A Come to Jesus Meeting

It’s a phrase that my mom used when I was young. “We’re gonna have a Come to Jesus meeting when you get home about your grades in English.”

A balding preacher springs to my mind–white knuckles gripping the podium–leaning toward the congregation and flecking the front row with frothy vengeance, screaming, “Turn from thy wicked ways!”

That’s certainly how I felt on Thursday with my iPad class.

On Wednesday, I got an email from one of the P.E. teachers describing her discontent with my students using their iPads to take pictures, play games, and dick around during P.E. class.

She probably didn’t say “dick around”. That’s an embellishment.

This email–copied to my administrators, of course–gave voice to a sentiment that other teachers were probably feeling; I don’t know what to do with these things. Can I confiscate them? Can I discipline the students for taking them out?

“Can I cut vegetables on it? Or just fruits? Is a tomato a fruit?”

I sent an email apologizing for the students and assuring that I would deal with it. I sent an email with the iPad policies to the whole staff, then cracked my knuckles and waited for the iPad class to stumble unwittingly into 3rd period.

As they entered, I shook everyone’s hand (as I do every day) and said, “Good morning! Please put your iPad in the cart and have a seat.”

Then I came to my podium.

“Teachers have been complaining about this class. [dramatic pause] They say that you are taking your iPads out in other classes, taking pictures, playing games, and letting other students use them. [dramatic eye contact with the offenders] You all know what the expectations are; you signed a contract and so did your parents. You know what to do, and you’re making me look bad. So today, we’re going to practice how to have a class without the iPad, so you know how your other classes should look. Clearly, you need some practice.”

Then I put on a smile and we went through the period. I thought they got the point.

The next day, I caught two different students playing games in my class. I directed them to put their iPads in the cart, and their responses were:

“What? I’m done already.”
and “Why?”

To the second student, I fixed him with my best teacher stare and asked in a low tone, “Is that a serious question?”

He wisely didn’t respond.

I quite enjoy Halloween. I love to put on a costume and be somebody different for a short while. It’s not because I don’t like my usual self, but it’s just so fun to be somebody new for a little bit.

That’s why I’m comfortable being a hardass in short installments. I like when everyone in my class is happy, but teachers will tell you that a teacher who is only happy will result in a class that is only unruly.

“Boys and Girls, it’s time to please…oh! Is that a knife?”

For those two students, I began taking deep breaths about 10 minutes before the period ended, preparing myself to instill the fear of the Lord in them.

When the class ended, I motioned for those two to wait, and the RSP teacher to also stick around. I brought them over to my desk and showed them a copy of the student/parent contract.

“This is the contract that you and your parent signed. This bullet point says I will use the iPad for academic purposes during school hours in accordance with the rules set forth by MVUSD. You both were well aware of the rules–especially after our conversation yesterday– but you chose to break them anyway. In this contract, the penalty is removal from this program and this class. We will have a meeting this weekend to see if you should be removed. I’ll let you know what we decide on Tuesday. You’re dismissed.”

Two wide-eyed and trembling teens trudged out the door. Once it closed, I turned to the RSP teacher and asked, “Too much?”

Her eyes were also wide. “No! That was awesome!”

Then I called their parents and gave them the same discussion. I predict two very remorseful students in my 3rd period on Tuesday.

“This is worse than when Nemo died and I had to flush him.”

Furthermore–and this is the part that my wife doesn’t get–I’m buying myself an easier year by sacrificing these two little lambs on the altar. Because middle-school students gossip like two old church ladies at bridge club.

You can guarantee that every other student in the class will be terrified to use a game in class, which is exactly what I wanted. That’s why I was comfortable wearing the Red-Faced Preacher mask for a few minutes.

So that I can be Happy Math Teacher for the rest of the year.

UPDATE 2013 January 31st:
One of the aforementioned little lambs didn’t come to Jesus, and was removed from the course after his next offense a month later.

He probably hates Temple Run now.

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13 responses to “A Come to Jesus Meeting

  1. MHunter Experience

    *bows down* my fellow teacher I bow down at your awesomeness! Now give your brain a kiss because you are sooooo smart! lol

  2. Once again Matt, I am in awe of your awsesomeness. Discipline and the “hard assedness” of which you speak is not my specialty. This is perfect for me to read right now. Thanks

  3. Appetite for Instruction

    Love this! Found you through a tweet from @approx_normal and looking forward to reading more.

  4. Well-spoken, Matt. And kids secretly love boundaries even when they hate them. Gives security and speaks “you matter” to them. And I love that you never resort to idle threats or using shame.

  5. I have two students in one of my classes who, as I was told by another teacher, were not allowed to be in ANY classes together last year because they simply could not function in the same room together. They required a lunchtime Come to Jesus meeting on day two (day TWO!) of the school year, and have actually been quite acceptable since. I completely identify with this post. I can play Mean Mr. Graham (REALLY well, in fact) for one two-minute stern conversation if it gives me a year of them knowing what respect and self control looks like in my classroom. Nice work.

  6. This. Was. So. Awesome.
    Cursing, shaming students, technology run amuck – felt like I was reading something I wrote myself. I love a good “come to Jesus” meeting – especially since I’m only 5 feet and my students tower above me. First time to read your blog and I promise I’ll be back!!

  7. Enjoyed the post. With new iPads coming into the classroom this year, this was good to think/read about.

  8. And you owe it all to your mother and her “come to Jesus” talks :) Love it!

  9. I wish I was in your class.

  10. Not fair. We want to see your preacher and how-dare-you-cross-me faces too. Oy, kids, always wanting to put one toe over the line just to keep us honest. Fun post, Matt, thanks!

  11. Well done, Mr. Vaudrey. Well done!

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