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Taking Back Classroom Control

Updated on March 25, 2018
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle worked for 20 years in elementary schools as a sub teacher, eventually presenting teacher training workshops in Orange County, CA.

It can be full of surprises.

drawing by Rochelle
drawing by Rochelle

We Knew We Had Lost it When One of Them Became a Flasher

Jeremiah wasn't a bullfrog but we might have wished he was at that moment.

Though he was running around the room flashing all the other young students, HE wasn't the one out of control. WE were the ones who had lost it.

The fifteen students were screaming, laughing and falling on the floor in mock, maybe not so mock, horror.

The morning in a Special Education class had already shown us that this was not going to be easy and that our major concern would be preventing a general mutiny of six, seven and eight year-olds.

At the time I was a subsitute classroom assistant for special education groups. Usually, it was not too hard, because Special Ed teachers generally have things well in hand. What I didn't know, was that BOTH the regular teacher and her assistant were unexpectedly absent that day.

The young teacher, though doing her best, had never been in this class before either, and was as clueless as I.

The Frogpond

I grabbed the school intercom to request an intervention, trying to simulate calmness and find politically correct words to let them know we had a second-grade flasher playing havoc in the Special Ed class.

"We need to have an ...errr... disruptive... student removed from room 4..." I started.

"Is it Jeremiah? " she asked. . . . "Yes."

Her question gave me some hope... they knew SOMETHING that we obviously didn't. The principal was there in a flash... so to speak. "Sorry", he said, "I didn't know BOTH of you were subs."

I had been a substitute teacher's aide for only a short time, and since aides only had subs for special ed classes, that's where I had been working. It was very interesting work, because I was always in the room with a highly experienced and skilled teacher who knew her students very well.

As I said, this was an exception.

It takes all kinds . . .

Some classes I had worked in were physically handicapped studnets, others were mentally challenged, and others like this one, were just ill-behaved little hellions.

Yes, I know I shouldn't say that. Deep in my heart I really do know better.

After the offender was removed, things were a little calmer. I found myself trying to console a poor little girl who was in tears.

Trying to calm her fears, I said things were fine now, and Jeremiah was not coming back today. She was crying at the unfairness of it all: She didn't get to see.

Actually, I had been in the class before as a sub aide with the regular full-time teacher. We had a fairly calm and normal day. This new sub teacher did not know the regular procedures that the full time teacher used, and this particular class could not handle the sudden change in circumstances.

We decided that we needed to spend our lunch hour together making a "solid and foolproof " plan for the afternoon.

The regular teacher had left some general lesson plans, but these were not working for us. Two strange people in the room were just too much for these kids. We decided that plans would be scrapped in favor of surviving the afternoon with no casualties-- including, and especially, us.

Survival plan

We agreed that the best strategy would be to get them all doing the same thing at the same time. There was a piano in the room and by great good luck, the young teacher could play it. I would lead the class in songs to which we improvised motions and exercise movements, with all of them following my example. We could keep their attention.

We wore them out for the rest of the day and no one was bruised or bleeding when the final bell rang. This, we decided, was our definition of success.

When all of them were on their way out, the principal came in and congratulated us. He also mentioned that Jeremiah was moving to Oklahoma at the end of the week to live with his grandparents.

I could barely move. The teacher looked at me, slumped against the piano, and asked,"Do you think we should call Oklahoma and warn them?"

Action Songs


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