We Are the Adults

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6 thoughts on “We Are the Adults”

  1. I joined your website this morning because I have been intrigued by your ideas for quite some time. When I read this post, though, I felt my heart drop into my stomach. I began teaching when I was 22-years-old. I entered the classroom with every intention of using TPRS and being teacher of the year by the end of my first year. I dressed much older than my age and even got a haircut that aged me. I was very nervous because I knew I would be barely 4 years older than some of my students. Once the year started, though, I quickly lost control of my classes. I had never had to deal with people who were just flat out mean to me for no reason or that would blatantly lie on a daily basis. I hadn’t had to deal with bullying or lackluster students. My classes were loud, unruly, and chaotic. It became a year of survival. In a few weeks, I will be finishing my 6th year of teaching. I am constantly complemented by my principal about my ability to transition flawlessly and maintain control of my classes. I have even mentored first year teachers. One time, when I was laughing with another Spanish teacher about how naive I was my first year of teaching, she said, “you just wanted the kids to like you.” I stiffened up. I didn’t want to be my students’ friend; I just didn’t know how to make them respect me. It had to come with time. While I do not know this teacher that you speak of personally, I have seen many first year teachers with that fear in their eyes of having no idea how to handle a situation. I hope in the future you’ll put your judgement aside and instead offer advice to the doe-eyed, young teacher who is just trying to survive her first year.

    1. Teachers don’t become teachers because we love classroom management. That is one of those nasty surprises that hits you that first year on your own in the classroom.

      I started teaching at the age of 48; it helped quite a bit being the age of my students’ parents, rather than contemporaries, but I still had to learn management–it took a few years. I was so disappointed in myself, but a wise administrator didn’t criticize me, but said I’d figure out which things to home in on and which things to let go.

      I think it would help for young teachers to spend time each week in the room of a different master teacher, to see a variety of classroom management techniques–to find one that best suits his/her own teaching style. I work as an aide part of the day this year in 6th grade science; one teacher is brand-new, one has taught for 18 years. You can guess which class is pure chaos. It takes a rare individual who innately knows–right out of college–not only how to teach, but how to be a teacher.

      For those outsiders who think can’t be that hard to teach, they are out of touch.

  2. Well if it is my goal to help teachers, I certainly didn’t do it very well as I reread that post and apologize if it offended. It wasn’t meant to but I can clearly see it that way now that you have pointed it out. Thank you. I’ll try to keep my comments directed only to positive outcomes with CI in the future.

  3. Ben, I thought that your post was interesting and relevant, and I loved Jessica’s response as well. As a first-year teacher who ended up quitting because of a lack of these management skills and understanding how to go about being the adult in the room, I would hate for you to limit your comments around this subject. I recently spent 5 hours in a car with my sister-in-law who is a Human Resources director at a college, and she schooled me on so many management skills that I am now ready to understand after failing so dramatically in the classroom. Well, what I realize now is that I actually wasn’t failing, I was going through a normal process. A lot of people tried to tell me that, but I was already gone, down the hole of anxiety and despair. I am now learning, as a sub but still learning, how to take control of a room energetically, how to stand behind myself fully and take up space, to be firm and clear and not a pushover. How to believe in rules and enforce them warmly and dispassionately. To not be NICE to people who are fucking with me, but to feel sympathetic towards them and understand that they are not behaving effectively for communication or learning, and to guide them and hold them accountable even if it hurts. Better to be kind, firm, and wrong than be a wishy-washy pushover. The first can be comprehensibly fixed, the other is just a big mess. It takes a lot of self control and belief in your own judgment. I feel like I’m moving in that direction now, and it feels amazing. It really does feel like truly becoming an adult for the first time at age 43. So thanks for the post, and thanks Jessica for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It is so helpful to me to read this stuff.

  4. I can’t help but noticing that the ones who openly recognize their difficulties with classroom management are women. Many men have the same problems, but are less honest about it, although in this group there are several who have been forthcoming. I believe there is a cultural biais that allows students to think of young women teachers as fair targets and to accept a man’s authority more easily. I once tutored a young male teacher who always wore a rugby shirt to class. An observer commented on “his natural authority”. I suspect that the rugby shirt, in this part of the world, had a lot to do with it.

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