Zombies and Student Discipline

This drawing was done by a student in my general music class.  The inscription says:  “Mr. Shaver  (HaHa, Not really – I just randomly drew this so here)”

It doesn’t look anything like me.  For one thing, I almost never wear a tie, or a top hat.  And I don’t have a mustache or a monocle.  But I do have hands.  How else would I hold my conductor’s baton when I direct the band…?  Just saying…

I guess it was the thought that counts.

This picture was drawn while we were listening to a portion of “The Planets” by Gustav Holst in music class.  I have found that if I let students doodle when I ask them to listen to a music sample they are much better able to control their restlessness and stay out of trouble.

On the other hand, one recent day while I was leading a class discussion on some fascinating aspect of Bach’s life I had to ask a student to stop drawing a map of his house explaining where the zombies’ entrances and exits were.  Not that it is wrong to be prepared, but his timing was inappropriate.

It probably seems obvious, but I will say it anyway:  classroom management and student discipline are the most challenging parts of a teacher’s job.  Consider, for instance, the recent Chicago teachers’ strike.  As my dad pointed out, you have to be impressed that while the students were out of school the police department put a bunch of extra cops on the streets to make sure kids were staying out of trouble.  Just think, teachers are expected to handle these young people in their classrooms every day – unarmed.

Just yesterday a 7th grade boy we will call Jack came to my music class wearing a pink breast cancer awareness bracelet on which was a slang term for a part of a girl’s body (I am trying to describe this delicately for the sake of any young kids who might read this).  Believing that this was surely a violation of our school’s dress and behavior code, I asked the student to remove the bracelet and give it to me, but he refused.  I asked a second time to make certain he had understood, and again he refused to comply.

I picked up the phone and dialed the assistant principal’s office.  As I did so, Jack angrily took the bracelet off and threw it across my desk, so I told him to wait for me in the hallway.  On his way out of the room he made a nasty comment about our school that included words like stupid, redneck, and another name for a donkey (again, I’m trying to be sensitive here).  When the assistant principal arrived I explained the situation and pointed out that Jack’s actions amounted to disrespect, which is itself considered a major discipline offense.  Throw in foul language and and insubordination, and the case is solid.  Jack received a one day suspension.

Please don’t think this sort of behavior is the norm at Backpack Middle School; most of the time things go along quite smoothly with only minor interruptions which are handled easily enough. For instance, when Calvin was using his pen cap to make a very realistic cricket chirping sound during band rehearsal, I expressed my appreciation for his skills and politely asked him to stop.  He then said he could also make the sound of a boiling witch, but he thought I wouldn’t like it.  I commended him for his judgment and continued with class.

Sadly, though, encounters with students like Jack are increasing.  Perhaps I will have to type up another entry speculating on the possible reasons for this.

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