Originally created 11/12/06

Sharing ideas with another teacher has paid dividends



EDITOR'S NOTE: McKenna Hydrick is a first-year teacher at Silver Bluff High School. She teaches English I and English II to ninth-graders. She is sharing her diary in this column each week.

I am extremely fortunate to have Sarah Barber, another freshman English teacher, directly across the hall from me. We are both first-year teachers and are able to share our struggles and our lesson plans.

I'm not sure what this year would be like without someone to plan and vent with. We are constantly evaluating our students' progress and behavior, as well as our own.

One afternoon, we decided to discuss the lack of motivation of our students.

Most Freshman Academy teachers are having problems with students not turning in homework. And it's not that they just aren't turning it in, most of them aren't bothered by the effect of the zero on their averages.

We agreed that implementing lunch detention might be one way to get their attention. A zero might not bother them, but we know for sure that losing five minutes at lunch would absolutely kill them.

We concurred that we would use this as an experiment to see if lunch detention would help get students motivated to do homework and to be on task during class.

We developed an Excel spreadsheet that detailed the student's name, offense, date and signature. Then we informed our students by telling them we had a change in procedure in the classroom.

The students in both classes reacted in the same way: "Lunch detention is middle school stuff." "Yeah, we did that in middle school."

Mrs. Barber and I thought, "Well, if you didn't act like middle-schoolers, we wouldn't have to have lunch detention." But, using our better judgment, we just smiled and said, "I'm sorry. This is just what we decided to do rather than giving you after-school detention all of the time."

At that comment, the students realized that they could get an hour after school for these actions and decided it wasn't as bad as they originally thought.

The class then helped develop the list of behaviors that would determine lunch detention: sleeping, being off-task, writing or passing notes, having no homework, complaining, disrespecting and talking.

I don't think we were prepared for the number of students we would have in detention.

Because we were consistent, we both had full classrooms the first couple of days. No homework was the greatest offense, but there were several for sleeping and being off-task.

Numbers have dwindled since that first week but we are still amazed at the number of students having to stay during lunch each day.

However, I feel like it is slowly working. Students have the routine now. They know that when they misbehave or don't have their homework, they have to stay. When I walk around to check homework they say, "Five minutes, right?"

Mrs. Barber and I also understand the need for positive reinforcement.

For the students who do have their homework, we randomly choose days to hand out a variety of rewards. Students can choose from a tardy pass, a homework pass or a procrastinator's pass.

This reinforces the students who are doing what they are supposed to while also showing those who aren't what they are missing.

We are not having lunch detention to be mean or relentless, like some of our students believe; we are merely trying different motivation techniques to ensure the ultimate success of our students.

We don't like seeing all of those homework zeroes in our grade book. We don't like the disrespect and the note-writing and the complaining.

We are hoping that lunch detention will curtail some classroom management issues and inspire students to complete assignments.