Two In One

In a stack of papers called Unorganized.

  • Oct
  • 21
  • 2008

Referrals are not my preferred method. I’ve written maybe twenty referrals in my entire teaching career. I feel like it’s a cop out, like I’m passing the buck for discipline that I should really be the one to take care of. I wrote out two referrals today, an action that just doubled the amount of referrals I’ve written so far this year (and the third I’ve written about a single student). With names changed, here’s what I wrote:

Referral 1

Description of behavior resulting in referral:
Mortimer and Petulance were yelling back and forth about who was going to beat who up. Profanity flew across the room. I told Petulance to sit on the opposite side of the room and advised Mortimer not to say anything further, that Petulance would be quiet if Mortimer didn’t egg her on. A few minutes later, Mortimer just stood up and walked out. I called after him 3-4 times, but he didn’t respond. I don’t know where he went for the period. I’ve included Petulance on this referral because she threw lots of insults and threats of physical violence at the beginning of all this.

Referral 2

Description of behavior resulting in referral:
Batholemew walked in about 5 minutes late. I held out my hands to suggest “Why?” He said, “I was getting the bottles.” I said, “I’ll see you after class.” “But I was getting the bottles!” “I don’t care, I’ll see you at lunch. “Well, then f— this, I’m gonna go get more bottles,” Batholemew said. He then walked right back out the door. He never came back to class. I really am confused as to why he reacted this way. I’ll speak with him the next time I see him.

Seriously, what is going on!? Separated by only about forty minutes, two students walk right out of class? The only other time students walked out was during a schoolwide demonstration. Those students weren’t protesting me or my class. Today, these two students were doing exactly that.

And I can’t shake the responsibility I feel for making those students feel like getting out of my classroom was the best thing to do. But I also feel like someone who walked into the room only to hear the punchline of an uproariously funny joke. What just happened?


1. Ben Chun says:

[10/21/2008 - 5:14 pm]

It seems like we have the same kind of approach — this is my room and I’m responsible in here — but I also have a limit or a line beyond which I have to just take it to the next level. What’s interesting to me, reading your reflections here, is just how different that line can be in different schools. I’ve taught at places where this type of behavior would just be part of the conversation or negotiation I’d have with those students. By contrast, in my current school I’d be writing referrals just like you did. It sounds like in both of these cases it wasn’t about you or your class… sometimes kids just have a lot going on and it spills over.

2. Suzanne Shanks says:

[10/21/2008 - 8:10 pm]

I don’t have any answers for you, Todd, but I wanted to thank you for the post and respond. It made me feel bad in a good way to hear about your students because last quarter I had the meanest comments of my entire career from one class. “You’re a whore!” “I’m so much smarter than you are (inject nastiest tone you can imagine)!” “My mother REALLY doesn’t appreciate your attitude (include head bob).” There were some other vulgarities I can’t repeat here. And to top it off, they stole the rewards I bought for them (candy, office supplies, etc.) I used every trick in the book but just as I was beginning to get somewhere with them (after 6-7 weeks) they backslid. Sadly, I too wrote more referrals in those 9 weeks than I would in an entire year. It didn’t even help. Did I think the office would have some consequences with actual teeth? Duh.

The point is, nothing was different with that group. No other classes were this difficult. I didn’t teach them any differently than my past classes or the other 5 present ones. 90% of those kids I had last year and the year before without major incident. Maybe there’s something in the water. I don’t know.

I’ve decided not to dwell too long or hard on it. (Mostly because it HURTS to remember it– I still feel a little bruised and incompetent.) I imagine this happens to all educators once in a while. So don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re in good company. :)