Taming The Wild

Here I am talking about teacher stuff two days in a row, odd I know, it must be that time of the year. 

Teacher stuff not your forte, make sure you stop by tomorrow for my big NYC recap full of ramblings about how my drinking annoyed my mother to no end and how my sister and I ended up in a '40% gay bar' our first night out on the town. Oh and of course fake mustaches.

Okay back to teaching.

It is really a surprise that I stumbled my way into teaching. Here are a few truths about me, please don't kick me out of the teacher club when I announce these.

I dislike most children. Perhaps I was scared during my babysitting days but when I turned 18 and could serve booze I ran as far as possible away from children. Also why I teach middle school, anyone under the age of 10 frightens me.

I detest professional development. I know I should be all 'I am bettering myself' and shit but the truth is a tune out the second I sit down and make lists upon lists of things I actually need to be doing in my classroom. Perhaps I am bitter because they never address elective teachers in professional development.

I loathe ice breakers. I could really care less what your name rhymes with or spending the first thirty minutes of my professional development walking around learning what you did this summer or how many languages you speak. If I cared we would be facebook or instagram friends and you would already know I spent most of my summer drinking and blogging. Duh!

I have zero school spirit. Pep rally's annoy me to no end. I don't chant. After school activities that don't pay me extra interest me about as much as gum stuck on my shoes.

I could really go on and on but this post does have a point, I PROMISE!

So the fact that I am on the executive committee for PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) and have even presented at a professional development (although my nervous performance was laughable) is downright perplexing.

My first semester classroom management was a joke. The whole school was running crazy with issues and me being the new teacher who started late wasn't helping the least bit.

After tons of time spent blog stalking, reading Harry Wong and at workshops I realized there just aren't a ton of classroom management ideas out there that specifically addressed middle school needs. Perhaps you have found some but for me they have been few and far between.

I went to two different workshops at the end of the semester and I hammered out a classroom management plan that I could live with and I thought fit my students needs. 

The second semester started up and low and behold a lot of my issues were gone. The school was still a crazy mess but for 48 minutes I could get most of the kids to do something other than hit each other.

I felt like a success. But I just kept my head down and didn't say much to other teachers. Who was I kidding some of them had been doing this for 5, 10, 20 years my one semester of success in a school of crazy wasn't exactly earth shattering.

Until we had a professional development focused on pbis and a fellow teacher said this: 'I don't believe in handing out rewards to kids for doing what they are supposed to be doing.'

And finally I figured out where my passion was under all of these professional developments, ice breakers and school spirit mumbo jumbo.


A lot of our kids are wanna be gansta's who could give a rats a** if they pass or fail because they are failing so many other classes as it is. They prefer to come to school and skip school by running the hallways and interrupting other classes by banging on doors. Makes sense right?!?! They enjoy destroying anything you provide them rather than using it for anything productive. 

* please note this is not all of our kids but my first year this minority poisoned so many other students that these behaviors became a majority

If we are not rewarding them for coming to class, being seated and generally just acting like a student why are they going to do it? As a teacher we get a paycheck to show up on time, stand in the right place and follow the rules. Some might argue that their paycheck is their grade but if that isn't a motivation for these students we need to tap into what will motivate them.

My entire classroom management plan focuses on the positive, on the rewards and on the praise.

Don't get me wrong there are consequences in my room and I hand them out like a coke machine: you do action A you get consequence A. 
Every day. Every period. Every time. 
Of course I adjust and have increased consequences for certain habitable actions but those situations are so few and far between that I don't focus on them. 

I focus on the positive. 

I greet every student at the door. Say hello by name to each student. Every day. Every period.

The bell rings and the door closes and is locked.

The students then have three minutes to complete the warm up while I handle roll and tardies. 

At the three minute mark I go around and grade each warm up, saying thank you, marking a 100 for each student and providing a raffle ticket to each student.

Then we dig in and discuss the warm up.

Does this take time away from classroom discussion, yes. 
But I find that if I set a precedent for how class starts each day the kids follow. They know there is a reward that follows when they are seated and working on their warm up, whether it is a verbal praise, a grade or a raffle ticket.

I hand out raffle tickets for class participation, being on task, cleaning up, being helpful, or whatever behavior is bothering me about a certain class. I am like a slot machine, you never know if you will get a raffle ticket for the same action twice.

Although the first three weeks to get the idea across I go full force with raffle tickets.

Each Friday I set aside five minutes and we do a class raffle.

My prizes are not things I buy but bonuses for the classroom: 100 on a daily grade, listen to music while you work, pick your own seat for the day, etc.

Sometimes I draw five names, sometimes I draw ten names. This depends on the week each class has had and what I think needs to change in classroom behavior.

These are my students individual rewards for being a great student, besides the grades and praise. 
But who needs grades anyways?

Does it seem silly to praise the student who was on time one day out of five, to some yes. But when said student has 80+ tardies in a semester they need to know you recognize their effort.

Does it seem silly to praise students for being seated when the bell rings, to some yes. But would I rather mess up attendance because students are running around like wild dogs.

My system is not flawless but I have had success with students who can't get past lunch without being sent home on a daily basis and to me that means something is going right in my little room.

I also have a class wide reward system.

I said yesterday that I don't provide free time and I don't. But I do provide PAT (preferred activity time) every Friday.

Each class gets 10 minutes each week. They can lose or gain time based on the whole classes behavior. 

So for example I use my call signal and students are still talking, I just start the timer and raise it in the air. Until I have 100% silence the timer runs and then the class loses that time from their PAT. 

This works amazing with middle school students because peer pressure goes into effect, you don't want to be the one kid who cost the class PAT. Middle schoolers are quick to tell that kid to shut up.

And I never yell or raise my voice. My arm has gotten tired a few times but a small price to pay.

I also try and reward a class who has no tardies, 100% participation in warm ups, etc. with extra PAT.

I have had classes earn an entire period of PAT, which basically means Friday is my favorite day of the week. 

But on the other hand I have had classes only get 2 minutes before and boy do they feel jipped. I always remind them that next week is a new week and we will start again.

During PAT students can play computer games, sit next to a neighbor and talk, I have had girls put on makeup, work on work for another class, etc. I don't allow music because I think that is a special individual reward, although the students tend to disagree with me on that.

I include PAT in my lesson plans so if my administration walks in, and oh do they love to walk in to elective teachers on Fridays, there is no question of what is going on. My favorite is when the administrators question my students and my students respond with 'oh we rocked this week' or 'I earned this.' Its not about the computer games, although they do help, its about the reward.

I also post how much time each class is losing and earning to increase their internal competitiveness. I was so lucky this past semester to have an amazing class that earned endless amount of PAT that it encouraged my other classes to work harder because they also wanted all period rather than just 10 minutes.

The most important thing to me about in acting the positive reward system was that it had to be easily managed, not take away from class time and free. And the students needed to find their own internal motivation to 'act like students' each day in my room. 
So far it has been a win win!

Once again this blog post got way too long way too fast, but when I am passionate about something my babbling triples.

What techniques do you have for taming the wild ones?

- The Babbling Box!


  1. Great tips here! My 8th graders had a thing about being first in line to lunch (because they ALWAYS ran out of the good stuff about half way through the lines) and the busses after school. So, I used the timer trick with the two classes I had before those times. As many seconds as my timer would say, they would have to stay after the bell. They HATED it, and I LOVED it! Of course, I couldn't use it with my first block because they'd be late for another class... but 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

  2. Hola, fellow Austinite!

    I can totally empathize on the needing to reward kids for doing the right thing for the things they should do anyway. Your situation sounds moderately similar to mine (although I teach HS), but sometimes it's just such an accomplishment to get them to do their work without talking that I want to acknowledge that! I'm going to try to do something similar to you this year using Class Dojo (check it out if you don't know about it!). I just wrote about it today for the Teacher Week linkup, if you wanna check it out!

    Anyway, let's be friends (as your blog says!)! Love your blog (what I've looked through) - it's nice reading someone's blog where I can get such a clear idea of their personality!

    http://classyteacherlady.blogspot.com/ (But really, go look!)

  3. Two words: YOU ROCK! You've found something that works for YOU and YOUR students. I loved all of your suggestions. Without management and organization...you can't get anywhere with kids. It doesn't matter how old they are...kids like rewards and especially the ones that don't cost a dime. Hell, I like rewards! Watch out...they are going to write a Freedom Writers book and movie about you titled PAT. And then..."Its Pat" just jumped in my head. Certainly there's a GIF for that! LOL!
    I had to come back in and edit because the captcha just wanted me to type in: 1 booopin Funny!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'