Monday, May 12, 2008

A Motivational Experiment: Reflections on a Mohawk

Read more about this experiment: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3

After I cut off my mohawk, I wondered whether I should write off the entire experiment as a failure. On that first hawkless day, I made it a point to not say anything about it. I have done a lot of speechifying to my students throughout the year, as I always have, but I thought this time I would let my actions speak for themselves. After all, I had explained why I had the mohawk in the first place, so of course my students knew why I cut it off, right?

Yet throughout that day, T-minus three days until our standardized test, I was repeatedly asked, "Sir, why did you shave it off?" The question was always asked with an equal mix of sincerity and bewilderment, indicating it was not a rhetorical question. Each time, I changed the subject.

The next day, in the midst of 9th grade social studies benchmarks and 10th grade math testing, my students still found time to ask the same question. Seeing no easy out, I crafted this response: "If you don't understand why I shaved it off, then you don't really understand why I had it in the first place." I began to wonder, what if everybody had missed the point? What if all the progress we had made was simply a figment of my imagination?

So on our last day before the test, we started class with a journal: "Do you understand why Mr. D had a mohawk in the first place? Why did he shave it off?" Again, I avoided any speechifying, saying only that I wanted an honest response to the question, not for a grade, but because I needed to know. These are some of their responses.
Mr. D had a mohawk to get our attention. To give us a reason to work, since apparently no one wants to. Though, there was something to it. If people kept misbehaving, he was going to shave it off. And so he did. It was a sacrifice he was willing to do to get us to learn. In my opinion, some students do not deserve to be in his class.

I think Mr. D had a mohawk to try to encourage us to pass but some of "us" and I know I am one of them, didn't follow his expectations. Since Mr. D shaved his mohawk I've felt some negativity when I saw him, but I really think he expected a lot from us and we should have been good to him because he might be the best Algebra teacher we ever have. I will pass the Math Taks to show Mr. D that I am actually smart.

Mr. D had the mohawk to try and grasp our attention so we could focus more on what he was trying to teach us. He shaved it off because we weren't paying attention to him with or without it so he just shaved it because he didn't deserve to be maken fun of or even give us the satisfaction of it, for our humor.

Because he want that is student could put more attention cause he want that we could pass the TAKS Test cause he wand all is student to pass the test that why but his student maybe didn't put attention to him that why Mr. D shave it off the only think Mr. D want for us is that we could learn and pass the TAKS Test cause he cares about is students.

Yes I now because we did not make are best on are work and we did very bad in are work in class but I very like it how he had it but it was my falt why he shave it of because I didn't do my work in class and I very sorry about that so Mr. D can you forgive me and I promise I will try my best in the math test OK I will do what I know and I hope I do past so I can go to 10th grade and be a shopmoro. And I will always remember you Mr. D. I hope all your students for next year lesien to you but make Math fun and play with the problems and make them larned more OK! Sorry for not be on tacks in your class!

My understanding Mr. D did the mohawk so we can pay attention and get ready for taks. And really it work since he did the mohawk because everybody will start looking at him and stare. And now he shave it off because our Taks test is tomorrow and now it doesnt matter because we should learn already and its time for taks.

Mr. D you tried to motivate us by trying to do something silly like cutting your hair. To make us see that you actually care and will do anything so we can learn. Some people took it as a joke and didnt care, but it means a lot to me that you actually tried to do something about our class. Sorry if our class didnt do what you expected in return. I just wish people werent so selfish and stopped talking or making dumb comments. If that was the reason you cut it off. I understand why. Dont worry about what people say and how the take goes only depends on how much the student payed attention.

He said that he will let his mohawk grow until the school ends. He wanted to show us that he did care and give us some spiret because he wanted us to past the TAKS if we past it he will color it a different color. He shave it because we will talk alot and not lisend to him not doing his homework, not doing his work and no pasing his tests. He got tayer of us he saw that we never improve and behaveir so that why I think he shave it.

He thought if he did something to show people that he's serious and every was all "can he, he's a teacher". He did it to make a point. Something for us to pay attention. But look at those kids, he still has not gave up. He cut it off because I think it was because we as a class did not do the deal. We had to pay attention and do our work. Give him respect.

In the beginning he cut his hair in a mohawk to get our attention and to try to motivate us and there are so many of us that took advantage of him for being nice and giving us so many chances but he shaved it off for the reason that no one payed attention no one was motivated we changed in the beginning but there are so many that just don't care Mr. D you rock I hated Algebra and it was hard then you helped me like it and be confadent about the taks Im not being a suck up I just want to speak well write the truth and thank you well that's pretty much the reason why you shaved it off there might be more to your story but Im pretty sure Im close.
Reading these comments, and all of the others, I am convinced my experiment was a rousing success. They also remind me of exactly why I was meant to do this, exactly why I want to teach forever.

5 comments:

B.B. said...

I bet they kept asking you "why you did it" because they felt ashamed and wanted to hear you say it. Getting reprimanded out loud is much easier to take than the unspoken tension of "knowing" you screwed up. Cool idea.

Mrs.K but you can call me Coach said...

You moved them. If you taught them nothing else this semester, this small lesson in humility and relationships is enough. They will NEVER forget you for it.

And from all the 9th grade lit teachers--sorry the writing is so bad. :)

Alli Hunter said...

As a middle school math teacher in the school that is the "armpit of the district", termed by our other schools, I admire your tactics immensely. I am a second year teacher and we are desperate to change their lives, not just their scores. Great job. I appreciate you sharing your struggles.

Ms. Longhorn said...

Wow.. maybe I should shave my head in protest! What a great idea!

Jack said...

Great lesson! I taught in the Valley for fourteen years in Weslaco... and I used to wear clownish (beyond bright: NEON!) outfits to get the kids’ attention. Once, the test scores were so high I was accused of cheating.

Still in teaching--and I’m still learning about my craft, thanks to your sharing. The teacher has become the student! ¡Muchas gracias!