There's this class of twelve-year-olds. When you're with them for ten minutes you may think they're all crazy. The volume! Speaking loudly is not enough, they have to shout. When they drive each other crazy, they shout even more. Then they fight and instead of stopping when I say something, they start explaining the reasons - not in soft voice, I assure you... geeez!
Trying to put things in order you cannot help noticing all the other activities: swinging on chairs or putting legs on the nearest chair, picking noses and ... ugh!... or touching each others notebooks, pencil-cases or anything else just to annoy them, writing notes that fly through air to reach the adressee.
No matter what I say, no matter what I do, they just won't listen.
But if I have a closer look, I realize there are soooo many really really good kids in this class. Even if they are left alone, not bothered directly, called names or anything, I feel they are being bullied in a way by the noise their classmates are making while they are actually willing to study to know something - they find the stuff interesting!
I decided today not to focus on the noisy part.
They did all sorts of things.
"Teacher! His phone is ringing!"
"So what? Not my problem."
"He took my pen!" - not from an innocent boy.
"I don't care!"
They didn't get it.
I answered in soft voice or not at all to any such complaint. We did the exercises I had in mind. While doing them, I was making a list of the good students. I assigned another exercise, but told the quiet ones to gather around two desks. I gave them dominoes to play with. Vocabulary dominoes. They liked them. They found and learned some new words.
What's more important - the rest of the class didn't like that! They argued! They said I wasn't being fair! I ignored them. Surprisingly, most of them did the exercise in the workbook I told them to do. Two of them did it quietly and brought it to me to have it checked.
Good! They're getting the message. A battle won. Another one tomorrow.
Or not. After all, they're kids. And not bad ones. :-)