A Note to Little Fauntleroy

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22 thoughts on “A Note to Little Fauntleroy”

  1. I so agree! Ben, today a former student told me that I was a good teacher because I set limits and held the students accountable for those limits. This is a superstar student and she appreciated that she could learn in my class because I didn’t allow the less serious students to waste her time. (Note, I work at a small private school and my job is a lot easier than it is for most on this blog. Yet, some of my students give other teachers a run for their money, and we don’t get much of it, because they don’t have Ben Slavic’s awesome pre-determined rules to set up and stick to.)

    It’s not often that teenagers thank us for setting limits and holding to them, but it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t need it!

    1. Can I somehow erase my previous reply? I only needed to say the last sentence. With the given frustration and general difficulty at this time of the year, my comment seems very self-exalting and insensitive. I apologize and I’m sorry for those of you who are hurting or frustrated right now.

      I’m still trying to learn how to be involved in this circle, which I highly value.

      1. Lori, your comment was right on. It is valuable to share the positives. I think we all should be involved in this circle with our own voices. I liked reading it.

        1. Agreed. If we only focus on negative things, we’ll depress the heck out of ourselves. I catch myself doing that far too often. If CI is a roaring success somewhere then we can all have hope because successful CI isn’t impossible. 🙂 I hope that makes sense.

    2. Lori, you’re so humble! We all need this kind of confirmation that you express here that how we teach is right and good.

      There is a lot of hidden pressure to give-in to students, in the sense that if they complain or disrupt it is our fault. Facing such disruptions with a backbone is what we are emphasizing here. If anything, our lesson planning preparation is to care for our bodies and our minds so that we can stand with a strong backbone, exert that personal power, and share a sense of joy with our students all day long.

      1. “If they complain or disrupt it’s our fault…” Good reminder, Sean.

        I really agree with your view on the purpose of our lesson prep planning. I used to plan for hours so that I could have a good lesson. Now I barely prepare, mostly look up some ideas on here or somewhere else, write down a little and show up for class, looking forward to see how it’s going to turn out. It usually turns out better than after many hours of prep because I don’t try to make it worth all those hours of prep and head in the direction I had prepared for. Instead, I have the freedom to take in the mood and energy level of the students and head in a direction that seems best suited for the current needs. OR, if I’m exhausted, I just do what I have the energy for that period.

          1. Lori,
            I just wanted to give you a glimpse into fourth period. They dutifully completed writing assignments for a week. It was QUIET in there. I was happy to see them sit down and focus, and told them repeatedly that I was proud of their renewed focus. So Monday there was a big field trip. I only had like 12 kids that day (normal is 37). We talked and drew. Then Tuesday, yesterday, I talked to them calmly and seriously for a few minutes at the beginning of class, about the need for us to focus and put learning first, even though stories are fun, they cannot be WILDLY fun and we must keep focused on the class’ creation of the story. They were very good listeners and we completed a quick story in about 26 min or so. (I told them I had a bail out written assignment ready to go – I didn’t – but I knew I could just dream up a dictée or do a class writing assignment on the overhead.) I took a few minutes at the end of class to talk with them about how much better that felt for me and how important it is that we ALL feel good at the end of each class, and how much I appreciate them and how creative they are. Then today we reviewed the artists’ work and wrote the story up as a class. I think so far so good.

            The important thing is to know when the kids are pushing the envelope and stepping on our dignity and “running us”. I will be on the absolute lookout for this in my classes from NOW ON.

            So, right is once again prevailing in fourth period and anyway, if it doesn’t I have learned a valuable lesson about my boundaries and respect and taming my classes.

            There are other ways to provide CI to a class. Typing up those boring vanilla stories was actually kind of fun…and it was nice for the kids to see how “easy” they were to translate. It was a nice break, actually, and it hit that reset button nicely here in the last weeks of the cruelest month.

      2. “Facing such disruptions with a backbone is what we are emphasizing here. If anything, our lesson planning preparation is to care for our bodies and our minds so that we can stand with a strong backbone, exert that personal power, and share a sense of joy with our students all day long.” Amen, Sean Lawler.

  2. When talking to students I’ve always been impressed by the fact that in their minds there is no doubt who is responsible when a class goes off the rails. The teacher. They never blame the trouble-makers. When I first started teaching in France I told one class that I didn’t want to be a policeman. And they replied that that was part of my job. I soon realized that a teacher who doesn’t set limits is letting down the majority of her students who need those limits in order to learn.

  3. Yeah Judy I will say that as the years have gone by each year I have turned the screw a few more turns tighter in terms of confronting kids in class when they are not fully showing up as responsible human beings (responsible to the group).

    I have no trouble embarrassing kids because I have developed a way to do it that seems lighthearted, but isn’t. I call them out in front of the others. I don’t care if it hurts their feelings. I really don’t. We are in such a pathetic state in education of not wanting to offend children.

    Teachers give the kids a hand up into the group. Teachers hold their students up to a certain level of behavior in the group. If I wanted to become a policeman I would have gone to the police academy. Teachers who are policemen embarrass and shame kids. I should avoid generalizing, but that happens a lot in France, right?

    I’m thinking of that film Entre Les Murs – it was a real class in a real school in the slums of Paris that they filmed every class in all year – that won a Cesar and especially that kid from Africa in it who was too real for the school and was kicked out. That’s not what I want to do.

    So to me there is a difference in the two ways of being with students. One teaches them important life skills how to be in a group. The other teaches them that they are stupid and can be wrong, and that there is always somebody in the room who is better than them, those who comply.

  4. I don’t remember who created it, but I refer to it when needing to confront distractions in the classroom, that list of Teacher Responsibilities and another of Student Responsibilities. On the Teacher one, there is a line that says, “Identifies distractions and works to find solutions”.

    These lists are part of our classroom social contract so to speak, and if I go over them with students early on (without belaboring them), and ask if anyone has objections (which they never do), I feel much better about keeping up my end of the deal, and holding myself to dealing with those distractions. I want to make them bigger for next year. Who do we credit for creating those lists?

  5. I had a list of those that I made a number of years ago, but not sure where it is now….I’ll see if I can find it.

    with love,
    Laurie

    PS Ben, you are 100% correct. Until we have the skills to direct the class as a conductor directs the orchestra, no one in the class will even pay attention to us long enough to utilize those skills. The first step??? Accept responsibility for that direction.

    1. Laurie, have you ever read Tools for Teaching? Your comment made me think of the picture of Queen Elizabeth in there, with the Regal Stare. That book was very important to me as I worked to develop my gravitas and personal power in class.

  6. Here they are. Who developed these?

    TEACHERS WHO DO WELL AT TEACHING
    SPANISH SAY:

    I stay in Spanish 90% of the time.
    I stay in bounds (keep it comprehensible to everyone).
    I remember to get us reading often.
    I speak slower than I think I can.
    I ask students to gesture and move around.
    I engage everyone with questions.
    I seek class input for stories and conversations.
    I maintain a safe environment for students to learn.
    I acknowledge distractions and work to find solutions.

    STUDENTS WHO DO WELL AT ACQUIRING SPANISH SAY: (I slightly edited this one from the original)

    I listen to comprehend.
    I read to comprehend.
    I sit up with squared shoulders and clear eyes.
    I respond to questions using short answers and/or gestures.
    I ask the speaker to clarify, repeat, slow down, etc.
    I do my 50% in the communication.
    I avoid using English.
    I stay focused on the message.
    I stay positive.

  7. Steven Ordiano

    “This work requires emotional awareness on the part of the teacher. It’s not just a method, it’s a practice. And it never stops.”

    Damn Ben, this is powerful. The whole post is. Today the kids are testing and have 2 block schedule days. In my th period they were jerks (LV2). So, I gave myself a timeout. I just stood there and waited for the chatter/noise/talking/side convos that only matter to them temporarily, to stop.

    I waited about 3 minutes. I was raging internally. Once everyone was quiet, I continued. There are up days and down days in that class but personal power is important.

    What do you suggest I do tomorrow? What do you suggest I do when I get their Interpersonal Communication Self-evaluation forms from them on Friday and about 10 of them have lied on it?

    1. “What do you suggest I do when I get their Interpersonal Communication Self-evaluation forms from them on Friday and about 10 of them have lied on it?”

      When I feel the need, I walk around and check them right there. Give yourself at least five extra minutes to do this. With a class of 40 you’d probably want to have them doing something else while you walked around, like FVR or a short video. I just make a mark next to the item(s) I want them to reconsider and let them think again on it. Or, I’ll just circle the one I think and be done with it. I think it works WAY better to do it right there in front of them vs eating up planning time and then having to discuss the discrepancies at another time.

      1. That’s really helpful, Jim! I’ve had this question as well. Not only does it save you time, the student is more able to connect the mark with his/her behavior. Otherwise they’re likely to not remember what they did that resulted in our lower mark and blame it on our unfair or poor judgement. As we know, immediate feedback is so much more helpful.

    2. Raging INTERNALLY. That is key. That is why I still vote for you for First-Year Teacher of the Year. The minute we start raging externally, in my opinion, is the moment we give up our personal power. Not that I have never raged externally…that is how I know this. 🙂

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