Four Types of Misbehavior

Jamie Morrison is a weekend coach in our teacher prep program. His "day job" is working on this ambitious school turnaround enterprise. He just wrote a very interesting paper. Just 4 pages! He uses boulders, rocks, pebbles, and sand as metaphors for student misbehavior, and raises some interesting questions.

Boulder: Fighting

Rock: Slamming a book shut after being asked to close a book

Pebble: Student keeps writing after teacher directs the class to put their pencils down

Sand: Student writes two more words after teacher directs students to put their pencils down

Nobody countenances boulders. In typical schools, I think the "battle line" is with rocks -- some teachers deal with them firmly, some are lax -- maybe just call the kid's name, but no consequence. Pebbles, let alone sand, are generally ignored.

In higher-performing schools, teachers are more likely to consistently address rocks, but vary in their expectations over pebbles and sand.

One aspect of this is psychologically of new teachers. It's hard for a 23-year-old to get excited about sanctioning a kid for not listening. But the result is what we call in our program the "Misbehavior Tax" -- a giant sucking sound of student effort and focus.

My non-scientific sense from visiting lots of charter schools is that those with the most consistent approach to sand and pebbles correlate with those that get kids to make the highest gains in achievement. I did some work with Roland Fryer last spring writing some questions for charter school research to test that notion. We'll see if anything turns up.

You can read Jamie's paper here:The Boulder Metaphor UP