So far this school year, I've kicked two kids out of my classroom. It was accidental, but that's still two too many, if you ask me.
I've got this constant battle against sleepy kids. Kids put their heads down and I get offended, thinking there's no way I can be that boring. I'll walk past and kick their desks hard, jarring them awake. "Oh, I'm sorry, was that rude of me?" I'll ask. "Well, so is sleeping in class!" Or I'll do the old drop-a-heavy-book-next-to-them routine and ask them to pick it up. I'll force kids to stand up and stretch, or go get a drink of water, whatever, just don't sleep in my room. My newest trick is "The Chicken Dance." I want it to become my reputation.
A few days ago, I was talking about something important and I wanted to make sure all the kids were paying attention. I can't remember what it was that I was talking about, but it seemed really important at the time. "I need your attention. This is really important," I announced. "So if any of you put your head down, there will be horrible consequences." Of course two minutes into my lecture or presentation or whatever, two heads went down. I tapped them on their shoulders, they looked up, and two minutes later both heads were down again.
"OK, that's it, I warned you," I said. "Come up here, both of you." Surprisingly, they actually did it, got up and walked over to the front of the room. Now what was I going to do with them? For some reason, this idea came to me:
"The three of us are now going to do the Chicken Dance," I said.
"What? I don't know no Chicken Dance," one of them said.
"Fine, I'll show you. It goes like this ..." And I did it, the arms flapping, the squatting, everything. "Got it? Now ... the three of us together!" I started, and they just stood there.
"Man, I'm not dancing!"
"What do you mean you're not dancing? You have to! I said don't sleep, and you put your head down twice, so now, as punishment, you have to dance. What about you," I looked at the other kid, who the whole time was just sleepily standing there, "are you going to dance or not?" He shook his head.
"Fine, then," I said. "You guys have wasted enough time as it is." I turned to the rest of the class. "I'm really sorry about wasting all this time when all you want is an education. Your parents are going to ask you what you learned in school today, and you'll tell them you learned the Chicken Dance. Sorry, I know, this is English class. I just think these two--and the rest of you--need to see that you can't sleep in class. I mean, what's the point of coming to school if you're just going to sleep through your classes? Now, don't the rest of you think that these two should do the Chicken Dance with me?"
Silence. I thought they'd all get a kick out of it, but nobody wanted to see the humiliation. Maybe they were worried about being next. Finally, someone spoke up, "Come on, just let 'em go."
"Fine," I said. "I'll let them go. Listen, you guys have a choice. Either do the Chicken Dance right now with me or get out and don't come back until you're awake and ready to learn."
And with that, both of them went to their desks, got their stuff, and walked out.
"Hey, you can't leave! Come back here and dance! I am not kicking you out, do you hear me?" I shouted at their backs. "Fine, then, since you're leaving, go to the principal's office, and tell him that your mean English teacher won't let you sleep in class. Tell him that I should provide you with pillows and blankets and maybe coffee for when you do wake up!"
They just kept walking, who knows where. Teachers kick students out all the time, and kids end up roaming the halls, but I never do. I think the real punishment is keeping students in the room with me, where they might actually learn something (like the Chicken Dance!). When they really misbehave, I make them leave their things in the room and just stand outside the door until I get the class working on something and can go talk to them. That's supposed to be considered a conference. The next time I'm supposed to call their house, and on the third time I'm supposed to write out a referral, which will get them suspended or whatever. But I'm too lazy to keep track of all that stuff, so I just talk to them and hope it doesn't happen again.
Anyway, class ended, and I sort of forgot about the whole thing. Until later in the day, when a student from another class asked me about it. "I heard some kid complaining about you in the hall," he said. "He said you kicked him out because he wouldn't dance with you. What's that all about?"
"Oh, nothing, I think he was just embarrassed because I can dance better than he can," I said, smiling because I knew this could lead to a reputation: Don't sleep in what's-his-name's class ... he'll make you get up and dance.