Quantifying Behavior

I had a frustrating day at work Tuesday.

See, the seniors had a poetry project due. It wasn’t anything fancy. In fact, it was almost the same project I used to give my junior high kids. (Bear in mind that I don’t get to work in honors classes.) I work with more of the emotionally handicapped kids this year, and their motivation level is often low. Some of them probably have what is now known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Did you know there was such a thing? Back in the day, we used to call them stubborn.

Anyway. I have this one senior who is plenty smart but quite proud of the fact that he is lazy. I have to scribe for him because handwriting is hard and he doesn’t want to do it. He’s eighteen. These are my tax dollars at work. All he had to do was pick ten poems, do some poetry terms, use three sentences–just three–to analyze each poem, and then three more sentences to react to them. The project took two weeks, and the teacher gave plenty of in-class work time because, well, it isn’t an honors class and she wanted most of them to actually do the work.

I have two students in that class who work very hard. They were done with the project on Monday. Then there was the problem child, who still hadn’t picked all ten of his poems, much less analyzed them. His poetry terms were done because we did them with the other two students and I scribed, not because Problem Child did any work.

It’s my job to get work out of the boy, you know? And on Tuesday, he got on my last nerve. I walked into his study hall where, presumably, he was to be working on his project. There he sat with his library book. So I gave him a look. I’ve been told my teacher look can melt all but the strongest of students. And. He. Laughed.

That did it! Fortunately, I had about twenty minutes before I had to work with him, but I was MAD. I felt like the cartoon image of angry. You know, like a steam kettle with my lid bubbling off and steam coming out of my ears. That’s not a really good place to be, mostly because kids like Problem Child love to catch you up in the game and to be efficient, you have to find ways not to play.

I went to the special ed teacher in charge of P. C. and told him I was not going to help any more. “There has to be a line,”I said. “I will type what he has, but that is it. ”

The teacher told me that was fine by him. I was sort of shocked.

And to be fair, P.C. knew he had crossed a line. He even said, “Thank you?” after I typed for him.

But I needed my line.

So, I was talking to one of the other paraprofessionals (which sounds so much more official than aid) , and she told me she needed a line, too. She had a behavior sheet with room for the date, the student’s name, the behavior and what action you took because of it.

Sounded good to me. If I can write it down, it’s not so…aggravating. If someone asks me why P.C.’s work is not done, I can pull out the sheet and show them. And usually, if you have something like that and it looks official, the kids try at least half-heartedly to keep their names off of it.

So.That’s my current plan. Today, P. C.’s class had personal vocabulary due. They have to fill out a sheet with four words–just four–that they pull from their reading, not from a text or the dictionary.  They have two weeks to do it. They have to define the word, write two sentences explaining the word, and cite the source. P. C has not turned in any so far this year.

Today, he turned one in. Because he didn’t want his name on the behavior sheet. He and I had done one word several weeks ago, and today we did two more. In, um…thirty minutes. So he only had three. But we turned them in.

It is, at least, a start.

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