Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Full Moon Curse


I'm not really a superstitious person.  

I don't get all freaked out when I see a black cat pass in front of me.  It doesn't bother me to carry on a normal day on Friday the 13th.  I think it's kinda gross to carry around a rabbit's foot.  And I definitely don't go looking for a pot of gold at the end of rainbows.  

However, there's one superstition that no matter how much I try to call bologna on, it continues to prove me wrong.

The curse of the full moon.

For years, I've heard teachers tell me that during a full moon, the students will be different.  Crazy hyper, loud, unfocused, hard to control.  They seem to have an energy surging through them that's almost supernatural.  The quietest kids will become loud and obnoxious.  The loud kids will become even louder.  No matter what a teacher does, say, or reacts with, it doesn't affect the student's behavior one bit until the full moon is over.

And, every time those teachers have had the opportunity to prove their point, I've had to agree with them.  

Now, I no longer get to agree with them, I get to see it firsthand and try and deal with it.

On Monday, I knew it was going to be a tough transition for the kids to come back to school.  They had been gone for three weeks - a week longer than they were supposed to be gone.  I expected some excitement, some chattiness, as friends reunited and had to fill in all the details about their Christmas and their break.  That was totally understandable and explainable.

However, if you remember, I also pointed out a few days ago that it's a usual occurrence that students will return back from winter break more mature, more focused, and some of the behavioral "kinks" have magically worked themselves out with the changing of the new year.

However, this week has seen the arrival of a full moon.

Yesterday was one of the most craziest days I've dealt with all school year.  No matter what I said or did, the kids just couldn't stop talking.  I'd be in mid-sentence, and students would just blurt out random thoughts or questions.  I would be trying to explain something, and they were all having sidebar conversations completely ignoring what I had to say.  It was like I wasn't even in the room most of the day.

I have made a point of "training" my kids my expectations when it comes to noise level both when I'm in the room and if I have to step out for one reason or another.  If I do have to step out of the room, they will continue working as if I was still standing right there next to them.  I've received countless compliments about how quietly my kids will work if I'm not in the room.  I've received countless compliments about how focused and hardworking they are when I am in the room.  

But yesterday, I could have been dancing on the desks and that probably wouldn't have phased them a bit while they continued their endless chatter.

Now, during our testing time, the kids were very quiet.  They know that during our mock MAP test, it has to be absolutely silent.  There is no talking AT ALL.  If they have a question, they must raise their hand and then whisper the question to me when I approach them.  That they did with no problem.

Yet, the minute the test was over...and I mean the very second the buzzer went off indicating a portion of the test was over...the flood gates of chatter opened up in full force.

I can honestly say that I have NEVER uttered the words "please stop talking and listen" so many times in one single day.  In fact, I think I said it more yesterday than I have the entire school year combined.  And what made it even more infuriating was the fact that none of the usual consequences phased them a bit.

I use behavior techniques such as table points and clip pulls.  If tables are all working quietly, or together, or follow directions, or are the fastest and quietest at transitioning, they earn a table point.  They lose one if any of the opposite happens.  The table that has the most points at the end of the week earns a prize.

Individual students that don't follow directions have a clip that they pull that earns them increasing consequences.  The first pull is a verbal warning, the second pull means missing 5 minutes of recess, the third pull is 15 minutes of recess, and the last consequence is a referral to the office or a note being sent home to a parent. 

Very rarely do any of my kids make it past the 5 minutes of recess missed stage before their behavior makes a quick turnaround.  

But yesterday?  I ended up taking every single table point away that had been earned this week, and had several kids pull their clips..and it didn't change a single thing.  Again, it was like they didn't even notice me taking the points away and pulling the clip was more like doing a tedious chore rather than a swift reminder to curb the banter.

Once our test was over, we began the process of grading and reviewing the test.  Something that normally goes pretty smoothly.  Last year, it was a time that the class and I discussed how the answers could have been found, shared strategies for getting through problems they didn't understand, and finding out what their score meant in terms of their current progress.

Yesterday, it was more like crowd control.  Each question started a discussion, alright, that had absolutely NOTHING to do with the question, the test, or anything related to such.  The minute I gave the right answer....there was an eruption of talking and laughing and craziness.

A process that would normally take about 20-30 minutes ended up taking over an hour...and only because towards the end I gave up trying to explain and discuss the questions and just started reading out the answers.

After lunch, when we got back in to our regular learning mode (or supposed to), I couldn't go a single minute without being interrupted while I was trying to teach a math lesson.  Once I did finally get them through the explanation and gave them their assignment, I had to constantly stay on their case about doing the work.  That there would be no homework, it was to be done in class.  And I had to keep decreasing the time I was giving them, because it was the only way to refocus them...for all of five minutes.

I stepped in to the hallway to hang something on the bulletin board, and from the hallway it sounded like I was having a class party.  I had to keep having kids pull their clips because I could hear them, then the minute I stepped out again... a roar of noise.  I decided to give up trying to step out.  

I think the reason I had such a hard time with it is because I pride myself on my classroom management.  I may not be the strongest math teacher, I may be lacking in my time management skills, but one thing you can bet your last dollar on is that the classroom management in my classroom is strong.  Extremely strong.

My kids follow the routines and procedures with precision and perfection.  They know exactly what's expected of them, or get clarification if they're not sure.  They know when they can talk and when they can't.  They know if the noise level is getting a little too high with a simple look by me.  They know when they are allowed to get out of their seats and when they need to stay seated.  

They know and they show.  


Except for yesterday.  When it was more like I was a substitute that had never set foot in to a classroom before.  

And even that's not a good comparison, because even when I have a sub I get nothing but good reports about how well behaved they are.

It's the full moon curse, I tell ya!!  

After going through the day I had yesterday, I can say with 100% certainty that there's some truth behind the superstition.  There has to be be.  I can't think of any other explanation.

Sure, people might say it's because they had to sit so quietly during testing.  The test consisted of two 26 minute sections.  So, they had to be silent for a whole 52 minutes.  Our normal math and reading tests last longer than that.  Some might say it's because of the extended break.  But, we got an unexpected week off two weeks before Christmas break.  When they came back, they were a little rambunctious for all of the first 30 minutes and then life went back to normal.

Nope.  I'm convinced it's the full moon.  

It has to be.

For my sanity's sake.

I'm starting today off certain that it will be better.  We start another portion of the test today, and I'm curious to see how grading that will go. 

We shall see.


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