I love teaching August Wilson's Fences. The Persepolis unit is over, and it was largely successful; however, our school's lack of technology really made the last project I attempted pretty difficult to make go well. Now onto Fences, though, and, hopefully, no attempts at technology other than YouTube videos in my classroom. Taking the students down to an antiquated computer lab just makes my life too stressful and I don't believe has the rewards for the students.
Anyhow, I've been having a tougher time than normal with my 9th graders this year, it seems. I have kids who are really reluctant readers (about three-quarters are not reading at grade level, and many are down in the 5th or so grade reading level or even lower) and that reluctance manifests itself into disruptive behavior.
Plus, even though I've now been teaching for a decade, I still feel like I forget things about classroom management.
I'll give you an example. I have two rolling chairs in my room -- a chair at my desk, and a chair I put off to the side and use when I'm at my laptop presenting something on the LCD projector to class. I rarely do the latter, but like to have the chair there for when I do.
One day, about a month into the school year, a 6'3" 9th grader that I have sat in the chair. He didn't ask, but when I looked at him funny, he did, and told me how uncomfortable the regular chairs were for his long limbs. "Do you mind if I sit here when you're not using it?", and I didn't.
Then, about a week later, kid #2 took it, claiming he had terrible back pain from football practice. Kid #1 and Kid #2 are friends, and they worked out an arrangement to take turns with the chair every other day. It was fine.
A couple of weeks later, Kid #3 wanted in on it. The three of them worked out a rotation. I don't really care. I'm fine with this sort of thing. I got it when I needed it.
Then, kid #4 asked about it. And he got into the rotation. And, at that point, it was utterly ridiculous. I realized I was giving up small amounts of class time and copious amounts of energy listening to discussions about a rolly chair and then watching kids push it around the stationary desks and chairs to their respective desks. Suddenly, I just didn't want to deal with the migrating chair anymore. I have too much to think about every day without that. So, after school that day, I took the chair down the hall into the closet and put it there. Now none of us get it.
What is perhaps even funnier is that not one kid has even asked about it. That's how important it was to them. LOL. (Save for one smart girl who stayed after class and said, "You took that chair away because you didn't want to deal with it anymore, didn't you?" and I admitted she was right.)
Why didn't I just say "no" at first? I will never know. Give an inch, take a mile.
The point in the long story is that now that we've started Fences, an instantly likable play that the kids love the cursing on the first page, that classroom management stuff has gone away. They're enthralled. I'm teaching the hell out of it and loving every minute of it.
Now I'm trying to get those kids to take turns playing Troy and Rose, though, and that's tough. It'll be the chair thing all over again, and I can't go and throw it in a closet to forget.
And now I'm going to spend my Saturday night in front of the flicker of the computer screen in my quiet Baltimore house, adding comments and grading essays that the students have e-mailed me. Today was good motivation.
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