Nattering on about school discipline

First things first, I suppose; it looks like I’m going to get what I want regarding the student from last Friday being moved out of my class, and without a fight about it, even, although I may owe the school counselor a doughnut and coffee or something. Naturally, now that I’ve gotten what I want, I’m going soft internally on the whole thing, all oh, don’t give up on the kid and give him another chance.

My inner bleeding-heart is going to sit down and shut the fuck up on this one. But he’s rattling on anyway.

We had a meeting this week where we talked about discipline data in our building– specifically the number of ODRs (basically, office write-ups) that we as a staff had been writing, and we’re having another meeting tomorrow morning where we’re going to talk about things we can do that might bring down the number of ODRs being written in our grade level, hopefully without simply saying “write fewer ODRs.” I’m going to temporarily lay aside the question of whether this is the right way to talk about this and note that the data dashboard the administration has access to now is awesome, and I’m going to beg for access to it even though I’m probably not technically supposed to have it, because I am a Data Nerd and this is my jam.

To wit: I discovered this week that, while I can’t see office referrals written by other teachers (which is fine,) I can see how many times each of my students has been written up, along with the dates of the referrals. And I got curious about a few things and did some digging.

My 3rd and 4th hour class, surprising no one, has the largest number of total referrals at 139. To be clear, this number comes from adding each student’s total referrals together, so it’s across all of the teachers and classes for each of the students. My 1st and 2nd hour is my second-highest, with just under 100, and my 5th and 6th has the least. I haven’t done anything yet like divide it up on a per-student basis to control for class size, but that’s coming, believe me. Because, again, I’m that guy.

There have been 58 days of school so far.

I also looked at how many referrals I, personally, have written for each class. 3rd and 4th hour has 35– which is interesting, because that’s nearly exactly 25% of the class total, which is exactly what you would expect given that they each are in my room for 25% of their day. I have written 5 referrals for 1st and 2nd hour and 5 for 5th and 6th, which are much smaller percentages of their total– I think I’ve written about 10% of the total referrals for 5/6 and closer to 5% for 1/2. Interestingly, the two most-written-up kids in 1st and 2nd hour have never been a problem in my room, possibly because they either aren’t awake enough or their ADHD medication hasn’t had time to wear off. I was surprised to see how many referrals they had, to be honest.

I am resisting the urge to draw any conclusions about this, because there’s no good way to distinguish between “this teacher manages his classroom well and does not need to do referrals” and “this teacher gets run over and isn’t tough enough to hold the kids to account for it.” I think if I discovered I was doing more write-ups for any of my three groups than other teachers I might be concerned about that– and I think the office might do well to see if any of their teachers are being seriously overrepresented in writing ODRs– but that’s not the case.

To circle back around, this isn’t the best metric to get at what we actually want to talk about. The problem with using ODRs, suspensions, or anything like that as a metric for building discipline is that, as I said above, it’s impossible to distinguish between a well-run school or a well-run classroom with one where the inmates are running the asylum and the staff or administration have either 1) checked out completely or 2) simply been told you cannot write anyone else up. Sure, that’ll bring your numbers down, but the problem isn’t actually that we want to write fewer referrals or have fewer suspensions. The problem is we want the kids to stop misbehaving. The two things overlap, of course, but one shouldn’t be mistaken for the other, and creating a building culture where the kids are invested in class and in learning and want to be there and aren’t simply at school because their parents need babysitters is a hell of a lot more difficult than simply reducing the number of times a certain form gets filled out.

(I’m going to suggest increased use of buddy rooms tomorrow, for example. This doesn’t do a single thing to help any particular student behave in class, it just gives them somewhere where they can either 1) cool down or 2) irritate some other teacher who then actually does the referral, and it at least increases the chance that a kid can avoid the office. Buddy rooms can be helpful, because there are kids who can benefit from 15-20 minutes to get their heads straight, and Lord knows a fifteen-minute break from some specific kid’s bullshit can help me get my head on straight– but it doesn’t really much help kids learn how to improve their behavior or keep them more invested in school.)

In which I forgot to put the headline in and now the url is gonna be all dumb and stuff

I have an awful lot of teacher talk types of posts sloshing around in my head right now, and I’m not a hundred percent sure if any of it is done sloshing yet. Today was one of those days where after the school day I have half an hour to get home so that I can go to a two-hour meeting, and at this meeting we were shown some data from our building that has me alarmed. Quite alarmed, in fact. Not from an instructional or a learning standpoint, but from a building culture standpoint– and, to make things worse, I have no idea whether the data we’ve been shown is actually worth a damn or not. Basically, my kids appear to believe they attend the worst school in the history of schools, and as an instructor at that school I am interested in several things:

  1. I am interested in my school not being the worst school in the history of school;
  2. I am interested in my kids having better feelings about the building they go to school at;
  3. I am interested in knowing whether they actually believe that the school is the utter, irredeemable shithole that the data is indicating they think they attend;
  4. I am interested in figuring out, if the answer to #2 is yes, why their perception the building and mine is so different; and
  5. I am interested in figuring out what role the factually inaccurate student statements play in all of this. For example: students reported overwhelmingly that they were in physical danger in school and that fights happened regularly. They simply don’t. They reported that students frequently show up at school events and at school under the effects of alcohol and drugs. Also no. They reported that students carrying guns or knives was common at school. Also no!
  6. Some responses were simply bewildering. 3/4 of the students or so disagreed with the statement “My teachers let me know when I am misbehaving.” Seriously?

Now, I actually have a ton of reasons to suspect this data is unreliable. We have responses from less than a third of the kids in the building. The surveys were taken in December, when they weren’t in school. Sixth-grade students, in particular, hadn’t even physically been to school for more than a handful of days to ascertain the building climate in the first place! A bunch of them appear to simply have gone through and hit “disagree” on everything. One of us went through and looked at the data from other schools, which we also have access to, and reported that they all look astonishingly similar, which is suspect. But, like, one figures that if the kids were invested in school in the way we want them to be, they’d probably have taken the survey seriously, right?

Is there a way to craft some sort of measure for student satisfaction at their school that they either 1) will actually be invested in reporting honestly on and/or 2) can trick them into reporting more honestly? And how much of #5 up there represents the kids’ actual perception of the school, regardless of whether it’s “true” or not? After all, it’s kind of problematic to tell someone “Yes, you do feel safe at school” when they don’t, and as long as we’re talking about climate there really isn’t much difference between the kids thinking that everyone nearby is packing a weapon and it actually being true.

Also a useful question, tying in with all the middle schools being so similar: how much of this is my building and how much of this is a combination of covid-frustration and American culture in general hating education?

And I haven’t even started talking about discipline data. Lemme give you a preview of another post that’s rattling around. The following two sentences are both true:

I have only written up black males this year; and

I have only done three office referrals this year, and one of the three was on behalf of another teacher for a situation I wasn’t involved in.

But we’ll get to that later.

In which this took all day: Sales n’ Spreadsheets #blogwanking

This will be tiny and illegible, but those of you who care can click on it for a larger and actually readable edition. You still may have to scroll a bit, since I work with a 27″ monitor and this image is all sorts of horizontal:

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 7.17.30 PMBasically, a day of fiddling with Excel and every sales report I can get anyone to give me has convinced me that I need to start fresh and on my own with 2015, as not nearly enough of the data I have for 2014 can give me specific dates on which I made sales– or, at least, dates on which I made sales anywhere other than Amazon.  Smashwords’ date data seems to fall into a black hole after 30 days, so I’ll have to keep track of that separately and on my own if I want to be able to see it.  Thus, this Excel spreadsheet, which keeps track of each book and each venue the book is available at.  I have to manually enter day-by-day sales and then it totals everything up for me; line graphs are on the next sheet.

Interesting fact: As of last night (I had six BA sales yesterday!) I’ve sold more books in January than there are days in January.  That’s a first for me if you don’t count the couple of KDP Select free days that I gave Benevolence Archives 1 when it was on Select at Amazon; those garnered hundreds of downloads.  If I was able to make BA free at Amazon I would get a lot more visibility for it.  Select has been good for Skylights, hands down, no debate, and I suspect when BA 2 launches in April it will be on Select as well.

It remains to be seen if my nonsense is finally starting to catch on a bit, if Select is solely responsible for this, or if people just buy more books in January than they do in December.  But it’s probably worth pointing out that my January check from Amazon will probably be at least a fourth of my income from writing in all of 2014.  That’s gotta mean things are looking up, right?

And, just for the hell of it:

They’re good.  I promise!

Your Friday blogwank

So apparently one of the ways to get long-term attention paid to a post is to write an incredibly negative review of a critically-acclaimed, yet irredeemably terrible movie.  There’s been a weird resurgence of interest in the SNOWPIERCER review over the last couple of weeks that I find vaguely fascinating, especially since my referrer logs don’t seem to think it’s all coming from one place, and if it keeps up the post will have more views in October than it did the month it actually came out.  Have a look:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 12.34.24 PM

Birthday weekend sale: the rounduppening

Man, it’s funny: I’m effectively unemployed right now, right?  I work one night a week at OtherJob and while I pretend that my full-time job is “Writer” right now, the fact is that without my own initiative “Writer” and “unemployed” look exactly the same and frankly at the moment are bringing in the same amount of income.  But hell if I don’t feel insanely busy right now.  I’ve hit my word count for the day as of 1:30, which is when I’m writing this, but I’ve got about ten thousand things to do before the wife gets home and SHIT THERE’S SOCCER TODAY.

Arrgh.  Anyway, point is, if I was ever worried about keeping my life full of stuff to do during the summer, I seem to be doing a pretty damn good job with that at the moment.  Granted, most of my “stuff to do” boils down to “read this” or “write this” (I have promised several people I’d take a look at manuscripts, work I enjoy doing, but… yeah, I probably ought to actually do it) so maybe I’m more of a grad student than an actual unemployed person but the point is damn, busy.

So let’s talk about this:Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 1.25.44 PM

I’m gonna call this a success, I think, and I’ve learned something about Amazon.  With a minimal amount of promotion and a decent-sized audience (theoretically 3200 people subscribed here, although daily hits aren’t remotely that number, and around 800 on Twitter, with who knows how many seeing any individual Tweet, plus about 130 on Facebook who are likely mostly represented on other lists as well) you can hit #1 in a smaller sub genre for a couple of days.  I hit #1 in Short Stories and Anthologies, topped out at #4 in Space Opera, and maxed out at #1031 (that I saw, at least) in all Kindle free downloads.  In three days, I moved 311 copies of the book– 200 on Saturday, 72 on Sunday, and 36 on Monday, with three more that bled over into early Tuesday morning before Amazon officially shut the spigot off.  That kept me at #1 for all of Sunday and most of Monday, so I’m going to attribute those drops less to the dwindling effects of my own promotion and more to Amazon’s own ebb and fall of traffic on the course of a weekend.  I had not fallen out of the top 10 in Space Opera and was still #3 in Short Stories and Anthologies when I went to bed Monday night.

Suggestion: if you’re going to do a free day, do it on a Saturday.  Hella more hits.  This means that, combining this sale, the previous free days, and all of my sales, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 copies of my book in the hands of readers right now, which I feel pretty good about.  There are eight reviews on the site, another on, a few on Goodreads, and at least one that is just on the author’s blog and to the best of my knowledge not posted anywhere else.  Three more are posted in the “Reviews” section in the mast up there because Amazon has removed them.  All but one are positive, and most of them are glowingly so.  I literally couldn’t be any happier with how the reviews have gone.

Now to see if the increased exposure over the weekend leads to any spike in actual money sales ($2.99 cheap!) this week.  I’ve not made any so far today, but the pattern thus far has been that since the first couple of days that the book was available I never make any sales in the morning or afternoon.  They’re always in the evening and sometimes very late at night for whatever reason.  So we’ll see tonight if I get a bump or not.  Here’s to hoping, right?

And let me repeat this one more time:  Thank you so, so much to everyone who downloaded/read/retweeted/told a friend/reviewed/hell, sent positive vibes regarding this book this weekend.  I appreciate it more than y’all could possibly know.

Now back to work on the sequel.  Well, after I finish murder-painting the bathroom and these ten other errands I have to do.  🙂