Double Bind

I nearly lost my temper this morning.

One class in particular has some…big personalities. I want to be able to do hands on, interactive work with the group, but they test my limits pretty regularly.

They don’t test me with silly questions or with using equipment incorrectly. No…it’s much more nefarious. They use the NBA.

For whatever reason, comparing NBA players and teams gets a small group of students heading down a dangerous path. Dislike of one player or another leads to all-out honor defenses and stat showdowns. If this were happening in a civilized manner like on Outside the Lines, I wouldn’t mind so much. But, these – lately – have turned into all out, across the room, Mr. Bennett is invisible cage matches.

I’ve done seating charts. I’ve set time limits and deadlines. I’ve used proximity, redirecting, and direct instructions to students. NONE of it has seemed to have any effect. And what makes it even more frustrating and intolerable is that the entire atmosphere of learning for the other students in the class evaporates completely, and I feel powerless to wrest it back.

And so today, they broke the camel’s back.

On Monday, we’re heading into full lockdown. They’ve shown that they cannot handle the independence. They are getting yet another new seating arrangement and I am taking the reins.

And yet, I feel like I’m punishing the community over the acts of the few.

I have control issues. I don’t want to spend my energy managing a classroom. I lose the interactions and the opportunities to talk about what learning is happening. I can’t prompt individuals and groups and I can’t celebrate small wins. But I don’t know what else to do.

How to you build community when the leaders in the group don’t care? They’ve never been asked to care about school, and now that they’re faced with that choice, they don’t know how to handle the responsibility. If it were the beginning of the year, I would love to take them through that team-building path of developing a culture of learning and a culture of open discussion. But instead, they’re functioning just outside the bounds of their traditional school experience, and it’s creating a chaotic space. And that’s not okay.

I feel like I’m a double bind – I need to direct the time more, but I don’t want to put the rest of the class in an unfair situation. Unfortunately, I don’t see any other alternative.

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