Let's call him Saleem was a troubled student. He had numerous behavior management problems. I know that he had impulse control and anger management issues. He had been suspended many, many times in previous years.
My style of teaching is such that I am very stern in the beginning, allowing students to get away with very little. I have always done this on purpose believing that it is easier to soften up as the year goes on than get harsher. I learned this the hard way my first year of teaching. I decided that I was not going to change the way I taught or interacted with him in particular because of his issues.
He sat in the back row. I had never used a seating chart with students on the first day when I was just getting to know them. Every time I talked at the front of the class, I would ask questions of students, calling them by name. This helped me learn their names while getting the kids involved. Unfortunately, every time I called on him he would respond with a flip answer. He knew the answers when he listened but he didn't want to be called on. If he got an answer wrong, he would get very angry.
About a month into the year, I was beating my head against the wall trying to connect with Saleem. I could usually get these teenager to be involved or at the very least to sit quietly. However, he was just loud and intolerable.
I tried to understand his misbehavior through his background, I found out that he had been in so much trouble through the years both at home and school that it had become an obsession. He expected it and he expected his teachers to know about his deferrals and suspensions. For every new teacher, he would push and push seeing what it would take to get a deferral. I tried to outlast him and work things out my way. I had rarely found suspensions to be effective because students would return worse than before.
One particular day, Saleem was talking while I was teaching. In the middle of teaching I said in the same tone of voice, "Saleem, why don't you join our discussion instead of having one of your own." With that, he got up from his chair, pushed it over, and yelled something I couldn’t understand. Well that was definitely deferral time. I sent him to the office with a discipline deferral, and he received a week's out of school suspension.
Now so far you might be asking how this could be my best teaching experience. So far it was actually one of my worst. I dreaded that class every day. His anger and mumbled words under my breath were almost too much for me. The week's out of school suspension was a wonderful pause, and we got a lot accomplished that week. However, the week soon came to an end, and I began dreading his return. I knew from talking with his other teachers that he would be back angrier and with a chip on his shoulder.
I devised a plan. On the day of his return, I stood at the door waiting for him. As soon as I saw him, I asked him to talk for a moment. He seemed unhappy to do it but agreed. I basically told him that I wanted to start over with him. Further, I gave him permission that if he felt like he was going to lose control in class, he could step right outside the door for a moment to collect himself.
From that point on, Saleem was a changed student in my classroom. He listened, he participated. He was actually a smart teenager and I could finally get to see this in him. He even stopped a fight between two other students one day. And you know the most ironic part of it all? He never, ever used the privilege I had given him to leave the class for a moment. I believe that just giving him the power to decide for himself made all the difference.
At the end of the year, just after his success in the Baccalaureate, he wrote me a thank you note about how good the year had been for him. I still have it today and find it very touching to reread remembering my old good days with my students, despite their occasional disruption.
Could you please tell us about one of your teaching experience with one of your students?