A Classroom Management Story

Our school mascot, like so many, is the eagle. Recently the counselor introduced a school-wide signal for getting students’ attention and asked us all to use it so that the children were all practiced at responding immediately and effectively. It goes like this: The teacher calls out ‘Eagles, Eagles’ and the children respond ‘Soar High’. It works. It really does, so I have begun using it in class to call the children to attention.

This week at the end of a 1st grade class, I called out ‘Eagles, Eagles’ and got the appropriate response of ‘Soar High’, so when I had their attention I continued ‘Eagles, Eagles, go back to your nests’. The children scuttled back to their seats quickly, but not quietly. Immediately I noticed a rumpus breaking out at two of the tables on either side of the room. The children there were discussion something quite heatedly, and paid no attention at all to my call for quiet. Eventually I had to dismiss the class, but held back the children from those two tables to find out what was going on.

They admitted that there was an argument at the table, but on closer questioning it sounded like something different. They were arguing about who was the parent, the youngest, the eldest and so on. I still didn’t really understand, but realized they were role-playing of some sort, and let them go.

It was when one courageous girl held back and told me that this always happens in art class, that I really tried to get to the bottom of it. After all, why in art class? Then it dawned on me… my instruction for the eagles to go back to their nests (which other teachers don’t do) sparked the whole role-play game of who was who in the eagle’s nest: who were the parents, the chicks, and even the teenagers…

I had to laugh, but was glad to be told what had caused the reaction. I won’t be using that command again, even though they did seem to enjoy the variation on ‘sit down’.