Thursday, February 01, 2007

the school entry

School is in. Talk about hitting a girl over the head with a sledgehammer. Kids are tiring - I thought I was going to somehow *ease* back into it with some nothing much lessons before I hit 'em with the paints but I've realised that it isn't what they can handle, more what I can handle - which sorry to say isn't very much. I've gone soft and am left huddling in the corner after every lesson silently rocking while I sip on my 1st (okay 5th) coffee of the day.

Apart from that there are a few teething problems. The specialist team has decided that we are going to crack whips this year. Since all of us teach different subject areas we do our own rewards and consequences system. Firstly there is an individual points system where if individual kids work well they are rewarded accordingly. That's fine. We also work on a points system across the school in whole class form (teamwork) so we award points for the whole grade and then the points accumulate throughout the term and when they reach a certain amount the whole class gets some sort of reward (like a free dress day or whatever). The problem is that the way we award points in art is inconsistent with how we award it in PE. Mine happens to be a simple process. Five points up for grabs. Five major rules - each worth a point. Break the rules and you don't get that point. The specialist team has always worked with 5 points as long as I've been at the school.

Five points is a pretty big deal - or rather it should be a pretty big deal. Meanwhile the music teacher has been known to give 15 points for no outlined reason. Why would they be happy with working their arses off for 5 in art when they are getting 15 for doing shit all in another class? Meanwhile, because I have a point system like I do if they break all rules they simply don't get any points at all. I've given 1 point and Zero points for grades that have been little bastards before and I think it's a fair call - they know the rules and if they break them I will not give them points and I'll keep them in or whatever consequence my policy allows. When I brought it up with the Italian teacher in terms of keeping things consistent he was shocked that I would deny them at least 2 points - the lowest he's ever given is 2 points and he can actually count those times on one hand.

Personally I don't see what the point of having rules is if you don't actually bother to enforce them? Why have 5 points if you can't have 1? I'm all for fucking their shit up Joe Pesci style if need be. He isn't. Meanwhile the music teacher gives them extra points for no reason and the PE teacher doesn't have a plan for rewards it at all. The problem is that I think that we all need to do the same thing - but (and this is where I get stubborn) I think the way we do it should be my way because my way makes sense. They agree that my way makes most sense but they also think that we're all individual teachers with individual styles and we should all do it our own way. How can we be taken seriously if we are not consistent with our discipline? Have I eaten the crazy cake? I'm not denying the kids rewards I'm just being very straightforward with my system. If they get the points they know exactly why. If they don't they fucking well know exactly why. I tell them straight up: You got the working hard, cleaning up, lining up and teamwork point but we didn't get the listening point today because you were all calling out instead of putting your hand up - next time if you do the right thing you'll get the point - That's 4 points for you today - next time I'm sure we'll get five if you work on the listening. What's so difficult to understand here?

Meanwhile, in the land of consequences for bad behaviour we've devised a book that we record who/what/when/where/why in about children's behaviour during class. We have a certain amount of 'chances' per lesson before the name goes in. If the name goes in then the classroom teacher knows about it - they can follow it up and we have a long term record of children who are always mucking around. If certain children get their name in the book more than twice then it's call the parents in for fucking up their shit up Joe Pesci style, time. We all agree that this is good. Classroom teachers agree that this is good. VPrin and Prin agree that this is good. We all decided to tell the children on the first day what was up!

Today I had my first art classes and I told the children about our rewards system and then I told them about the book. Some kids did that thing where they had their hands over their mouths in OMG-style. They get it. I also made these really snazzy reward certificates for GOOD work to demonstrate that children who do the right thing are going to be taking home something that they can show their parents to demonstrate how OMG-special they were in art today. They were rapt and all sat up straight immediately (teehee). I thought that was successful - they worked well. Did the Italian teacher tell his classes about the naughty book and work to scare the living shit out of them? No. Fucking hell! We talked about this!

Maybe I'm being too pigheaded about this? Everyone wants to be consistent but everyone only wants to be consistent THEIR way (including me). Going our own way isn't working (kids don't see us as a unified front) and being consistent seems impossible if people aren't going to use the rewards and consequences as outlined. Are we doomed?