Laughter as an Antidote for Spring Fever

13 Mar 2024 7:31 AM | Paige Jennings (Administrator)

By Drs. Karen Swanson and Matt Moulton

FYI, there are approximately 55 days of school left this year and we are right there with you!  We recently had an opportunity to attend the CAMLE event Managing the Madness with the absolutely hilarious Jack Berckemeyer. From the very beginning of his presentation, Jack had us in stitches. What follows are some quick sound bites and strategies that we have reflected on and tried to implement in our schools. 

The Quote: You can’t leave until I say “have a nice day”!

The Meaning: Jack calls it “slow our roll.” In other words, how do we slow the pace of student interaction with us so that they settle in and communication actually happens. Another tactic Jack mentions was to have students say “Mr. Berkemeyer, ….” if they won’t begin this way, then walk away until the student is ready. This is a strategy to send a clear message that it is not appropriate for students to talk “at” us but “to” us. The goal is to humanize teachers.

What Now?  As we get ready for Spring Break and the 4th quarter, it is a good time to start fresh with reviewing our expectations and goals. I really want to fuss about consequences, but this year's group pushes back hard on those types of talks. But Slowing our Roll also takes the wind out of my sails as I have a chance to think through a positive approach to influence student behavior. Is this situation a 10 or a 3? Most of the time it's really a 3. I also know I enjoy students more when I set a pace that doesn’t rush, where students don’t need to fight for my attention and we learn together.

The Quote: “We are sending mixed messages”

The Meaning: What happens in our classrooms spills out into the hallways and vice versa. When it gets to this part of the school year and some of us slack off on expectations in our classrooms, it impacts more than just our four walls. Jack shared earbuds and hoodies as an example. When only a few team members hold students to the expectation, it causes unneeded stress for all parties. Young adolescents crave consistency. Inconsistency is confusing. Confused students struggle in unclear environments. Mixed messages about classroom expectations, like ear buds and hoodies, can leave them lost. This creates frustration, hinders learning, and could lead to unnecessarily difficult conversations (or confrontations). Being clear from the start about participation, behavior, and assignments is key. Consistency in following through on those expectations, even when it's difficult, builds trust and helps students succeed.

Now What? We might be approaching spring break (anyone already there?) and it feels like the end of the year is right around the corner but it is never too late to set reasonable standards within the school. Jack suggested that admin and teacher teams identify a short list of specific expectations that the entire building can stand behind (ear buds out during class, hoodies off, etc.) and then stay consistent. Unite as a building, your students will appreciate it even if they don’t seem like it.

The Quote: “We are experiencing human threading”

The Meaning: On social media or online communities, a series of replies or comments that usually focuses on a specific topic or interaction on a social media post is referred to as a thread. This oftentimes turns into a dog pile of comments that follow in the same tone and direction of the original post. Jack shared that we are seeing human threading in classrooms. Here is a rough paraphrase from Jack’s presentation (and since we are in Colorado, let’s use very Colorado names–thanks Dude Dad for the inspiration):

Teacher: Aspen put your phone away.

Aspen: I am not using my phone.

Brecken: She is not using her phone.

Aurora: She is calling her mom.

Rocky: Why does it matter if her phone is out?

[insert other names like Keystone, Ouray, Parker, and Chaco]

When social media posts are made about someone or something, rarely does the someone or something join the conversation. From Jack’s example above, the teacher only said five words. Immediately, the students piled on and threaded the conversation. 

Now What? Jack’s (2024) recent AMLE article (8 New Characteristics of Middle School Kids: What Can We Do?) shares some great ideas to minimize the impact of a human thread. First, he suggests sticking to the already-in-place set of classroom expectations. Don’t change direction and respond to the threaders (ex. Brecken, Aurora, Rocky, Limon, and Draft), that will only give them the attention and power in the interaction. Jack says “Hold to the already-taught expectations and move on” (para. 40).

Jack’s second recommendation is to remain calm and “keep your responses short and to the point” (para. 41). He also reminds us that human threads, distractions, outbursts, etc. are not about us. We should not take them personally. When class is over, and if you feel it is necessary, have a short conversation with the threaders. You can share that the incident did not involve them, that Aspen does not need their help, and most importantly, “it is not their responsibility to reprimand you as the teacher” (para. 42).

I know that I have all the feels this time of year, but slowing down, working together with my team to set expectations, and providing a reminder to the students' expectations can help. A colleague reminded me of positive strategies like calling home on one good kid a week or doing a walk and talk with a PLC teacher also lowers my cortisol and increases my moods.

Hang in there, because it's almost shorts weather and we all know what that means.

Colorado Association of Middle Level Education


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