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Thursday - October 23, 1997

Maureen was gone for the second day in a row. I'll admit that it's nice in a way... I like the control. This isn't to say that Maureen is a "micro-manager" or nit-picker, but she still exerts control over what I teach and how I teach it. I do miss talking with her during our free hours, though. Sitting in your classroom with all of tomorrow's prep work done is boring.
    But there is one advantage to having Maureen in the class: 5th hour behaves better. Maureen is quite a bit more strict then I am and the class already knows it. So when she is in the room, they keep the noise level drastically down. When only I am there, the noise level is manageable... but not much better then that.
    The problem in that class is my trying to strike a balance between involving the class without giving too much free rein. If I stifle all talk, then participation dies and the class as a whole suffers. If I get the class to participate, they do better on tests... but tend to talk non-stop if given the chance. The trick is to find the balance.
    In most of my classes, this balance isn't hard to find. In 5th hour, I've found that it is nearly impossible. There are too many kids that will talk given any excuse. Furthermore, when these kids get going, they drag some "good" kids along. I could just clamp down on the class -- it would definitely drop the noise level -- but that would be punishing the majority of the class for the behavior of a (very vocal) minority.
    So I am in the market for ideas on how to punish individual's from talking without punishing the class as a whole. I came up with one that I'm going to implement on Friday. As of Friday, when I see or hear anybody talking out of turn (or acting like a jerk), I will write their name down on a notebook I carry. At the end of the hour, everybody whose name appears on my list will sit after the bell for a minimum of five minutes. This five minutes will be extended indefinitely if they talk at any point during that time. This will, at the very least, guarantee that they will be late to their next class. If I get a couple of frequent offenders, or I get people who get their names written down more than one a day, then I'll have to refer them for detention (perhaps). I'm hoping this will work, though. I can easily slip into being a tyrant if it doesn't... I just don't want to!
    On to more mundane matters: The quiz I gave in Algebra II took much longer then I thought it would. In fact, only a handful of people even finished it! Bearing in mind that Lois is letting her students take it home with them, I decided to give them more time in class to work on it on Friday. I will also let them use their books to finish/correct their problems.
    I spend 4th and 5th hour going over homework on the board. This is what prompted me to reconsider how I manage 5th hour. They did the problems on the board fine... but they also talked non-stop while others were at the board.
    I noticed something in Geometry: there are a lot of struggling, dare I say "clueless", people in both classes. Since this material is not difficult, I'm guessing that we are just going too fast. I know that there are a number of people that are a couple of sections behind in the homework. Tomorrow, I decided that I am going to allow them a day to catch-up and ask questions if they have them. As long as they are productive, I won't give them another section to do.
    We'll see how tomorrow goes!

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