Dear Kid Whisperer,
I teach middle school music. Last year I had eight seventh graders who stopped the other students from learning anything because of their disruptive behavior. They are all coming back this coming year. How do I get them to stop ruining every music class? – Reyna, Columbia, SC
These kids are being obnoxious because it is working for them. They are getting the following:
1) Work avoidance
2) Attention (from you, their peers, and perhaps a school administrator)
3) Control (of you and their peers who are trying to participate and learn)
I call this the Holy Trinity of Negative Behavior.
Here’s how I would react to negative behaviors so that I give them none of The Trinity while training them to use positive behaviors in my music class.
Kid Whisperer: (Out into the middle distance, to no one in particular) Oh, dear. This is rough. I am going to do something about this. Try not to let it ruin your day.
Kid #1: Ahh, &^%& this!
Kid #2: This teacher is ridiculous!!!
Kids #1- #8 continue with their awfulness.
Kid Whisperer is thankful that, as a specials teacher, he only has to ignore this anti-social garbage behavior for no more than 48 minutes at a time. He fights the urge to involve an administrator, which would give the Kids The Trinity. Later that day, Kid Whisperer arranges to meet these students in the lunch line and escort them back to his music room after they have their lunches.
Kid Whisperer : Oh dear. You guys are really struggling with being seated and silent when I am talking and singing without causing a problem. I have arranged for you to be having lunch here in this room every lunchtime until you become experts at not causing a problem. Once you have successfully practiced being silent for 40 minutes straight, and practicing your singing without causing a problem for 40 minutes straight, you can go back to having normal lunch. I have done the math and you will be able to get this done in two and a half lunch periods if you do a perfect job from the beginning.
At this point, Kids #1, #3, and #7 continue their obnoxious behavior. The rest are cooperative. Those three are still being awful because they can still get attention from their peers. Kid Whisperer ignores them. The next day, Kid Whisperer places those three uncooperative students in the classrooms of three other teachers, where they are to be ignored. When those students finish being seated silently for 40 minutes, they are able to return to Kid Whisperer’s music room for Sing Without Causing a Problem Practice. By then, the cooperative students have left and are enjoying lunch with their peers. The newly cooperative students practice singing over the course of a couple of lunch periods and they go back to regular lunch when they are done. If at any point students cause problems, they are sent to sit and be ignored in another classroom the following day, and that practice time is not counted.
This will take some time, effort, and planning. Get this all done and get these kids trained up in the fall, so that you don’t have to deal with obnoxious kids all year long.