I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Have the Discussion

May is one tough month!

I had a rough day Friday. Seventh graders playing with fidgets, touching each other ("I was just kidding!" "He's poking me!"), blurting out, not wanting to work...

I believe it's tougher when you're not grading anything, but I admit I did that to myself.

So... I revamped my behavior tally sheet, and I started using it today in a new class (it's effectiveness in one class meant it was time to implement it in another).

The first forty minutes of class were pretty brutal, as I could not get two students who were bickering alone, away from the rest of the class. I needed to share our plans with the entire class for the next two weeks, and I didn't want to call them out in front of the whole class. (Although one time I had a "very stern" warning / tone / eyes - it worked for perhaps five minutes...)

Before I shared the "new" plan with two students, I sat down on the floor to have a quiet conversation (they were supposed to be starting to read The Outsiders, but they were not... yet).

"I have to show you something."

"He did it! I didn't do anything, Mrs. Kirr!"

"Stop. Listen. I need to show you something."

Once the arguing back ceased, I was able to share with them my thoughts.

"I do not have children at home. I do not know what it's like to live with 13-year olds. I have never had any brothers. I didn't grow up with any boys my age. I don't know what it's like to be around two best friends like you two. All I know is that Friday was very rough on me, and I knew I needed to do something so the last three weeks of school are fair to me - and to you. I'm tired of getting upset and frustrated, and I'll bet you're tired of me getting upset and frustrated with you, so I'm going to show you what I've devised that has seemed to help other seventh graders."

They looked at me with questions on their faces as I talked to them like this. It looked as if they were truly listening. Their mouths weren't moving, and they were looking at me in the eyes. I showed them the sheet, explaining especially the two sections I tweaked - "arguing about or ignoring specific teacher directions" and "tattling on another student in order to deflect from misbehavior being addressed." We talked about what those meant, and they acted like as if they understood.

I then asked them, in our 80-minute period, how many tallies they think they would be fair before I emailed home. They came up with four total. I agreed (it's what I use in my other class with the few I use it with)! I put the half sheet by each of them and said, "It can stay here with you. If we use it, so be it. If we don't, even better. Thank you for understanding and trying this method with me."

For the next forty minutes, I had no issues with these two students. I thanked them quietly for not disrupting class as they walked out the door. I heard back, "See you tomorrow, Mrs. Kirr."

Talk to the children.

Today was a good day. One day at a time...


  1. Awesome post Joy! Going to try this!

  2. I needed to read this. I know these behaviors happen in classrooms other than mine, but it's reassuring to read about them and know I'm okay. Thank you for sharing your post.