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The Teachers, Schools,
and Society Reader

Marsha Warren

Case Study 7

CASE STUDY 7
Marsha Warren
An experienced third-grade teacher is overwhelmed by the problems created by her heterogeneous class, which includes eight students who have unique home and personal situations that are affecting their schooling. José glared at Tyrone. “Quit looking at me, you jerk!”

“I wasn’t lookin’ at nothin’, creepy,” replied Tyrone vehemently. Marsha Warren looked up sharply at the two boys and made a cutting gesture through the air. “That’s enough from both of you. You should both be looking at your books, not each other.”

“I was lookin’ at my book!” protested Tyrone.
“Just stop!” repeated Marsha. “Please continue reading, Angela.” Angela rolled her eyes at no one in particular and resumed reading aloud in a bored, expressionless tone. Her progress was slow and halting. Marsha Warren was a third-grade teacher at the Roosevelt Elementary School in Littleton. She was trying to conduct a reading group with the eight slowest readers in her class of twenty-two while the other children worked in workbooks at their seats. But each time an argument erupted among the children in the reading group, most of the children at their desks snapped to attention to watch the sparks fly.

“You can stop there, Angela,” interrupted Marsha as Angela came to the end of a paragraph. “Bettie Ann, will you read next?” As she spoke, Marsha also put a hand out to touch another child, Katie, on the shoulder in an attempt to stop her from bouncing in her chair. Bettie Ann didn’t respond. She was gazing out the window at the leafless November landscape, sucking her thumb and twirling her hair with her other hand. “Bettie Ann, I’m talking to you,” repeated Marsha. “Your turn,” yelled José as he poked Bettie Ann’s shoulder. “Shut up, José,” interjected Sarah. Sarah often tried to mediate between the members of the group, but her argumentative streak pulled her into the fray as often as not.

“Quiet!” insisted Marsha in a hushed, but emphatic, tone. As she spoke, she turned her head to glance over her shoulder at the rest of the class. The hum of conversation was growing in the room. Tension crept into her voice as she addressed the reading group. “We’re distracting the other children. Do we need to discuss rule 3 again? Everyone pull out the class rules from your notebook, now.”

The chemistry in the reading group—and in the class in general—had been so explosive since September that Marsha had gone beyond her normal

The Teachers, Schools,
and Society Reader

Marsha Warren

Case Study 7

first-of-the-year review of rules and procedures. All the children in the class had copied the four class rules into their notebooks, and she had led long discussions of what they meant. Rule 3 was “Be considerate of other people.” Loud groans from the reading group greeted Marsha’s mention of rules. Simultaneously, a loud BANG sounded in the back of the room. Marsha turned and saw a student reaching to the floor for a book as his neighbor snickered. She also noticed three girls in the far-left row leaning into a conversation over a drawing, and she saw most of the students quickly turn back to their work, as if they were not enjoying the entertainment of the reading group once again.

“That’s it!” Marsha exclaimed. She slammed her hand down on the reading-circle table and stood to face the entire class. “Put your heads on your desks, and don’t say another word—everyone!” By the time she finished the sentence, Marsha realized she had been shouting, but she didn’t care. Her class gazed at her in stunned disbelief. Mrs. Warren had always been so gentle! “Now!” Marsha quickly turned and walked from the room, not bothering to look back to see if her command had been obeyed. She closed the door to her classroom, managing not to slam it, and tried to control her temper and collect her thoughts. “What in God’s name am I going to do with this class?” she asked herself. “I’ve...
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