Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Mohawk Experiment, Year Two: Requiem

The Mohawk Experiment, Year Two: The End!I was planning on finally dying my mohawk this weekend, probably purple to match one of our school's colors. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Unfortunately for all of the progress I feel like I've made with my Algebra I class this last month, in reality, things hadn't really changed that much. It's funny that as late as Thursday evening I was telling my Dean of Students that the mohawk seemed to be the single most successful thing I did this year. By Friday evening, I was shaving it off.

I think things started to take a turn for the worse Wednesday. Let me preface this by saying that the class is by no means "out of control"; there were no truly "major" incidents, and we accomplished quite a bit academically. I also have a handful of students who are amazing and do everything I ask of them. It was the little things that started to quickly add up, the things that I had told the students had to stop in order for this little experiment to continue from the very beginning.

Wednesday was fraught with cell phone issues, students refusing to work, putting their heads down, and talking constantly throughout the lesson and practice. It was sad because I thought we had come so far, only to be reverting back to that. One of my best students half-joked about how none of the students really listened to me, a comment which held enough truth to stick with me.

Thursday was a bit worse, even with an outside observer in the classroom for some of the time. The issues were the same, but everything was done a bit more brazenly. I told a few students, mainly the ones who weren't causing any problems, that if the feedback I got from our observation on Friday afternoon wasn't positive that it would likely spell the end of the experiment.

In the end, I didn't have to wait until Friday afternoon to know the experiment was over. We had a quiz that day, and with few exceptions, there was very little effort academically or behaviorally. Redirections were acknowledged but quickly ignored. The overall sense I got was that none of what we were doing mattered to these students, and they certainly had no respect for me whatsoever. I thought I would be angry, but instead I had an intense feeling of disappointment wash over me. I guess I just expected more of them.

Monday is not going to be fun. Seats will be moved, systems will be tweaked, and my management will be tightened up to levels previously unseen. I'll never be a strict disciplinarian--this much I've accepted after six years in the game--but I have my moments. Let's just say it ain't gonna be pretty.

Last year, I wrote a letter to my dearly departed mohawk. I'll refrain from such pleasantries this year, but I am once again left wondering whether this experiment was a success or failure. I'd like to think it was, if not with that particular class than with my other classes and the wider school community. There's no question I gained a lot of credibility with a lot of students. Monday's reactions and the results of the changes I have in store will go a long way in helping me make a conclusion.

Read more about this experiment here.