take them to the library and sit at a table, or ask the guidance office if you can have a private room. It makes them feel like they are about to be taken seriously. I’ve had students tell me that it feels “official” when we take them to the conference room to talk.
4. Communicate WELL. If the student is set on taking it all the way to the end, then his or her last step is communicating well with us. This is made much easier after the time in Recovery. If they start by telling us that everything is bulls&*t, or that we suck, or everybody can kiss their…fill-in-the-blank here; we’ve heard it all…then he or she is simply not ready to communicate well. Perhaps more time in Recovery is warranted. Perhaps things have escalated to an ISS level. Either way, it is NOT time to lecture, question, or try to explain anything.
We promise our students during their intake meetings that we will never insult, degrade, or belittle them. We take that vow seriously, and that is a huge part of a Love and Logic classroom. We let them know that they can tell us absolutely anything, just as long as they communicate well. They have to see how that can work. I admit, it takes a lot of self-control on my part to allow a student to call someone an b*@ch without a reprimand, but if she is in the conference room with me, sobbing and wringing her hands, telling me that her aunt beat up her mom last night, I don’t interrupt.
Well, that’s it for today. Please let me know if you have ANY questions – even if you are just curious as to how we run things here.
I look forward to continuing this discussion!