Being Viola Swamp for a day

I didn’t wear a wig or an ugly dress. I didn’t give them warnings or let them know what I was planning to do. I didn’t even plan to do it until this morning.

My students argue all the time about nothing. Every time I try to let them work in groups they fight. Recess is usually a nightmare: “He got tagged but won’t be it!” “Ms. Amanda, she said I was a big fat meanie-head!” “They won’t let me play in the castle!”

I’ve talked to them. They’ve talked to each other. The director of the school has talked to them. They’ve been given strategies to resolve conflicts. They’ve been told to stop doing x, y, and z. Even if a strategy works for a little while, they go right back to their bickering ways after a week at the most. No matter what has been done, they just. keep. arguing.

My solution? An ENTIRE day of “You cannot interact with each other for any reason. Period.” No talking. No showing each other your work. No working together in pairs or in groups. No playing together. ALL DAY.

They did math in silence (which is a normal requirement, but they actually did it today). They lined up the first time without talking (usually they have to do it over because they start talking as soon as their butts lift off their chairs). They ate snack and lunch in peace and then read quietly. I was actually able to TEACH in language arts because there were no side conversations. We watched a video in social studies because I wasn’t sure they could handle anything else.

Recess was the most pitiful display of misery that I’ve ever seen. One kid, the most extroverted one in the bunch, cried the entire time. (I felt kind of bad about that and told him so.) Two kids were thrilled and ran around singing to themselves and having a grand time. Both are more introverted, and one tends to get picked on and treated poorly during recess. The rest of them were like zombies. A few just kind of sat there, staring, looking miserable. One said, “It’s like a wasteland of doom.” They didn’t want to play because there was no point in playing by themselves. A few kids listlessly dug around in the sandbox or sat in a swing. It was eerily quiet and sad. You’d think I’d gleefully run over their puppies in front of them.

I got a letter and several pictures explaining how they felt. I’m going to give them all a chance to write about their experiences after my planning period.

My point, which I’ve explained to them, is this: If you can’t interact with each other in a way that is kind, appropriate, and within my classroom expectations, then you can’t interact with each other at all. I haven’t dealt with an argument all day. It has been glorious.

Tomorrow, I will let them go back to “normal.” We’ll see if anything changes. I’m guessing that they’ll think twice about getting into an argument. If not, we’ll go right back to this.

I don’t think they like me today. I’m okay with that.

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