Meridian Star

Local News

January 12, 2013

Former troublemaker ‘schools’ interns on classroom management

MERIDIAN —     Student interns at MSU-Meridian received expert advice on classroom management Friday – not from a seasoned professor, but a former classroom troublemaker.

    Suspended from Head Start at the age of 4, multiple problems with school officials and the law, Dwayne “D.J.” Batiste never expected to graduate from high school. But one teacher gave Batiste a new perspective on life and his future.

    "If my teacher would have given up on me, there's no way possible I would be able to do what I am doing today," said the now 21-year-old communications major at Pearl River Community College.

    Since 2010, Batiste has been telling his inspirational story to school districts and in classroom management training activities statewide. For three consecutive years, student interns at MSU-Meridian have heard Batiste and learned more about a classroom management approach known as Conscious Discipline.

    "In learning, teacher interns always get the teacher's side – how to deal with other teachers, how to deal with students. But you never really get the students' side," he said.

    "Teachers are often taught, 'If a student does this or that, this is what you do.' I teach teachers, 'This is WHY the student did this," Batiste said.

    Batiste attended Picayune Memorial High School when Donna Porter was a teacher and Dr. Penny Wallin, assistant professor of Educational Leadership at MSU-Meridian, was superintendent of the district. Both Wallin and Porter are certified Conscious Discipline instructors and it was Porter who used the approach with Batiste at the start of the 2009-10 school year – which was Batiste’s senior year.

    “Research indicates the No. 1 reason educators leave the profession within their first five years is classroom management,” Wallin said. “They are often armed with theory and ideas, but not useable strategies. This approach offers concrete examples and D.J.’s story and input lends credibility that Conscious Discipline works.”

    Batiste shared with the student interns the first day of his senior year at Picayune Memorial. Although excited to be at school with his "homies," he said his ultimate goal was to see just how he could rile up some teachers. During his first two classes, he attended class with teachers he'd had the previous year, so he knew what he could or could not do in those classes.

    However, when third period rolled around, Batiste saw he was going to a class with a teacher he did not know. So he decided that he was going to get a little attention in this new class, Oral Communications I. Donna Porter was the teacher. According to Batiste, the first 90 seconds of this class literally changed his life because of the way Porter handled him when he entered class late.

    "I came in 3 minutes late because I timed it that way – I wanted to make an entrance with this new teacher; I didn't know her and she didn't me," Batiste said. "I came in when Ms. P (as he now affectionately refers to Porter) was introducing herself to the class, you know, telling a little about her life  – her kids and husband of 30 years."

    Just as Porter was telling her story, Batiste barged through the door, threw his backpack on the ground and loudly started to explain why he was late. Porter looked at Batiste for a few seconds, and told him that she understood being late on the first day, possibly because they had moved her class from the front hall to the back hall. Batiste took that explanation as a good reason and loudly agreed with her.

    "Then, I looked her up and down from head to toe, and said, ‘Are you married?” She explained that she had just told the class that she was married for 30 years and had two sons. I then blurted out, 'Don’t you think it's time for a change?'"

    Porter had been trained in Conscious Discipline and that training kicked in when Batiste made his sexual based comment. She calmly looked at him, and basically told him that someone was looking after him to put him in this class of oral communications where young people could learn about appropriate and inappropriate communication. In other words, she didn't blow up and send him out of her class claiming "sexual harassment." Porter then looked at him intently and told him the class would help him understand the difference in what is appropriate and what is inappropriate, and what he just said was "very inappropriate."

    "She said, while a person did not go to a doctor when they were well, neither do students know everything when coming to school," Batiste said. "Then she said that it was obvious that I liked attention, and this was just the class where I could get attention in appropriate ways. She said her students often had jobs in class and that she had already decided (on this first day) the perfect job for me: greeter for the classroom ... I could stand at the door each day, and greet every student coming into the classroom, and then have 1 to 2 minutes to address the entire class on any appropriate thing happening at school or in my life. But it required that I be on time for class every day. She also told me that I had a beautiful smile."

    Batiste said Porter's approach completely caught him off guard.  

    "You see, she 'tricked me’ by responding with attention to me in a positive way, instead of writing me up or sending me to the principal's office," he said.

    Batiste agreed to be the greeter. And, he graduated on time from high school.

    In February 2010, Batiste and other students began to accompany Wallin and Porter as they taught this brain-based, positive classroom management approach. In 2011 he was invited to several school districts as a guest speaker and for the past three years has been participating in workshops for all MSU-Meridian student interns as well as comprehensive training sessions for emerging administrators in the university’s Educational Leadership degree programs.

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