## Thursday, August 10, 2017

### Lee Canter's Succeeding with Difficult Students

1. Pappas Page of the Day
2. Lee Canter's Succeeding with Difficult Students
3. Worksheet #4 Scene #1: Cynthia
4. Worksheet #4 Scene #2: Rodney
5. Worksheet #4 Scene #3: Jessie
6. Airtight Hierarchies for Other Infractions
7. Traditionalists and Politics
8. Plans for the New School Year

Pappas Page of the Day

This is what Theoni Pappas writes on page 222 of her Magic of Mathematics:

(nothing)

That's because this is the first page of a new chapter. It's only fitting that in this, my final post of the summer, we start a new chapter in Pappas. Chapter 9 of the Pappas book is, "Mathematics & the Mysteries of Life." As usual, this is the chapter intro page, with the table of contents on page 223.

There is, of course, a picture on this page, along with a caption. Since you can't see the picture, I might as well type in the captions right here:

"The DNA molecule with its genes provide the blueprint for the life of a cell. [Here is] an example of one rung from the DNA ladder. The two strands of the double helix wind in opposite directions. This is why the sugars and the phosphates are in opposite locations on the two strands."

The four bases are abbreviated as follows:

A=adenine, C=cytosine, G=guanine, T=thymine

The atoms in the sugars and phosphates are abbreviated as follows:

H=hydrogen, C=carbon, N=nitrogen, O=oxygen, P=phosphorus

As I read this chapter, I can't help but think about the science I (should have) taught last year. One of the lessons I covered with my eighth grade class was on DNA. I had my Bruin Corps member, a molecular biology major from UCLA, help me out with the lesson.

There were several problems with the lesson that day. First of all, the eighth graders complained that they already learned this lesson the previous year. It all stems from the transition from old California Science Standards to new Next Generation Science Standards. DNA was a seventh grade life science topic with the old standards, but an eighth grade topic with the new standards. My eighth graders had learned science under the old standards the previous year, but I knew that they'd have to take the California Science Test based on the new NGSS a few months later.

I've explained a few months ago what I should have done on the blog -- I should have taught the old standards to Grades 7-8 and only used NGSS with the sixth graders. In other words, this DNA lesson was intended for my seventh, not eighth, graders. This would have avoided the "We already learned this!" complaint from the eighth graders -- as well as the "Why aren't you teaching us science?" complaint from the seventh graders.

I've always preferred physical science to life science since I'm a math major, and the former has a deeper connection to math. Yet Pappas writes that math and life science are related after all. Maybe I would have enjoyed teaching life science better if I had read this Pappas chapter first. Then again, I didn't obtain the Pappas book until after I'd left the school -- and if I had taught DNA to seventh grade at the proper pace, it's also likely to have been before I bought Pappas as well.

Lee Canter's Succeeding with Difficult Students

I've mentioned on the blog that my problems with science affected my classroom management. The students didn't respect me, in part, because of my problems with science. If I didn't follow the rule that I should teach science, they asked, why should they follow the rule that they shouldn't talk during class time?

Just before I left my old school, an instructional aide was assigned to help me out. She strongly recommended that I read Lee Canter's books on classroom management. I took her advice and bought his Succeeding with Difficult Students, at the same book sale where I purchased Pappas.

I've written about Pappas in every post this year. Many of those posts include topics like quaternions and topology -- neither of which did I ever teach, nor will I ever teach in a classroom. I've devoted three entire posts to Glen Van Brummelen's spherical trigonometry, which includes completing some of the exercises in his book. Again, spherical trig has nothing to do with any classroom of mine ever.

On the other hand, classroom management is pertinent to every single class. I'm no longer at my old school due to management, and if I ever expect to be in a school again, management skills will be of prime importance. And so if I felt the need to answer questions out of Van Brummelen's book, how much more of a need is there to answer questions out of Canter's book? And ironically, the Canter book, which cost me only a quarter, is so much more valuable than the fifty-cent Pappas book.

And so that's exactly what I'll do in today's final summer post. As usual, you natural classroom managers may be bored by all of these tips that I'm figuring out, but you've known all along, so again it's OK if you want to skip the remainder of this post.

Lee Canter's Succeeding with Difficult Students is billed as an "Inservice Video Package." The intent, therefore, was for teachers to watch videos on those PD days when students had no school, and answer questions in the book based on the content of the video. Of course I have no access to whatever video the book is supposed to accompany. The book is dated 1993 -- the year before the Pappas book was published. Indeed, it's possible that my own middle school teachers once watched these videos on their PD days. (I had no idea what they were doing -- all that mattered to my young self was that I had no school that day.)

Of course, at my old school we had our own inservice days. As I've written on the blog throughout the year, our school's PD training was "Responsive Classroom." Our instructional aide criticized the "Responsive Classroom" training as unhelpful -- our students wouldn't respond to the tricks it suggests that teachers do (case in point -- me). She believed that the school should have used Canter's Inservice Video Package. Well, I'm doing so now, just without the "video" part.

Canter begins:

"As an educator, you are the most valuable resource our society has if future generations are going to grow into strong, capable, knowledgeable and responsible adults. You are far too important to be frustrated, overstressed and burned out -- unable to do your job the way you'd like to do it."

The first three "worksheets" in Canter's book are highly dependent on the videos. In fact, so is Worksheet #4 -- the difference being that Canter describes the three scenes fully in his book, so I don't need the video at all.

Here are the instructions for this worksheet:

"Read each scene below. Determine the inappropriate behavior the student was engaged in, how you think the teacher felt, what the teacher did in response to the student, how the student responded in turn. Review your answers, then decide what the student's special needs are."

Well, without further ado, let's begin!

Worksheet #4 Scene #1: Cynthia

Canter describes the first scene as follows:

The teacher tells the class to clear their desks and line up for the computer lab. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to get in line. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher becomes angry and says, "How dare you not listen to me? Now get up and get in line!" Cynthia argues back, "Leave me alone!"

First of all, I actually want to modify this scene a little so that it actually describes the class I taught at my old school. Computer labs are so 1993 -- instead we had laptops in our room. So let's change "line up for the computer lab" to "prepare to get laptops," which was common during the first semester when we had IXL time in the schedule.

Also, let's specify that this is my eighth grade class. After all, this Cynthia sounds just like some of my eighth grade girls. Think back to what I wrote last week about the "special scholar" -- although I actually don't think the special scholar herself would act like Cynthia. But some of the members of her clique (especially the leader) were definitely like Cynthia.

So now our scene becomes:

The teacher tells the eighth grade class to clear their desks and prepare to get laptops. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to prepare to get a laptop. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher becomes angry and says, "How dare you not listen to me? Now get up and get in line!" Cynthia argues back, "Leave me alone!"

Now this sounds a lot like my own class! (Notice that there was no girl named Cynthia in any of my actual classes. The name "Cynthia" comes from Canter. I don't want to name any of my actual students, so I retain Canter's names while changing all the other details to match my classes.)

I will now answer the five questions:

1. What inappropriate behavior was the student engaged in?

Well, Cynthia was combing her hair instead of clearing her desk for a laptop.

2. How do you think you would have felt if you were the teacher?

I admit that I probably would have felt just like the teacher in the video. And I'd most likely have done the same thing -- argue and yell. But as the video shows us, arguing isn't effective at all.

3. What did the teacher do?

The teacher asked Cynthia again to prepare to get a laptop. When she refuses, he yells at her. (I don't know the gender of the teacher in the video, but here I'm using male pronouns because I'm imagining myself as the teacher.)

4. How did the student respond to the teacher's actions?

Cynthia says, "Leave me alone!" That is, she asserts that her right to comb her hair takes priority over the teacher's instruction to work on the laptop.

5. Based on your answers to the above questions, what does the student need from the teacher: more attention, firmer limits, or additional motivation?

My answer is that she needs additional motivation. She's clearly not motivated to work on IXL, and so I need to provide her with that extra motivation.

In my actual class, I actually did try to motivate "Cynthia" to learn. To this end, I reminded her that students who work on IXL are more likely to earn A's, and that she should try to earn as many A's as she possibly can. Her response was that she was tired of hearing about A's. (I mentioned this back in a June post, and this hearkens back to a July 2016 post where I stressed the importance of A's.)

At this point, we clearly see my error. Cynthia says she's tired of hearing about A's, thus she doesn't care about earning lots and lots of A's. She would be unfazed if someone were to walk up to her and say, "You're no good at math." Therefore my attempt to motivate her by telling her she can earn an A in my class was doomed to failure.

So what does motivate Cynthia, if not grades? Well, let's notice what she did instead of work -- she was combing her hair. In other words, it's not grades that motivate her, but looks. She doesn't care if someone says to her, "You're no good at math," but there's no way she'd let anyone walk up to her and say, "You're ugly!"

In fact, in my class there was a mirror on the wall. And so I could have changed "She remains in her seat combing her hair," to "She walks up to the mirror combing her hair." There were several girls in that eighth grade class who would do this.

Because IXL time is right after lunch, I would sometimes ask, "Cynthia, why didn't you comb your hair at lunch in order to avoid missing any class time?" Her response was something like, "Because it wasn't messed up until lunch was over." Of course, "Because there's no mirror outside" would also have been a logical response -- and indeed, if her hair was messed up during the course of lunch, she might not have discovered this until approaching the mirror after lunch.

Now that we've eliminated ineffective motivating statements, we search for effective motivators. The ideal classroom manager knows that in this case, the only real way to motivate such a student is to threaten her with consequences. She might not care about getting an A, but she certainly doesn't want to get in trouble.

So we need a discipline hierarchy -- an airtight hierarchy, that is. I've seen so many of my discipline hierarchies get neutered because students figure out where the loopholes are. In fact, the most obvious punishment in a computer class would be to take the student's laptop away. But Cynthia doesn't want to use the computer, so denying her the computer would be a reward, not a punishment!

The first step in creating an airtight hierarchy is to make sure that it ends with something that the students can't neuter or escape. More often than not, that step is a parent phone call. No matter how much Cynthia complains that my rules are unfair and that I should let her do whatever she wants, she can't prevent me from getting out my phone 30 minutes after school is out and dialing her home phone number (as by then she'd be no longer sitting in my room).

But as we already know, the ideal classroom manager doesn't become too reliant on phone calls. This would send the wrong message to the parents -- their child is out of control, or else the teacher doesn't know how to control students. And so the ideal manager inserts more steps in the hierarchy below the phone call.

If parent phone calls are the capstone of the hierarchy, what is the cornerstone? Well, the cornerstones of any effective discipline plan are teacher tone and teacher look. These are how students realize that the teacher means business. As I've written before, I lack a strong teacher tone. Therefore the teacher look must become my primary go-to for discipline.

So let's look at the story so far, where the teacher handles Cynthia more effectively:

The teacher tells the eighth grade class to clear their desks and prepare to get laptops. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to prepare to get a laptop. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher gives her the teacher look.

Now just the teacher look could be enough to make Cynthia choose to put her comb away. If it isn't, then we must reach the next step in the hierarchy.

In previous posts, I've written that the main problem with IXL time was that it was ungraded, so students were never held accountable for it. Instead, I should have had some sort of IXL accountability worksheet. Students who don't work on the laptop are required to answer eleven questions on paper instead. (My eighth grade class was small, so there were enough laptops for every student, but IXL accountability worksheets become more important in sixth grade, where there were always students without laptops.)

The teacher tells the eighth grade class to clear their desks and prepare to get laptops. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to prepare to get a laptop. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher gives her the teacher look. She still doesn't clear her desk. The teacher hands her the accountability worksheet.

Now it could be that threat of a worksheet -- which is less enjoyable than the laptop -- is enough to make Cynthia choose to put her comb away. But maybe it isn't. She might simply ignore the worksheet, or even throw it to the floor and refuse to work it. What's next?

The teacher tells the eighth grade class to clear their desks and prepare to get laptops. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to prepare to get a laptop. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher gives her the teacher look. She still doesn't clear her desk. The teacher hands her the accountability worksheet. She throws it on the floor and says, "I'm not doing this!" The teacher gives her the teacher look again.

This step is very tricky, because the temptation is for me to yell at her again. In fact, sometimes I'd just scream, "That's a parent phone call!" This is premature, because when I yell she yells, but if I remain calm, she no longer feels that she must get the best of me. So it's theoretically possible that she might complete the worksheet, or even get the laptop and work on IXL. The teacher look here is actually to watch to make sure that she doesn't cheat. Remember that Cynthia's the leader of her clique, so there are always other girls who are more than willing to do the worksheet for her.

The teacher tells the eighth grade class to clear their desks and prepare to get laptops. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to prepare to get a laptop. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher gives her the teacher look. She still doesn't clear her desk. The teacher hands her the accountability worksheet. She throws it on the floor and says, "I'm not doing this!" The teacher gives her the teacher look again. She picks up the paper and starts to hand it to one of her friends. The teacher says, "Don't do that," and continues to give her the teacher look. Finally, the class ends, and Cynthia doesn't even bother to hand in the worksheet since it's not complete. The teacher says, "I'm calling your parents."

Oh, there's one more part that I forgot here. The worksheets are numbered 1-11, but all the questions are blank, because the students must copy and answer these off the board. (Typically I would choose the day's IXL lesson, then log into IXL myself and write down the first eleven questions.) This leaves the door open for Cynthia to say, "You're wasting your time writing those on the board." The best response is just to ignore this and write the questions anyway.

The teacher tells the eighth grade class to clear their desks and prepare to get laptops. Cynthia doesn't clear her desk. She remains in her seat combing her hair. The teacher reminds Cynthia to prepare to get a laptop. Her response is, "I'm not ready." The teacher gives her the teacher look. She still doesn't clear her desk. The teacher hands her the accountability worksheet. She throws it on the floor and says, "I'm not doing this!" The teacher starts to write questions on the board for her to copy, but one of her friends says, "You're wasting your time writing those." The teacher ignores this and finishes writing down the questions, then gives Cynthia the teacher look again. She picks up the paper and starts to hand it to one of her friends. The teacher says, "Don't do that," and continues to give her the teacher look. Finally, the class ends, and Cynthia doesn't even bother to hand in the worksheet since it's not complete. The teacher says, "I'm calling your parents."

And at long last, we have a complete airtight hierarchy. I, as the teacher, avoid yelling and replace it with the teacher look. At each step, Cynthia, not I, is the one making choices. She must choose to give up and start behaving, or continue to argue and climb the hierarchy towards the phone call. By completing this hierarchy, I'm actually completing Canter's Worksheet #5, where I identify the behavior that she needs to be taught (i.e., how to work during IXL time) and how I'd teach it.

There are a few more things I want to say about this before we move on to Scene #2. Recall that for IXL, each student had a numbered laptop, and I had the students pick up the laptops in order. So if Cynthia had laptop number 611 and she refused to get it, then she would be blocking the next student from getting laptop 612.

In practice, I'd skip 611 and go straight to 612. The real problem was when it was time to put the laptops away. I wanted the students to place the laptops in the slots where they could charge -- and I wanted them to do so in order. Now suppose Cynthia took laptop 611 after all, but then starting combing her hair at the end of class instead of putting it back. If I skipped up to 612, then that student wouldn't leave a space between 610 and 612, so the laptops wouldn't be in order. So I would insist that Cynthia put 611 away and avoiding calling 612 until she complied. But this often led to student 612 complaining "You're taking too long, Mr. Walker," leaving her laptop on her desk, and then going out to P.E. (which was after IXL). The other student therefore left without being dismissed (or putting up her chair, since P.E. is the final class of the day) and with the laptops still not in the correct slot (since it's on a desk). And all the while Cynthia is still combing her hair with her own laptop not in the correct slot (since it's on a desk). Eventually I'd give up, just tell everyone to leave, and then I'm spending half of P.E. putting chairs on desks and laptops in the correct spot.

The laptops being in order was important to me, since that was the only way I could tell that a laptop was missing, along with which laptop was missing. And so I should have simply numbered each of the slots where the laptops belong (with slips of paper and lots of Scotch tape). This would have allowed me to skip to 612 if Cynthia refused to put 611 away, since the correct slot for 612 would already have a label. And any student who put a laptop in the wrong slot, leave a laptop on the desk, or refused to put the chair up on the desk at P.E. time would be denied a laptop the next IXL day. And now being denied a laptop really was a punishment, since that student would have eleven questions to copy and answer on the IXL accountability form.

"Cynthia" is a name from Canter's book, but I based my "Cynthia" on a real eighth grader in my class (whose real name is not Cynthia). The history teacher told me that "Cynthia" was much worse behaved as a seventh grader than as a eighth grader -- apparently when she was in seventh grade, she'd had family issues (that of course I don't disclose on a blog). So despite the problems I had with her, I was getting the better-behaved "Cynthia."

On my final day in the class, "Cynthia" had dyed her hair green -- most likely because St. Patrick's Day was approaching. She asked me whether I liked her new hair, and I replied, "Yes, it's nice." That was the first time I had ever said anything positive to "Cynthia," and I know she appreciated it, since I had complimented her on that which matters most to her -- her looks.

Worksheet #4 Scene #2: Rodney

Canter writes:

Rodney doesn't want to do the reading assignment...

And we already need to make a change here to make this fit my class. So instead of a "reading assignment," of course it's a math assignment. I suppose I could say "science assignment" here, but I'm imagining Rodney to be one of my seventh graders -- and as I wrote earlier in this post, I didn't really teach the seventh graders science.

There's one more change to make -- the teacher in Canter's video here is female, but of course I'm changing it to male, since I am the teacher in my version of the story.

Rodney doesn't want to do the seventh grade math assignment. He says that he "can't do it." The teacher encourages him and offers his help, but Rodney won't even pick up his pencil. The teacher becomes frustrated and decides to ignore Rodney and continue working with the other students. Eventually, Rodney's refusal to work becomes disruptive. He starts bothering the student next to him.

1. What inappropriate behavior was the student engaged in?

Rodney refused to work on the assignment and gave excuses instead.

2. How do you think you would have felt if you were the teacher?

Once again, I probably would have acted just like the teacher in the video. Many of the seventh graders really were hard-working, and I'd really want to help those students out, rather than pay attention to Rodney.

3. What did the teacher do?

He ignored Rodney.

4. How did the student respond to the teacher's actions?

Rodney bothered the student next to him. Notice that at this point I'm not quite sure whether he's merely talking to the other student or outright bullying him.

5. Based on your answers to the above questions, what does the student need from the teacher: more attention, firmer limits, or additional motivation?

I'd say that he needs firmer limits. He's disrupting the class, and so firm limits would prevent him from disrupting.

Let's come up with an airtight hierarchy to fix this problem. The first mistake the teacher makes is to ignore Rodney, so we begin by changing this to the teacher look:

Rodney doesn't want to do the seventh grade math assignment. He says that he "can't do it." The teacher encourages him and offers his help, but Rodney won't even pick up his pencil. The teacher gives him the teacher look.

To save some time, I put in the rest of the discipline hierarchy suggested by our instructional aide:

Rodney doesn't want to do the seventh grade math assignment. He says that he "can't do it." The teacher encourages him and offers his help, but Rodney won't even pick up his pencil. The teacher gives him the teacher look. He refuses to work. The teacher gives him a warning. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher gives him the teacher look. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher assigns him a 150-word essay. He refuses to write the essay. The teacher gives him the teacher look. But still, he refuses to write it. Finally, the class ends, and Rodney doesn't even bother to hand in the essay since it's not complete. The teacher says, "I'm calling your parents."

Notice that I assign Rodney an essay, but not Cynthia. This is because Cynthia's infraction occurs during IXL, so it's more logical to assign the IXL accountability worksheet instead. I assume that Rodney's infraction occurs during the regular math class (as I didn't even have the seventh graders for IXL), so he gets standards.

Again, this is based on my instructional aide's standards. But I modify these by inserting "teacher look" several times throughout the hierarchy. The aide is a natural classroom manager, and so she automatically uses teacher tone and teacher look when the situation warrants it. I'm not a natural manager, so I must explicitly insert teacher look into my hierarchy.

So far, my hierarchy omits the fact that Rodney starts bothering another student. So let's try to insert it in the hierarchy:

Rodney doesn't want to do the seventh grade math assignment. He says that he "can't do it." The teacher encourages him and offers his help, but Rodney won't even pick up his pencil. The teacher gives him the teacher look. He refuses to work. The teacher gives him a warning. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher gives him the teacher look. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher assigns him a 150-word essay. He refuses to write the essay, and instead starts bullying the student next to him....

If the student is really being bullied, then the time for teacher look and hoping that he'll start writing the essay is over. In order to protect the victim, I must send Rodney out of the room immediately.

Of course, ideal classroom managers also try to avoid excessive office referrals. The administrators in the office won't want to see Rodney in the office every other day.

The history teacher told me that there were four seventh grade boys who had always caused him problems the previous year as sixth graders. So at the start of seventh grade, he separated them by seating one in each corner. So far, I haven't identified the "Rodney" in my actual class (whereas I'd identified "Cynthia" right away), but it's safe to say that one of these four boys is "Rodney."

But in my class, I didn't separate the quartet. This is because I still hadn't learned the students' names yet, and I feared that if I tried to change their seats, they would disobey me and keep switching back before I could learn their names. Notice that this is the opposite of an airtight hierarchy -- I'm afraid to implement a consequence (seat change) because I'm sure that they'll neuter or escape it.

Instead, I should have made the seating change and determined what I'd do if they tried to escape. (So even if I hadn't learned the kids' names yet, I should at least have learned those four names.) In this case, my response would depend on what they did when out of their seats. If they bully then I'd send them out of the room, but if they merely talked then I would revert to the original hierarchy -- meaning that I should give them a teacher look as soon as they left their seats.

Even without the seating change, two of the boys left their seats anyway. That's because those two boys actually had girlfriends in the class:

Rodney doesn't want to do the seventh grade math assignment. He says that he "can't do it." The teacher encourages him and offers his help, but Rodney won't even pick up his pencil. The teacher gives him the teacher look. He refuses to work. The teacher gives him a warning. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher gives him the teacher look. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher assigns him a 150-word essay. He refuses to write the essay, and leaves his seat to be with his girlfriend. He starts bothering her.

So at this point I've narrowed the "Rodney" in my class down to two, since only two of them had girlfriends in the class. At this point, I assume that Rodney isn't bullying his girlfriend (only talking to her), so I can safely restore the rest of the hierarchy:

Rodney doesn't want to do the seventh grade math assignment. He says that he "can't do it." The teacher encourages him and offers his help, but Rodney won't even pick up his pencil. The teacher gives him the teacher look. He refuses to work. The teacher gives him a warning. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher gives him the teacher look. But still, he refuses to work. The teacher assigns him a 150-word essay. He refuses to write the essay, and leaves his seat to be with his girlfriend. He starts bothering her. The teacher gives him the teacher look. But still, he refuses to return to his seat and write the essay. Finally, the class ends, and Rodney doesn't even bother to hand in the essay since it's not complete. The teacher says, "I'm calling your parents."

Of the two "Rodney" candidates, one of them moved away right after winter break. So let's assume that "Rodney" is the remaining seventh grader with a girlfriend.

One thing about this "Rodney" is that the final step, the parent phone call, isn't a threat to him. His parents' phone number led only to a voice message box that they never answer. In fact, he never wrote his essays, since the only punishment for not doing so was a parent phone call (ergo nothing).

The history teacher told me that he never phoned "Rodney," since he already knew that the seventh grader's parents were not responsive. Does this mean that this hierarchy should have a capstone other than a parent phone call?

Suppose I were to stop calling Rodney's parents. Then Rodney has no incentive to write the essay -- and knowing myself, I'd be tempted to stop assigning it to him.

Now the other students see Rodney acting out of control without an essay or phone call. So the other students choose to start acting up as well. This is the E-S-U effect -- when the U-kid (Rodney) acts up without punishment, the S-kids start acting like U-kids.

But then I know that one S-kid's parents, unlike Rodney's, is responsive to phone calls. And so I start assigning the essay and phone call to the S-kid. At this point, the S-kid can say, "That's unfair, because you let Rodney do whatever he wants but not me." And if this S-kid is a girl, she can even claim that I'm sexist.

And so I break with the history teacher, and continue to call Rodney's parents. Notice that the ideal manager avoids excessive phone calls that annoy parents. But since Rodney's parents don't respond to the calls, I can call them everyday without retribution. The ideal manager only needs to avoid calling parents who actually pick up the phone.

The purpose of the calls is not to motivate Rodney, but to motivate the rest of the class. They see that Rodney is acting up everyday, but they also see that he's being assigned essays -- and phone calls, once he refuses to write the essays. Those S-kids with responsive parents know not to mess around in class, since they know that they'll be punished. They can no longer claim I'm being unfair or sexist because I'm punishing them and not Rodney.

I can also take advantage of Rodney having a girlfriend -- if he leaves his seat and the couple starts talking instead of working, then I punish both students equally. Rodney might not care about the essay or call, but his girlfriend might -- and she could tell her boyfriend to return to his seat so that she won't get in trouble.

Eventually, the girlfriend of my "Rodney" moves away as well. Even without her, my hierarchy shows me how to control a student who is completely uninterested in learning. Canter writes that he "becomes disruptive," and the hierarchy shows how to minimize his disruption via firm limits.

The last thing I remember about "Rodney" is one day, the English teacher had assigned a ten-minute after school detention for all seventh graders, which I had to enforce because it was when I had seventh grade as the last class of the day. "Rodney" and two of the other three "corner students" ran out of the classroom during the detention. I didn't want to let the English teacher down, so I chased after them. They were hiding right outside the door -- the whole thing was just a prank to watch me make a laughingstock of myself by running after them.

The correct response was just to let them go outside the door, inform the English teacher, and then double the detention. If they failed to attend the doubled detention, then call home (as the other two boys had responsive parents).

Worksheet #4 Scene #3: Jessie

Canter writes:

The teacher asks the class a question. Jessie frantically waves her hand and shouts out, "I know the answer. Call on me!" The teacher reminds her not to speak until she is called upon. Jessie pouts and the other students grin. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher is losing patience and begins to feel annoyed because Jessie refuses to follow directions. He says, "Jessie, what's wrong with you? Can't you follow directions like the rest of the class?"

This Jessie sounds a lot like some of the girls in my sixth grade class. In my class, I actually select names at random using a short TI-83 program. (I actually mentioned this program only once on the blog, back in a January 2016 post, but I used this program all the time.) So if this were my class, I'd be using the calculator to choose names, and apparently "JESSIE" isn't coming up. If there were a "Jessie" in my class, she'd claim that my calculator is "broken" because her name won't appear when she wants it to.

It's tough for me to consider Jessie to be a "difficult" student. After all, I could only wish that obvious troublemakers like Cynthia and Rodney were as eager to answer questions as Jessie. But Canter, by including her in a book about difficult students, is implying that Jessie is just as "difficult."

1. What inappropriate behavior was the student engaged in?

Jessie shouts out answers and speaks without permission.

2. How do you think you would have felt if you were the teacher?

This is a tough one. Sometimes I tried to be resolute and insist on calling the name that appears on the calculator display (but that's not the same as punishing Jessie). At other times, even the instructional aide who admires Canter says that it's okay just to call Jessie when she's so eager to answer.

3. What did the teacher do?

Even though he calls Jessie out, he doesn't punish her.

4. How did the student respond to the teacher's actions?

She simply calls out the answer again.

5. Based on your answers to the above questions, what does the student need from the teacher: more attention, firmer limits, or additional motivation?

Well, the answer obviously isn't "additional motivation." On the contrary, this Jessie is too motivated to work that she can't follow the rules. Strangely, the answer might be "more attention." As I wrote earlier, she's a "difficult student" who doesn't appear to be difficult, and I'm likely to ignore her and let her continue to break the rules.

Let's construct our airtight hierarchy. As usual, we begin by inserting a teacher look:

The teacher asks the sixth grade class a question. Jessie frantically waves her hand and shouts out, "I know the answer. Call on me!" The teacher reminds her not to speak until her name appears on the calculator and she is called upon. Jessie pouts and the other students grin. The teacher gives her the teacher look. A few minutes later she is calling out again.

At this point, we can follow the rest of the hierarchy. There's one more thing here -- recall that even though I don't deduct participation points anymore, I still award them for correct answers. So Jessie might be motivated by participation points, which is why she wants to give the answer. Thus it's a good idea to deny (not deduct) her participation points for answering out of turn:

The teacher asks the sixth grade class a question. Jessie frantically waves her hand and shouts out, "I know the answer. Call on me!" The teacher reminds her not to speak until her name appears on the calculator and she is called upon. Jessie pouts and the other students grin. The teacher gives her the teacher look. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher tells her that she won't be able to earn a participation point the rest of the day. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher gives her the teacher look. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher gives her a warning. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher gives her the teacher look. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher assigns her an essay. A few minutes later she is calling out again. The teacher gives her the teacher look. A few minutes later she is calling out again, instead of writing the essay. The teacher says, "I'm calling your parents."

There's one more thing to say here. I can easily see Jessie here writing the essay -- then go right back to shouting out the answers. The next step on the hierarchy would be the parent phone call -- which she'll claim that she doesn't deserve, because she wrote the essay and the phone call is for those who don't write the essay! In other words, what happens when a student finishes the essay, then continues to misbehave? I think the best answer is extend the essay. Instead of 150 words, now it's 200. Then phone calls can be reserved for those who refuse to write the essay.

There were several candidates for "Jessie" in my sixth grade class. I might as well choose the girl who had the highest grade in the sixth grade class. I believe I had to call her parents only once -- that was enough to get her to improve her behavior.

The above hierarchy is repetitive -- "teacher look" appears over and over again. But that's what I needed to do much more often in the classroom.

I think back to my days as a student teacher. There were two situations when I should have used a teacher look more -- restroom trips and cell phone use. I kept threatening to give students detention for going to the restroom or using a phone. The students kept complaining, "No other teacher gives us detention for restroom or phones" -- almost implying that their other teachers allow them unlimited restroom trips and unlimited phone use during their classes.

In reality, those other teachers used teacher look -- and maybe teacher tone as well -- whenever students asked for those things. The teacher look or tone was enough to get the students to stop asking to go the restroom and put the phone away. The students were compliant without the teacher having to give a detention or other consequence. I, on the other hand, lacked teacher tone and didn't use teacher look, so I had to give detentions to obtain the same level of compliance. I gave detentions when other teachers didn't, so I, ironically, appeared to be crueler than the teachers who had a strong teacher tone.

So the hierarchy contains several "teacher look" steps in order to reduce the frequency of consequences in my class. The ideal classroom manager seldom gives consequences, because teacher tone and teacher look are usually sufficient to obtain compliance.

Airtight Hierarchies for Other Infractions

Phone calls aren't the only possible capstone for an airtight hierarchy. Recall that a capstone must be a consequence that the students can't fool me into neutering.

Another possible capstone consequence is a low grade -- especially a zero for cheating or talking during test time. No matter how much the students claim that they weren't cheating, they can't prevent me from entering a zero on PowerSchool after school or over the weekend, since they'd be far away from the computer where I'm entering the grades.

The most common infraction in any class, of course, is talking. And so it's definitely worth it to see what an airtight hierarchy for talking looks like. We'll begin it with the call-and-response that I mentioned back in June:

The teacher begins the call-and-response, "When I say 'Listen,' you say 'Up!'" But one student continues to talk, saying, "This is juvenile!" The teacher gives the teacher look. The student continues to talk. The teacher gives the student a warning. The student says, "I wasn't talking!" The teacher gives the teacher look. The student continues to talk. The teacher assigns the student an essay. The student continues to talk and not write the essay. The teacher gives the teacher look. The student continues to talk and not write the essay. Finally, the class ends, and the student doesn't even bother to hand in the essay since it's not complete. The teacher says, "I'm calling your parents."

Remember that if all of this is occurring during a test, the capstone consequence is a zero score. In fact, I'd probably give the zero at the step where I assign an essay, since it's awkward to have the students write an essay during a test. Of course, if the student continues to talk after I assign the zero, I might have to assign the essay or call home anyway.

I'm thinking back, of course, to my eighth grade class, when the special cousin was talking during the test and giving the special scholar the answers. I didn't really want to punish the special cousin since it was her first week at a new school -- and I knew that she was smart, and so I didn't want to ruin her grade at her new school by giving her a zero. Somehow, I convinced myself that another student was talking instead of the special cousin -- indeed, I blamed the girl I called "Cynthia" above. But "Cynthia," who in this case was innocent, didn't even complain -- she probably didn't know any of the answers and realized that she was going to fail it anyway, so why argue about the zero? (Not having to take the test gave her more time to comb her hair, just like Canter's original Cynthia.)

As I feared, the zeros I did assign that day ruined my grading scale. I've already written how the low grades caused me to make a later extra credit assignment be worth too many points -- then this inflated the grades of the students who didn't earn zeros that day.

The airtight hierarchy might have prevented this -- but most likely I would have ended up giving the special cousin a zero. I didn't want to be cruel to the special cousin her first week, but by not being cruel, the cousin felt that she was in control of my classroom the rest of her time at our school.

There was another time when I wanted to show compassion to one of the students. It was during my final days at my school. One of my sixth grade girls had injured her leg, so she missed about two weeks of school. When she returned, she was on crutches. Yet not only was she very talkative, she actually tried to run around the classroom (without crutches). By this point, the instructional aide and I had established the hierarchy, and the girl had reached the parent phone call step. But I didn't really want to call her mother, since I knew the mom wouldn't want a call about how disruptive her daughter was on her very first day back. So of course the sixth grader continued to disrupt.

But there is room for compassion in the discipline hierarchy. The whole idea is that I don't make the choice whether it's too cruel to pursue the hierarchy -- instead, it's the student who must make the choice whether to change her behavior.

So to the special cousin, I should have said, "You don't want to earn a zero on your very first test at your new school, do you? Then be quiet during the test." Chances are that she would have been quiet at that point. If she continues to talk, I then tell the special scholar that she must move to a different seat for the duration of the test only, or else both she and her cousin will receive zeros. If I reassure her that the move is only temporary and that the cousins will be reunited as soon as the test is over, the special scholar probably would have complied. And then I wouldn't have had to give zeros to anyone in that class at all.

Notice that if I had established the airtight hierarchy earlier, during the main lesson, then students would have already known not to talk, and I might have had better control of the class when it was time for the test. Moreover, I might have been able to teach the lesson more effectively if the class was quiet. "Cynthia" could have learned enough that she wouldn't have just taken the zero, and perhaps even the special scholar might have understood enough to avoid needing her cousin's help.

This also leads to another important idea -- the students need to follow the rules even when they believe that they don't matter, so that they'll follow them when they do matter. Of course, the students might ask, "Why are you making us do this when it doesn't matter?" The only proper response, of course, consists of those four magic words, "Because I said so."

For example, I wrote about enforcing the seating chart with my seventh graders. The eighth grade class was small enough that I could seat them two to every cluster of four seats. But many of the kids sat one seat away from where I'd placed them on my seating chart, since naturally there were so many empty seats.

I didn't say anything about this, since I knew it would lead only to fruitless argument. But last year (in a Blaugust post!) I'd written that I would assign five minutes of detention to anyone who switched seats, even if they were just one seat off.

I should have enforced the detentions and made the students sit in, say, the right seat (as opposed to the left seat) in each cluster. At the start, I make it clear that they are not to sit in the left seat, and if they ask why, the answer is "Because I said so." This fits into an airtight hierarchy -- if they skip the detention, it doubles to ten minutes, and if they skip it again, it becomes a phone call. "You don't want me to call your parents just because you were one seat off of the chart, do you?"

This is my final summer post. It's my last chance to mention politics since I try to keep the school year posts politics-free. It's also my last chance to link to the traditionalists for a while. Once the school year begins and we return to the U of Chicago text, I'll restore my pattern of posting about the traditionalists on test days.

Here's a link to a recent article I found about the Common Core:

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/07/24/middle-school-suicides-double-common-core-testing-intensifies

This is a political site -- "Common Dreams" bills itself as "Breaking News for the Progressive [i.e., left of center] Community." Even though opposition to Common Core is associated with President Trump and the right, the author, Steven Singer, appears to oppose the Core from the left:

Here’s a high stakes testing statistic you won’t hear bandied about on the news.
The suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds doubled between 2007 and 2014 – the same period in which states have increasingly adopted Common Core standards and new, more rigorous high stakes tests.

Singer's issue with Common Core appears to be mostly with the high-stakes testing, but he wrote an article last year where he has the same concern with Common Core arithmetic as the traditionalists:

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/08/28/common-cores-new-new-math-has-same-problem-old-new-math

One commenter, a self-described "Leftist," disagrees with Singer. Like the traditionalists, Leftist believes that Common Core math, particularly in secondary school, isn't rigorous enough:

Sorry, there may be arguments against “standardized testing” (even though there have always been such tests) but Mr. Singer’s argument that: “Middle school children’s brains are still growing. They are only physically able to learn certain concepts and skills, but we’re forcing them to deal with increasingly advanced and complex concepts at younger ages…” …is complete bullshit. US school students are typically two years behind their counterparts in Europe. When a US family moves to the UK, their kids get put back two grades. And want to talk about “high stakes testing” has Mr. Singer ever heard of the UK’s O levels and A-Levels and similar tests in continental Europe?

(Recall that O-levels and A-levels are the inspiration for J.K. Rowling's O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s from her Harry Potter books.)

And the final commenter, lamonte7, definitely sounds like a traditionalist:

Well somebody has to do something. The US is at the bottom of the list in the OECD and kids finishing highschool have no idea what they are doing. My wife went to get her second Maters degree and was all stressed out about college algebra 101. Turns out it they were studying the quadratic equation for. Where we went to school, we did that grade 8. Next she learned how to determine min and max of certain functions. Somehow they taught her that with no concept of derivatives. We had done that grade 11. No need to say she just sailed thru those courses.Another one was basic organic chemistry, I think that was grade 9 or 10. The US ed system needs huge overhaul and kids need to grow a pair.

A majority of highschool grads i work with are incapable of adding or subtracting two 5-digit decimal numbers without the use of a calculator. I have yet to see one that can calculate a 15% tax on an amount under \$100 in their head.

Again, I saw this in my own class. Here the problem is that too many students believe that adding five-digit numbers without a calculator is something that only smart "nerds" can do. People who can do arithmetic are ostracized, while people who can't are normal. They didn't believe me when I told them that 50 years ago, it was the other way around. People who could do arithmetic were normal, while people who couldn't were ostracized. I tried to bring that idea back via the "dren" label.

Let's get back to our main traditionalist, Barry Garelick. Here is his most recent post:

Yet another in an unending series of articles about math education and what parents should (and should not) be doing to help.  This particular one is from Chicago Parent and contains the usual tropes/mischaracterization about how math used to be taught and why the new ways are so much better.

Garelick mentions a prolific education critic, Alfie Kohn:

In arguing why traditional math is ineffective, Kohn states “students may memorize the fact that 0.4 = 4/10, or successfully follow a recipe to solve for x, but the traditional approach leaves them clueless about the significance of what they’re doing.  Without any feel for the bigger picture, they tend to plug in numbers mechanically as they follow the technique they’ve learned.”

Now Kohn is strongly progressive (in pedagogy -- I don't know his politics). Not only does he criticize traditionalism in math and other subjects, he doesn't even like the idea of assigning students letter grades! (I've purchased some of his books at the library book sales for \$1 or less.) This sounds extreme, but I noticed that even Fawn Nguyen questions the idea of grading students:

http://fawnnguyen.com/lillian/

(OK, I was wrong to emphasize grades with "Cynthia" in my class, but the idea of not grading students at all, as expressed by Kohn, Nguyen, and especially "Gloria" who commented in the Nguyen thread, seems a bit extreme to me.)

Let's get back to Garelick. Both he and many of his commenters start writing about traditionalist texts that they use to supplement the schools' progressive texts. Indeed, Garelick even sneaks some of these texts into his middle school classroom and uses them instead of the district-suggested texts.

For example, concerning his sixth grade class, Garelick writes:

Saxon Math is good but I prefer the older editions by Hake to the newer ones. I started using Saxon 7/6 for 6th grade. The thing about Saxon is that it’s a total commitment because of its spiraling technique. They do spiraling in a good way, not like Everyday Math’s [U of Chicago elementary texts -- dw] spiraling.

Here's what he uses in his seventh grade class:

I agree with [commenter] Tara [Houle] about JUMP Math and am going to be using it for my 7th grade math class this year.

And here's his eighth grade text -- which of course is an Algebra I text:

Algebra books: You can get books by Dolciani; I prefer the ones written in the 60’s and 70’s. If you got beyond the 80’s her name is on the book, but she had died by that time. They are rewritten and not as good. I currently use the 1962 “Modern Algebra” by Dolciani, Berman and Freilich, which is available on Amazon fom \$25 up though prices vary with supply and demand. I used it in my 8th grade algebra class. You do have to supply some explanation because her written explanations are somewhat formal at times. (The books were written in the 60’s New Math era so contain a bit more set theory than is really necessary. But not too bad, and one can easily skip over some of the overly formal sections.) The word problems are excellent and are distributed throughout the book; they use whatever skill/procedure the chapter they appear in is using. Thus, word problems in the chapter on fractions use fractional equations, etc. Excellently laid out and presented. Some of the used books contain only odd numbered answers, so keep your eye peeled for teacher’s editions.

Recall that I actually own a copy of a Saxon text (except that it was Saxon 65, not 76), and I even tried to use it in my sixth grade class. Back when the history and teacher came up with the idea of homework "packets," and so I copied some pages from Saxon 65. But this quickly fell apart -- not because the students neutered the idea, but because of the heavy-handed Illinois State text. Garelick clearly had more freedom to introduce traditionalism than I had, since Illinois State even controlled the homework -- I was required to assign online Illinois State HW. In the end, I could have created HW packets, with the first page from Illinois State, and then Saxon to round out the packet. This might have suited some of my students who lacked HW access, and extended the idea that there should be more written worksheets, like the IXL accountability form, with the online assignments.

I've mentioned that I used the Dolciani texts as a young Algebra I student. But I was born in 1980, so most likely it was the newer version that Garelick prefers less.

Plans for the New School Year

I will be following the U of Chicago text, covering every section in order. Despite what I've done in previous years, and despite what I wrote about "natural geometry" in my last post, I'll be going in order rather than jump around to fit the way I want Geometry to be taught. I found out first hand in the class I taught last year about the dangers of jumping around the text without a real reason.

I'll be following the digit pattern again, so Lesson 8-5 (areas of triangles) will be on Day 85, Lesson 11-1 (coordinate proofs) on Day 111, and so on. But this means that we will not start in Lesson 1-1 until Day 11. The U of Chicago text doesn't have a Chapter 0 -- but Michael Serra's Discovering Geometry does. I'll cover introductory activities from Serra's text during the first ten days of school.

The only deviation from the digit pattern will be if and when I sub in a Geometry class (or any math class covering a geometric topic). Just as in the past when I subbed, math in an actual classroom takes priority over math in a text.

I still haven't finalized my subbing plans for next year, though. I'm still trying to get in touch with both a charter school and a district (one where I've subbed in the past). The first day at one of them will be on Tuesday the 15th, while at the other it will be Wednesday the 16th. So as of now, I don't know whether my next post will be on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I'm hoping to have a successful year as a sub so I can return to full-time teaching soon. Of course, I'll be practicing good management skills whenever I can -- but this time, I'll actually write about management here on the blog, especially when I cover a class other than math.

Each day when I sub, I want to be able to leave with the students thinking, "I like this sub. He knows his math, and he helped me to understand math much better." But a student's first inclination, especially with a sub, is to try to avoid learning anything at all. Classroom management, therefore, is the key to getting through to my students.