Over the past three weeks, I have met some of my most challenging students ever. They are by no means bad, but several of my fifth graders carry some serious attitude problems. I have never had students with such attitudes, but I think I'm starting to see some breakthroughs.
A - This student has a MOUTH on her. Seriously! She is a tiny little firecracker of attitude. She is always in the thick of the drama, yet wants to play innocent. My latest tactic with her is to seat her by my desk (for "preventative" purposes, as I explained to her), and to just really invest in her, while being super tough on her. Today, while I was getting on to her about an issue with another student, she said "Ms. Lewis, can I tell you something?" I reluctantly let her speak, and was astonished when what she wanted to tell me was the truth. :)
R - She is my most impulsive student. If she gets mad, the best thing to do is to remove her from the situation. If she gets upset about something, she starts yelling and threatening other students, and I just can't have that. She can't see beyond the immediate once she starts to get angry. Today, she was sent to the office for yelling at ME (another first) after I told her to leave the restroom (I caught her yelling at and threatening another student). A few hours later (she had been back in the classroom for a while), I went to speak to her. She was smiling and joking with me, and it was evident that she knows I'm tough on her because I love her and expect better from her.
L - Truly, truly, I have NEVER had a student like L. I kid you not, this kid is a miracle. By miracle, I mean that I have no clue how he got to 5th grade. It's not that he isn't smart. He probably could be smart. But, he has no motivation whatsoever to work or attempt to work, and even my classroom teacher (a 20+ year teacher) is at a loss for words and ideas. The best I can do with L is to PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE everything good he does and to offer incentives for extrinsic motivation. If he chooses to sleep, talk, or distract other students during my lesson, then he loses privileges.
J - This boy is something else. Incredible potential, very little motivation. He, too, gets involved in all the class drama and has an attitude at times. The biggest trouble with J is that his already-distracted brain gets even further distracted by L. I have struggled with how to get through to J... I was tough on him, I spoke softly and explained why I needed him to participate, I offered incentives... nothing worked. Then, I realized that he LOVES his mom. LOVES her. We were using a phone call to his mom as a punishment, but I decided to try something else. I talked to J about making his mom proud, and how his mom is most proud of him when he does what he's supposed to do when she isn't around. I put a sticky note on his desk that says "MA - Make her proud!" He's been a different kid after that conversation (and after the reminders I sometimes have to give him!).
Despite the challenges, I have to say this is one of my favorite classes. I love the conversations we have, I love their maturity and their participation in our lessons. I love the ideas they have, the suggestions they have, and the intelligence they posses. I hate to say that I only have four more weeks with them!!