Friday, November 2, 2012

Year 3: Week 8 - The Buffers

They are called “buffers.”

These are the students, most of whom are girls, that teachers sit between the most disruptive students, most of whom are boys. A lot of the science of making an effective seating chart for a classroom is the careful placement of buffers.

You probably know someone who was used as a “buffer” by a teacher. I married one. Growing up, Diana was an attentive and cooperative student and because of this, she was sat next to the more disruptive students in her class. Logically, Diana’s teacher should have rewarded her good behavior by letting her sit next to one of her friends. Instead she was used like so many students as a “buffer.”

Seating charts have positive motivations too. Sometimes you sit students next to other students who they work well with but more often than not, seating charts are created to discourage inappropriate behavior.

“Buffers” may help the class and the more disruptive students but it’s not really fair to students who are putting in the best work. It’s a necessary evil, that I don’t really like, which is one reason I felt compelled earlier this week to have a talk with my “buffers.”

This class was a little rough. I’m not sure why. It could have been my lesson plan, or the specter of Halloween. Either way, it was a class where enough of the students were disruptive enough that I had to give a couple stern warnings and some harsh lectures.

Usually when students are being disruptive in class I hold them back after the other students have left and have a private conversation with them about their behavior. I was mentally preparing myself for this when I looked into the eyes of one of my students, one of my “buffers,” looking tired and a little sad.

Instead of holding back the half of the class that was causing issues, I asked the teacher to take those students and leave me to talk with the students in the class who consistently did amazing work and demosntrated great behavior in class.

I told them that I was sorry that the class had to get so harsh and that I wanted to make sure that they knew that the lectures I gave were not about them. I told them that I understood that it was frustrating to be in a class and have a teacher get mad at a class when they had done nothing wrong. I told them that it was important to me that they understood these things and that this angry song they heard wasn’t about them.

One of the reasons I did this was because I was so frustrated with some of the students in the class that I wasn’t able to talk to them in a reasonable way (a teacher should never talk to a student when he or she is truly angry). Also, I just felt bad for the other students.

Of course you have to put out the biggest fire in the room and yes that is the disruptive students, but you can’t take the quiet, attentive ones for granted. They need to know that they are appreciated, that you care about them and that they matter. These students are more than “buffers” that allow the class to keep going, they are what is working in your class.  For every time you need to redirect a students behavior, you need to complement and build up the students who are doing great things.

If you do this enough, you may just find that you don't need kids to be buffers any more.  

No comments:

Post a Comment