Reflection: On Arguing

Twitter Version: I don't argue.

At the end of last year, I did a couple reflection posts. Now, it is time for me to reflect on some things I learned this year.

My first year of teaching, I spent a lot of time arguing with my students. At one point, the VP came and talked to one of my students outside my classroom with me. I remember so vividly the way she handled that situation. He had done something wrong, and she was lecturing him. He started a weak protest, and she said, "Sir, this is not a time for you to argue, you will listen to me now." That sounds like a harsh and unhelpful way to talk to a student, but it is really quite effective. I know there is a lot of talk about how we should treat students--they are people too, after all. I think there is a fine line you have to walk in these situations. You need to treat people like adults when they deserve. Not all students deserve that treatment, especially when they are just arguing for argument's sake.

This is how I handle situations now. When a kid is goofing off or doing something wrong. I very firmly and authoritatively tell them to leave the room. When I get outside, I ask them questions like:
  • Why are you out here?
  • What is causing you to act like this?
  • Why would your behaving like this make me upset?
  • How would this behavior cause problems in the classroom?
If, at any point during our conversation, they want to argue, I immediately interrupt them and tell them that they are not permitted to speak right now. They are out here to answer my questions. I never raise my voice or get angrier at them. If they continue, I calmly say something like, "M., we are not here to argue."

If they still argue, I repeat the above and say, "You did X wrong, and it has created a big enough problem in class that I need to come out here to talk to you. You will have your opportunity to say your peace after you answer my questions." Invariably, their peace is, "I understand that what I did was wrong, and I am sorry."

Nearly always, I give them an opportunity to say or add anything else. My belief is that if they answer my questions, I should answer theirs. Usually, this consists of them saying "Someone else started the problem" or "Why didn't you get so-and-so in trouble?"

When they ask those questions, I focus them on themselves, and talk about what they did and say that I will deal with the other student as needed. Usually this works pretty well, because it is almost always the same kids that do something wrong. (Hmm, that sounds like a whole other blog post.)

This method has been very effective for me this year. Students have behaved better, and even though it is the same kids goofing off, they have been goofing off less this year, and problems have been resolved quicker, and with less administrative involvement.

Have a Good Life.

Image: Busted (my title). Crop of IMG_2994 by Mr. Woo

Google Reader and Sharing

I love using Google Reader. I loved it even more when they introduced Sharing items with people that you chat with. All the time, though, I wanted to add comments to what I shared with people. Google implemented that feature a couple weeks ago. It is wonderful. I got connected with a slew of people when Google announced sharing to begin with, but I would like to get connected with more people. If you read my blog and use Google Reader, please add me to your chat list, so that we can share things we read in Reader. My email is jethro dawt jones at gmail dawt com. You are not required to chat with me, but I do love reading what people share!

Have a Good Life.

Why I Won't Use a Typepad blog

I have been using Blogger as my blogging platform of choice for two and a half years. It is very easy to use, pretty fast, and I don't have too many complaints. My biggest complaint is that it doesn't host files. That frustrates me, especially when I try to help teachers use it for school, and they can't attach their files to it. You can use Google Docs, but I have found that Google Docs requires a paradigm shift for most people that they aren't quite willing to make.

When I write for The Apple Blog I use Wordpress, which many people have mentioned is much better than Blogger. So far, I do like it a lot. It works well if you know a little more about computers because you can customize it much more than you can Blogger. Blogger is much more simple, and that has its own appeal as well.

Do you know which platform I refuse to use? Typepad. And here is why: their comment system stinks! Whenever I want to post a comment, I click the submit button. The Web site sends the request to show me a page that says my comment has been submitted, so I think it is all done. Well, that is wrong, because this happens every time: about 20 minutes later, I browse through my tabs to see what is open, sometimes to see if anyone has responded to my comments. When I do this on a Typepad blog, I get the screen below:

It is still waiting for me to put in the correct Captcha letters/numbers. Despite the fact that I hate these things, I always mess up the Typepad Captcha. In the picture above, can you see where I messed up? I sure can't. But, sure enough, I had to enter another response to this Captcha. So this happens every time I post a comment on a Typepad blog. I don't think I have ever entered the Captcha correctly on the first try. By the third try, I just give up. Typepad makes it so hard to leave a comment, it is just ridiculous.

If they make it so hard to leave a comment, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to even enter a post! Typepad can do some things to make it a better system:
  1. Have the anti-spam question, Captcha, or whatever it is, on the page where you leave your comment. Don't make us think there just isn't one.
  2. Change the Captcha system. Perhaps it times out after too much time. It is easy to let it sit there for a while when you expect your comment to just appear.
Just these two changes would, I am sure, increase the amount of comments on posts. Am I alone here, or do you share my feelings?

Have a Good Life.


The last couple weeks we have been doing Skype video calls with another 7th grade class in Oregon. All we have been doing is reciting poetry, but it is still fun. My students have been really nervous, which is cool because they are able to perform in front of a real audience. I blocked out the faces of the students. We have been working with a class in Oregon. I think that it is so much fun to do this.

Today, we did a video call with a fourth grade boy and his teacher. The boy, D. asked a bunch of questions about Utah. It is part of a big project that the whole class is working on.

So, here is what I think of video calls with other classes. This can be a great way for people to learn more about other places and other people. I would really like to do some video calls with some writers since I teach English. It would be very beneficial to be able to learn from them, and use their knowledge and experience to help my students. Maybe my 7th graders are too young for that. I don't know. I do have one friend who is an author, but we just haven't had an opportunity to talk to him, though, thankfully, he is willing. This is something that I want to keep doing next year. The good this about this is that you are not putting anything on the internet, your kids' identities are protected, and you meet new people in the process.

Have a Good Life.

Twitter Backfires - One Week Later

I have received a lot of great comments on this post, and I figured I should respond in the comments, but then the comment kept getting longer and longer, so I am just going to do a blog post.

I understand what most of you are saying. I think what I am still struggling with is that this class really has been my worst. When they are here, I have a sick feeling. This is my fault. I have been so fed up with their attitude, passive-aggressive behavior, backtalking, and all the other things they have been doing that I just don't know what else to do with them. It was not a motivational thing. I motivated my students with negativity a lot last year, but it is not effective, for me at least.

The real benefit to this all happening is that they have actually listened to what I have said since this incident. They are not just blowing me off. I think that we listen to each other more. This week we have been doing state testing, and I was not looking forward to dealing with them while those who finished early goofed off and weren't respectful of the other students. But they have been doing a really good job. I haven't had that sick feeling this week. I know that kids can and will be kids, and I am okay with that. It is the over-the-top aggression and disrespect that drives me nuts. I said it before, do I deserve respect from this class after calling those girls out? They certainly have not thought so.

Image Credit: Road to Well Being

Paul, great link! You are right on as usual. Both the students and myself had a blind spot. They were blind to how they were making me feel, and I was blind to how they felt about me. Now that something is out in the open, we can start to have a conversation about what is going on. Hopefully, it will lead to something productive. This class has been much better this week. I don't think that it is because they are trying to please me. In my opinion, they realized that I am telling other people about them, and they don't want to spoken ill of. (And that would be bad, talk about losing trust!) Either that, or they realized that I was serious, and they don't want to be "the worst" at anything. Or maybe, I just got it off my chest, so now I am not as annoyed. Who knows?

Have a Good Life.

Collaboration Does Work

I have mentioned that I am impressed with my school this year. I enjoy being in a place where most teachers respect and have concern for others. This year we filled out a rubric to see if kids qualify for Foreign Language in 8th grade. My big problem with the rubric is that it tends to put all the good kids in Foreign Language and all the bad kids in Reading. That is not a good combination. I raised a question about it, and although those who I asked seemed to say, "Well, we know more about the situation than you, so stop making waves" they were supportive after I persisted in expressing my concerns. It led to some quick changes to the rubric, and they were able to change things to be better. I suggested we have an application for the students to fill out that would help them decide if Foreign Languages were right for them. This is what it looks like. I am glad that these teachers and counselors are willing to work together to come up with something that is hopefully better.

Have a Good Life.

Jigsaw Planet

I don't know where I found this, but it is pretty cool. You make online jigsaw puzzles. No signup required and it is fun. Give the two below a try and let me know what you think. I think I could make a few of these and use them as some sort of learning object in my class. It would at least be a fun way to kill the last five minutes of the day on those days.

Fro - online jigsaw puzzle - 63 pieces

If you want to try one that is really hard, try this one:

Have a Good Life.