Today, after school, we had a grade level meeting to discuss the students who have fallen so far off our school-wide PBIS system that they just don't care anymore. These are students who know they won't be able to attend the celebration activities (held every three weeks) because their "paycheck" balances are far too low.
For the eighth grade, we had about 25 students. Seventeen of them are mine, and the vast majority are in the same section.
Welcome to my life!
The goal of today's meeting was to set up mentor relationships with these students. Teachers were asked to select one or two students with whom they felt they had or could develop a positive rapport. We're supposed to meet with our students individually to identify two target behaviors for improvement.
The great thing is that they've given us the freedom to set our own rewards/consequences, and they're willing to support us with gift certificates and special privileges for those rewards. We also have the freedom to decide how and how often we will track the behaviors.
This... is my area. This relationship-building thing... it's what gets me out of bed every morning.
When I was student teaching, my cooperating teacher gave me the advice to pick one student each year to be my "project." She told me I can't possibly save all my students, but if I work hard to significantly impact the life of just one of my students, I've done something right. Each year since then, I've had one (okay... sometimes more than one) student who's had a little more of my effort and attention than the others. Not always because I like them best (in fact, my first year, it was the opposite until our relationship developed), but because they need it.
Today, I chose not one, not two, but three students. I may have gotten a little overzealous, but to be completely honest, I had my eye on about 5 other students I would have happily snatched if no one else wanted them (which was definitely a problem with some students).
One of my girls has already been established as my project child, and she knows it. When she gets kicked out of other classes, she always comes to my room. When she gets in trouble by other teachers, she knows it means a lecture from me. I've told her on numerous occasions that I will not sit by and watch her throw away all her potential because of a bad attitude. Her mom is in prison, and I think she really needs to connect with adult females to help fill that void. I want her to realize her value now to help her make the right choices going into the future.
My other two girls are more of a problem for other teachers than me, so I snatched them up in hopes that I can help them be accountable for their actions everywhere. One of them recently convinced the entire class she's coming to Chicago with me for Thanksgiving, so we already have that little rapport going in our favor. The other, was so mad when I was out sick, she ditched my class for two days. Interestingly, those are the two girls that fought in my classroom and bruised me up in the process. Ha!
I'm actually excited about this part of my job. Is it more work? Yes. But this is the kind of work that's meaningful and even life-changing. Something I'm happy to donate my "spare time" to do.