Do your middle school students constantly approach you when you’re busy? If you’re working with a small group, do they interrupt? When you’re responding to an email, do they surround your desk like so many zombies, drooling and mindlessly chanting Ms./Mr…?
What about when you ask them to stay in their seats and raise their hands? Do they? Of course they don’t. Middle school students want (demand?) our attention immediately. For years, I tried explaining to them that there’s just one of me and that I can’t give my full attention to anybody if I keep getting interrupted by everybody. But all they heard was the incoherent mutterings of their own personal Peanuts teacher. So I stopped explaining and started quacking.
Now I begin every year showing my Classroom Management “Don’t Be a Duck” slides. They learn (apparently it isn’t obvious) that I’m not a mother duck, and they are not my brood of adorable little quackers. I tell students I’m not going to make way for them like in the classic children’s book. No police officer will stop traffic in their honor. Nope, this is not Make Way for Ducklings. This is a classroom. A classroom with twenty-five students—and me—the lone teacher. And unlike those ducks on the streets of Boston, they are just going to have to wait.
So, when students approach me instead of raising their hands, I quack at them. And often other students quack at them. And soon they find their sheepish selves being quacked back to their seats where the hands reluctantly go up.
“Don’t Be a Duck” saved my sanity. I hope it also saves yours.