They Who Will Not Obey Will Repeat or be Stunned

For a few minutes today, I kind of wished I had a stun gun to use on a student.

Every year, the school where I work puts on a couple speech contests. Junior high students get the assignment before the Summer break and high school get it before Winter break. Almost no one actually writes it during the holidays but at least the first year junior high students (7th grade) take it somewhat seriously.

The problems begin in second year (8th grade). By then, students already know, within reason, who is going to win the speech contest. They also know they can’t fail for doing badly on the speech. (Well, they can, sort of, but not until they try to go to high school.) Therefore the incentive to do a good job is somewhere just above zero percent for most students, especially if they are in a lower level class.

To get the speeches turned in we implement detentions and get the homeroom teachers involved. Then the problem becomes getting the students to put some energy into their speeches.

Unfortunately, today, in almost every class, we all had some kind of problem. Oddly, the problems tended to occur in the “higher” level classes.

In my case, a third of the students showed up without the “show” part of their “show and tell” speech. This means they have to do the speech twice. Other students feigned surprise that they had to memorize the speech. (Two days of practice and constant reminders to memorize it apparently didn’t register. For the record, I have a teenage kid, so I kind of understand that.)

Instead of listening, some students were talking and making lots of noise. One student was especially loud and I was trying to figure out if I needed to be closer for the stun gun probes to be effective. He dragged a second student into it.

When the second student almost started a fight with a third student, I ended up having to enact a rule I usually don’t have to use in higher level classes: IYANYAN (If You Are Noisy, You Are Next). This rule applies even if you’ve already finished your speech. (The record is three times.) I called up the second student and made him do his speech again. Then I made the first loud student do his speech.

Things were a bit quieter after that, but I think a stun gun would have been faster and more impressive.

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