Theory into Practice

by Marilyn Roca Enriquez in


When I was a history teacher in a seventh grade departmentalized program, I taught four of the six classes at that grade level. The other two were taught by an instructor who taught the seventh and eighth grade classes. Tim was a student in one of the other two classes and was a major disruptive influence in all his classes including gym, art and music. A vice principal in a middle school faculty meeting said the office would no longer allow Tim to be sent to the office. He was beyond anything they could handle. A few weeks later the principal, a lifelong friend, delivered Tim to my homeroom, informing me that Tim was now a member of my class. I shook the boy’s hand and welcomed him to the class. His first class was language arts with the same teacher with whom he had developed a very poor relationship. Second period he had mathematics with a different teacher than he had previously. I had worked with this teacher to adopt my methods, and Tim was placed in a group. It made a great impact on him. Upon his return to his history class, it appeared my students had taken him under their collective wings, and he was working collaboratively with three other students. I did not hear any negative reports about Tim and assumed all was well. Three weeks later the principal asked what I said to encourage this former miscreant to conform. When I explained I hadn’t said much more than "hello" he left my room scratching his bald head. Later, I asked him why he abruptly changed although most of the teachers were the same as before. He claimed he liked his classmates and felt he could succeed in his history and math classes. He was excited to have the chance to earn an A+ -- an experience he never had before. In regard to his other classes, he said it was no longer any fun getting into trouble. Tim finished the year as a solid student and a student leader. Currently, Tim is serving as a detective in a local police department. 


John was a student of mine in a self-contained fifth grade class. His reputation was that of being belligerent and openly defiant. On the first day of school John was selected captain of his team. Early October, John asked if he could organize his group differently than I had recommended. I agreed to let him try. With his new method of operations, John’s group (no matter who was in it) won most frequently by far. When a guidance counselor asked John why there was such a turnaround in his behavior, he informed his counselor that he enjoyed being in charge and wanted to be a teacher just like Mr. Cooper. John eventually sought a different career, in military intelligence. Upon his retirement from the army, he started his own private security company.