Bitchy Edge

I got this from Alisa:

Hi Ben,

I searched ‘Bitchy Edge’ on the PLC and got the thread from 2010 with Susie Gross where you are clarifying what is and isn’t an ‘Eclectic Teacher.’  I don’t recall ever reading it before, so thanks – it was awesome, and apparently I too was a non-textbook toting and creative ‘eclectic Teacher-‘ but it doesn’t illuminate my query.

I modeled a Hebrew (Sunday School) lesson this morning for 2 new teachers.  We combined a 5th and 7th grade class and I tried to spin a lil story.  I had previously observed each of them (after very little CI training by me) and determined that I needed to model ASAP. They needed help on all fronts – management, language usage, engagement, etc.

So I went in today and noticed immediately that the same ‘trample all over the T’ behavior that I saw in the 7th grade class when I observed, was attempted in my demo lesson… NOT ON MY WATCH.  I re-seated students, called them out for blurting, commanded my presence; worked the room, stopped teaching cold and wore a ‘Queen of England” face til it was quiet – really the works.  I was able to bring the cute story (with an actor) to some conclusion and CI was had by all.  But then I reviewed the video of ‘my’ class, and WHOA. I demonstrated a SERIOUS BITCHY EDGE.

I realize that the circumstances were not ideal to set up a model lesson.  The students have been violating rules of courtesy and self-control for months in this new teachers class.  I taught (modeled teacher lessons) with the same kids last year, but apparently they’d forgotten my iron fist, I mean Assertive Teacher’s Presence.

SO I guess after this lil ramble my question is whether there is ever a role for the (teacher’s) Bitchy Edge in the classroom.  I feel badly that the younger kids were exposed to it – we combined the groups for ease of observation by the new teachers, and not for best practice…

I think the new teachers got something out of the observation, despite my sometimes nasty disposition.  First and foremost, they saw the unfolding of a lesson entirely in the TL; the 7th grade T whom I previously observed used probably fewer than a dozen TL words during my observation 2 weeks ago…

They also saw how I dealt with the Frequent Flyers (preferential seating; proximity and eye contact; fist bumping and positive strokes; stopping and waiting for silence, etc.)

But I’d like to think it could have been done in a friendlier atmosphere of fun and good will…

I would appreciate your thoughts on the Bitchy Edge.  I haven’t needed it in my own classroom in Winnetka as I have painstakingly normed my classes from the very beginning.  Oops, did I just answer my own Q?




19 thoughts on “Bitchy Edge”

  1. We have been taught that anything less than pure fawning lovingness is not enough for our little charges. With the slow result over the past 50 years in education that students don’t respect their teachers. 

    I didn’t see the tapes but I can imagine that Alisa thought she was being too mean. For my part, I am just happy to see that a teaching professional would act like it and not be bowing down to those kids.  

    And yes Alisa answered her own question big time, which points out how crucial the norming phase is.

    1. Alisa, or anyone else, I would LOVE to see some BITCHY EDGE VIDEOS!!!! I *think* I have a fairly bitchy edge, but since I cannot see myself, I am unsure of the “edge” between bitchy and effing mean!

      I am not absolutely certain I *get* the difference between the so-called “Queen Elizabeth stare” and/or the “yes, I have seen it all before ho-hum how boring” stare, and the “bitchy stare.” Please correct me if I am wrong but as I understand it these expressions of body language and facial expression are a step (or 2) beyond the “stroll over to the rules and smile and point.” Yes?

      Not tryna split hairs here, but I tend to go from “smile calmly” to “fierce bee-atch” with nothing in between, so I’d like to work on this.

      1. LOL. Yes. Zero to sixty from “calm teacher” to “who the hell are these children and what are they doing in my classroom?” Been there.

        Jen, the Queen Elizabeth stare is gold. It nails the kids who can’t get it the first time from the Classroom Rule #2 “Stroll” technique. Here’s how Tina describes it in the new book (still in draft form and note that there is a level beyond what is described below that is incredibly effective – but not written up yet):

        You can also begin practicing your “Queen Victoria” posture. This is what Dr. Fred Jones, a well-known and beloved classroom management expert, calls the posture we need to assume when confronting an individual student about their behavior. This is a step above the “point to the rules” routine you practiced above. Using the Queen Victoria Stare is a powerful, silent, “don’t-mess-with-me” and “get-with-the-program” message to students, and it is one of the most important tools we have in developing our personal power as teachers. Here are the steps to practice:
        1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. In a classroom setting, they will be facing the student whom you are disciplining.
        2. Turn your torso to face in the direction of your feet.
        3. Relax your shoulders, arms by your side. Do not put hands on hips nor cross them in front of you, as those are confrontational postures.
        4. Take a deep, calming, centering breath, in and out through your nose, deep into your lungs.
        5. Relax your jaw, consciously releasing any tension there.
        6. Take another deep, calming, centering breath, in and out through your nose, deep into your lungs.
        7. Put the expression on your face of “I have seen this a million times and it has never worked, and it is going to stop now.” This is not a confrontational look, but rather a withering look of extreme boredom and confidence that you will reign supreme in your classroom.
        8. Think to yourself (you might want to repeat this to yourself as an affirmation ten to twenty times as you hold this posture), “When confronted by disrespect, I breathe and respond with calm silence.”
        9. Visualize yourself holding this calm posture, facing the student silently, until they stop saying “What did I do?” or “What?” or “What are you looking at?” or any of the other possible responses a rude child might offer you. Visualize yourself waiting until they are following your rules, telling yourself that you will follow up with them later in private, and then resuming your instruction, as if nothing had happened.

        This might feel silly too. Practice it anyway. You want this to become a muscle memory.

        1. Silence.

          It is an amazing tool, weapon even, in the arsenal – erm, toolbox – of class management. Coupled with calmness, silence can be quite intimidating. Our lives and especially our students’ lives are filled – over filled – with noise: electronic devices, friends’ voices, teachers’ voices, parents’ voices, sounds of an industrial society. Being confronted with silence is outside the experience of our students, and they often don’t know how to deal with it.

          Add to it “The Queen’s look” of disdain, and few students will withstand it for very long.

          Equally important is that as soon as the incident is dealt with, you return to being the affable, pleasant, inclusive person that you are. No grudges, no lingering reproach. It’s done; we start over.

          1. Ditto Robert on that. I’ve had the same thought lately about silence. It’s like the key. Really seeing that these days. It’s not what we do, but who we are…

          2. Absolutely.
            Lately I’ve been practising silence instead of talking about disruptive or inappropropriate behaviour more and more – it works much better then “preaching” or reprimanding, although I can’t help myself sometimes.
            Yes and then the smile and going back to being friendly and supportive.
            I believe this kind of teacher behaviour ought to be a part of teacher training and education starting at university but to my knowledge it isn’t bc the focus is on methodology and content.

      2. The bitchy edge is very subtle. You can’t see it in any of my videos from DPS. It’s there, though, just under my smiling eyes. About 15% or so of my eyes contain a “Don’t f— with me” quality, a kind of gauze in there. And I turn it up to 25% if a kid needs it. I walk over toward the kid but not too close, just enough to make eye contact from a bit of a distance. They first see the calm smile but soon sense the bitch in my eyes. I got pretty good at it. Sometimes, if the kid was a real jerk, I would very quickly say, “Sit up!” and walk away. (These weren’t like the middle school kids in India. They were tough urban high school kids.)

  2. Loving this thread. There’s always a fine line between “I love all of you…let’s make an awesome story today!” to “I can’t take this anymore…check please!”
    I have to remind myself to keep smiling, keep making eye contact with the lovely kids after I’ve burned a hole through my chronic transgressors. Deep breaths, no trying to talk too loudly…
    The Fred Jones references are essential for any beginning teacher, or for anyone needing a refresher. I have a student teacher right now and will pull out my binder of his articles — and give it to her.

  3. By the way…I believe a bitchy edge is absolutely necessary. You’re awesome to be around, you’re a leader, you love to laugh and giggle as a story is made, you want to help the kids understand all they can…but don’t mess with who’s in charge of the classroom!! You’ve earned this right and it’s your ship to guide through the sometimes stormy waters of kids and their sometimes crappy attitudes/poor listening skills/baggage brought from home/low expectations from other teachers in their life/etc etc etc.

    1. DON’t mess with who’s in charge of the classroom.

      I love that bc I love to have fun with “my” kids but I want them to realize that we are in this together bc we are all humans and I’m not on the other side or sb they have to stand up or to “fight” against.

  4. Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg

    I have been known to say (as matter of factly as possible,) ‘Talking to your neighbor is not an option. We are listening to understand right now. Your talking distracts/disrupts others. You have 2 choices: Either join us in the story, or take a “reset” break outside the door….”

    I’m still working on appearing less bothered and more indifferent.

  5. I rarely need to use my bitchy edge. This week however is finals week. I feel obligated for both completing mandates and CYing my A. The students have it all the time with other teachers so they know it. I see it as essential in the tool box. I still don’t have that authoritative Teacher Voice cause I don’t need it. The problem with me however is knowing when to use which tool and when combined with gauging the situation. I have let my 8th period got haywire from time to time. No more. I started lining them up like elementary kids. Except there are two lines of students outside my door in no particular order or pattern like boys/girls. Two.lines of students. Quiet and straight to the f*in T. I can get real anal about these details looking closely at the angle and making sure everyone is straight and quiet. The best line goes in first quietly. Once thenfirst line goes in instep in to hear of there is talking. If there is they go right back outside. I’m glad I can do this now. Reset is the word.

  6. Not like we need to amplify the kooky factor but I do have a theory that part of the vibe we are feeling at school right now is not only the lead-up to winter break, but the crazy ass funk in the world right now. California is burning. A sex predator almost got voted in. Another one is leader of the free world. Tax slashes for the rich. Health care slashes for everyone else. Don’t get me started on Jerusalem.
    Everyone is angry. Kids can feel it – their parents – their teachers.
    It’d be wrong if they just sat there passively, as if the world was spinning just right…

    1. Everything is connected, for sure. The kids suffer so much and it really is up to us, since we know a way to instruct that builds kids up, to do what we can to lessen the epidemic of judging kids that the data initiative has put on them. We gotta win.

  7. I am cross posting this from the other thread!

    Alisa you are absolutely right. I think about this constantly and I don’t even watch or listen to news anymore. But @#$% is totally hitting the fan. Multiple fans. Multiple @#$%. I’m overwhelmed, and I’m a “relatively balanced adult with lots of coping skills and a long-term spiritual practice who can still find joy in any given moment.”

    From a shamanic perspective (at least the ones I’ve worked with) we are living through the shift from dominant masculine energy moving into the divine feminine! So it’s exciting and terrifying all at once because everything we *thought* to be true and intractable (institutions, values, etc) is evolving into something else! In my opinion (and sincere intention and hope) we are outgrowing our too-small hearts and so are raising the vibration, emerging from our cocoons, etc. and generally “rising up.” Which is hard and necessary work.

    Yeahhhhh, kinda “out there” but…todo es posible!

  8. That is why I have such respect for you and Tina and Alisa and if you look at the movement we are a part of it is very much driven by women. I mean, how many/what percentage of teachers are women? Male or female body doesn’t matter, I think it’s the energy that you are talking about jen. The old concept of powering through a class IS masculine in nature and if you think about all our years together here we have pretty much been promoting a softer, more intuitive, more gentle way of teaching that is very different than what we did before. Even the focus on mind seems masculine in nature. The focus on heart required for this new work seems, to me, feminine in nature. Of course, the old won’t go away w/o a fight but we win small battles every day, like the trashing of the fucktard in Alabama yesterday. We are on the front lines getting roughed up every day. It’s the clash of the old and new. No minor ripple – this one is as big as change gets in mankind’s history, in my own personal opinion. We can’t let the speed and fear of it throw us off. Every day we complete our work, then we get to sleep that night, and when our heads hit the pillow the angels applaud. I believe that.

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