A repost. I think this is an important read, though lengthy, to get teachers clear about what they are going to do this year in terms of classroom management. Or not do. It is a kind of pep talk on classroom management. If we don’t internalize and apply in the first two weeks of the year the points made below we might as well give up before the year starts – the kids will win. I’m referring to the importance of using Rule #2 of the Classroom Rules poster like a friendly hammer in the first two weeks as explained in A Natural Approach to Stories and A Natural Approach to the Year.
Here is the pep talk:
It was glaucoma. That was the illness that the students mocked in their teacher in his own classroom that year. They mocked their teacher because he had glaucoma. They really did.
It happened several times that year. The students didn’t stop with the mockery. Everything had to be magnified for my colleague. There were things lying around on the floor that he couldn’t see. Lots of candy wrappers, books, you name it. Things like that on the floor all the time because he couldn’t see the floor of his own classroom very well.
I likened the stuff on the floor to the emotional junk that littered the floors of those students’ minds. Most, if not all of them were, to some degree, to varying degrees, caught up in what is now an epidemic of entitlement abuse now spewing from the mouths of American students.
Many teachers have a kind of emotional glaucoma and cannot see what is really happening in their classrooms in terms of what is proper respect for adults in a classroom. They cannot stand up to the bullies in their classrooms.
My ill colleague confided in me that the kids who mocked him made comments like, “Why don’t you just take your medicine, mister?” (They must think that glaucoma is like diabetes, which can be easily controlled through drugs). This kind of comment reveals much about our society, too much. It is unacceptable.
In my own internal awareness over the years of using my profession to further understand myself as a person and as a teacher, I have come to understand that there is now a great need for us to learn to respond emotionally as fully functioning adults to bullying from children. The need to address bullying of teachers by children is now a professional need that is off the charts in importance in our country.
Yet, it is a need that is still largely ignored. Teachers are under a kind of constant emotional threat from higher ups that they must be all things to all people and yet accept compensation that does not reflect that request. Worse, they seem to think that they have to accept hushed verbal abuse from students during class. Teachers seem to be under a kind of spell.
Since teachers are being targeted from two places, from below and above, from both students (and the unconscious parents that are raising them) and from administrators, we must now learn how to respond to the forces currently working against us.
In those moments when children use their mouths to mock, insult, control, or put us down, we must act and no longer gloss over what they do.
(I suggest that we confront only our students and save all of our energy for that work and that we do NOT confront the admins who daily overstep their limits with us, usually by making uninformed statements about a profession that most of them know next to nothing about, simply because admins come and go each year and we only have enough energy to train one group at a time…).
Our acting as victims is what we must now turn our attention to in this group. If a student goes off on the teacher subtly or overtly – they are experts at subtle oppositional defiance – and the teacher hears it and other kids hear it, we will now know exactly what to do. Everything else will then have to stop until that kid has been stopped. We have to stop taking our grievances to the faculty lounge and grow up and fix this thing in our classrooms this academic year. The time has come.
We will learn to stop the kid’s mouth in its tracks. We will maintain our composure and no longer gloss and accept. Our reactions will be swift and sure and constant. Our calm reactions will re-assure everyone in the room that the abuse is being dealt with in the moment of the abuse, however hidden. Our phone calls will find their mark. No one will cross us, least of all a child. Who else will stop these out of control children if not us? The politicians? They themselves are out of control.
I am in a kind of disbelief that we would roll over on things like this, for so many miserable years now. Why would we not talk about this here as a matter of immediate importance? Why would we keep our focus mostly on how we teach and then go and allow disrespect into our classrooms in the moments of our teaching?
Now is the time. If you get two weeks into this year without doing what we talk about in terms of Classroom Rule #2 and all the other stuff in the Natural Approach books that we recommend about classroom management or Fred Jones or whatever works for you, you will probably regret it. Think: FIRST. TWO. WEEKS.
This is a fifty alarm fire, and we are acting as if there is no fire, so now we are going to have to respond to it and not let it burn down our classrooms and us with them.
Ben, aren’t you overreacting? Some of us are just fine on classroom management. My answer is no – we can always get better at classroom management. I am feeling that many of us are liars to ourselves about this. I feel that the culture of entitlement and rudeness on the part of kids in our society in general right now is completely out of control and that we are complicit.
We can finally act now to stop that culture of entitlement and rudeness. Our NT work has A LOT to do with it because it brings us a kind of ability to engage students that we never had before. It doesn’t matter why we feel more power now. We will just act now.
There will be a mental shift of non-tolerance about their sleight-of-mouth expertise. They will get away with it in their other classes but NOT IN OUR CLASSES.
Once our own stronger students – who are worth their weight in gold to us – sense our newly found personal power, we together with them will now become the real police force in our classroom. Everyone in the room, except the perpetrator, will learn with our guidance and permission and encouragement to take silent responsibility for the emotional safety of everyone else.
Again, the real reason we can finally make this change is because we are working from images and not word lists and our students are therefore significantly more involved that older versions of CI, but that doesn’t matter in this pep talk. It is simply time for teachers to take control of the building.
It will be a grand thing, this new web of social safety that we build in our classrooms, perhaps on our hallway if our departmental colleagues are able to go up with us. It won’t reach into the entire school this year but it will get started in our classrooms.
We will lovingly dash into pieces any affront to our authority at any moment of abuse from the perpetrator, perceptible or not. WE will see it – however subtle the power move by the student – and act on it every time, usually by pointing to the rules using WBYT or by simply looking directly at the perpetrator while saying, “That’s inappropriate!” in a strong way and moving on.
This kind of new work is class metacognition work and can happen at any moment and represents a kind of meta-emotional work being done by the class with us for the protection and safety of all, because we are aware, fully aware, of every snide little look or comment and we will defeat them and bring them into right adjustment to us and to the other students in the class and it will be done in the FIRST. TWO. WEEKS. or never.
We must now fully turn our attention to this. It is far more important than any discussions about how to get better at teaching using comprehension methods. That’s easy. This is the real work.
We will all make it to spring and to the fun projects that mark the actual end of the hard work of the year (lasts up to March only in the ANATTY approach) emotionally intact. We will make our classrooms emotionally safe and intellectually alive and expressive places. The angels will help us. We must go beyond ourselves now. We will now stop the bullies. They will no longer have dominion over us. God hear our prayer. We will do the work, of course. But you help us. Send an extra squad of angels to hover around our buildings…something like that.