Week one this year was quiet. The students came in ready to get started; attendance was very high and there were very, very few discipline problems school wide (including a day with zero suspensions school-wide, which is the first since I started working there). While celebrating a smooth start that will help with the rest of the year, I prepared myself last weekend for the counteroffensive by the students. Based the intelligence I gathered from their teachers from last year, to whom they ran downstairs to talk to after school each day last week, they think that the eighth grade team "means business" this year. Intelligence is good and fine, but the students' actions speak more poignantly.
This week the students began their push back. Caught off guard by the organization of the staff from the outset, many of the students on the cusp, those who need one or two others to get the ball rolling to take part in the shenanigans, have kept quiet and done their jobs in class. Even still, the individuals with chronic behavior problems are testing boundaries, as are the whole classes. The important thing to remember is that there are solid policies in place and that the staff (myself included) needs to stick to those policies without exception.
Exceptions to the rules get teachers in trouble. I approached last year with a "benefit of the doubt" mentality that dug a hole so deep that I was crawling out all year. It dawned on me eventually that the term differentiate was not intended for disciplinary action. If a kid screws up they need to know it. Period. Making little exceptions to appease certain students ends up snowballing into a complicated, difficult-to-enforce code of conduct.
My advice to First Years and Newbies: Get help developing appropriate classroom guidelines for your student population. Stick to those guidelines no matter what, no matter how much paperwork they entail initially. If you don't it'll create a lot more paperwork and headaches down the road.
Tonight's Wine: 3 Buck Chuck