When it comes to teaching, some techniques work on some kids better than others. I can teach one class one way, and the next day none of those techniques will work. It depends on the ages, the interest level, and the area where the school is. I have an amazing charter school that I go to - I have twenty-three children and they're angels. I have another class of twenty-three children the same age and they are monsters. I can't even wrap my head around how to take care of them. I know that they need to have lots of hands-on work, but part of my job is helping them LEARN. The kids don't shut up. They are impossible to quiet down, and it's impossible to have a discussion with them. They don't follow directions. They talk back. They destroy equipment for fun. They fight with one another and don't know how to share. This isn't the first class I've had like this, where they're completely unmanageable.
Unfortunately, my workplace doesn't believe these places exist. We're trained to use a series of techniques to get kids interested, to discipline them. All kids, they say, will respond eventually. You can get any class quiet. This isn't true, I'm sorry. This is complete bullshit. When you have twenty-three kids who all decide they want to talk over you? They're going to talk over you, no matter what you do. I don't know where it went wrong. Did I at some point make the one misstep that causes them to disrespect me? Once you do that, you can't get it back. On the other hand, I'm also convinced they're just bratty. Any class that has the majority of kids coming up to me and saying, "What are we taking home today?" and holding out their grabby sticky hands is a class that's going to suck.
I've been told that one way of dealing with problem children is to give them something productive to do, or make them a special helper. Sometimes this works. Most of the time it doesn't, particularly when you have a kid who's just so full of bitch attitude that you want to hit him. My other problem with it is that it sends a message to the other kids that bad behavior is rewarded. Sure, it redirects them, but it makes the other kids think they won't be special helpers unless they are jerks.
I have a six-year-old named Moses* at one of my classes. He's incredibly difficult and disruptive in a class where no one is over six. Most kids that age tend to listen to me and follow rules. They haven't figured out how to be rebellious. But Moses is wild. It's all innocent, but he's just so darn annoying and disruptive to the other kids. He was messing up equipment and keeping his group from doing a task, so I had him sit out for a few minutes and had a talk with him. When he came back, he suddenly turned into a master architect. He built a massive and sturdy and beautiful sculpture out of marshmallows and toothpicks. He was quiet, he respected the equipment, and it took him forever to leave because he wanted to keep working.
I love him.
As a rule, this task tends to make kids really happy. Some of the sculptures are epic. I naturally assumed that when I got to my out-of-control class, they'd all respond like Noah. After a long fight to get them to listen, they'd quiet down and love it. They didn't. Instead I ended up with kids squishing marshmallows, begging to eat marshmallows, getting toothpicks sticky and sticking them to their faces, and ending up with white gook all over their hands. These kids are seven, eight, nine years old. My five-year-olds with no knowledge of geometry or physics could do this without making a disgusting sticky mess. What the fuck?