When I was a child, a number of conversations with my single-parent father went something like this:
Me: “Whiiiiine. Whine, whine, whine. Whine, bitch, moan.”
Father: “Stick a sock in it.”
I have now adapted my father’s parenting techniques as my main form of classroom management.
For example, I was teaching Intro to Spanish today when, apropos of nothing, one of my Goobers raised his hand (which, while being a huge step in the right direction does not in any manner indicate that he will wait to be called upon) and shouted, “Hey, Teach! If you ever get married, I’m going to be in your wedding!”
“If you ever get married. I’m going to be in your wedding.”
“Goober, if I ever get married, you’re going to be nowhere near my wedding.”
The rest of the class snickered. Goober seemed entirely unfazed.
“Yeah! Yeah! I’m going to be that one that carries the stuff…and stuff.”
I’m trilingual. Fluent in English, Spanish, and Teenager.
“You mean the ring bearer? You want to be the ring bearer at my wedding?”
“Yeah! And I’ll walk down the aisle and stuff.”
“Goober, let’s say I do get married. And let’s say I do give you the ring. That means that you are the one responsible for carrying the object that is going to symbolize my marriage for the rest of my life.”
“Oooh…” Goober paused thoughtfully. “On second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea…”
“And while you’re at it, Goober, why don’t you give me the answer to the next question?”
“Answer to what?”
“Right. Sorry, Señora.”
It’s usually sometime around here that the Uptight Party Poopers of the World holler at me about “not engaging with students.” I’m including some of my fellow teachers of the world in the UPPW category as well as a wad of folks who couldn’t keep control of a classroom of thirty kids to save their life but like to voice their opinion anyway, as if anyone cared.
“You shouldn’t engage, Teach. That child is distracting your lesson. He’s blurting, he’s off task and you need to set an example by setting the standards and sticking to them, not engaging in the students’ agenda of derailing the class.”
Well, UPPWers, I must admit that after much thought and consideration, I can definitively tell you that you are, indeed…
The ones who can go stick a sock in it.
If you’re a new teacher, sit straight and pay attention. This is where a whole lotta you go wrong. There is only one way to run a classroom.
You have to teach to your strengths.
A Brief List Of Things Teach Is Not:
- Overly organized.
- Overly uptight.
Number four sticks out in an especially notable way. I’m so damn loud that I don’t even realize I’m loud, which has resulted in a lot of students actually taking a step backwards when I think I’m answering them in a normal tone of voice.
“Hey, Teach, can you help me with this activity? I don’t really understand what I am doing…”
“SURE! I’M HAPPY TO HELP! THANKS SO MUCH FOR BEING PROACTIVE!”
More quietly: “Sorry about that. I just totally shouted in your ear, didn’t I?”
“Um…yeah. That was a bit much.”
I’m obnoxious. My classroom is semi-chaotic. (Straying, on the occasional pre-vacation day, into full-blown chaos.) We are constantly moving, talking, shouting and when things get really insane, I have a full blown piercingly obnoxious referee whistle I use to get the kids’ attention. And they friggin’ hate it. Which, of course, I find fantastic.
I cannot maintain the type of classroom where everything has its place and everyone knows what that place is. I will never be the scary teacher kids dare not disobey for fear of the consequences. I will never have a silent classroom where students diligently work quietly and raise their hand, without fail, every single time they want to talk, nor will I ever be the one who tracks tardies to the minute and assigns detentions for every infraction. It’s too much damn work.
And it’s just not me.
But I’ve got a wicked sense of humor, a Ph.D in sarcasm, and an appreciation for fun.
So that’s how I teach.
I could lecture the Goobers of the world until I’m blue in the face.
“Goober! That has nothing to do with what we’re talking about! You know the rules of the class and we’ll have a chat once the period is over about what appropriate behavior looks like.”
What a stinky wet blanket. Likely all that’s going to happen there is that:
- Goober will hate me.
- He will check out even more than he already does in class.
- Having shamed him in front of his peers, he’ll escalate the interaction requiring me to follow up with, approximately, a crapload of disipline.
- I’ve just wanted my own precious time.
But when I banter with him, he likes me. Kids do a lot for teachers they like. The banter refocuses the attention of the entire class on me. When I end the banter and start teaching again (having lost a whopping ten seconds of my class) they’re all looking, listening…and grinning. It’s a scientifically proven fact – kids learn more when they’re grinning.**Basing scientific-provenness on twelve years in the classroom and the fact that it sounds good.
I lost no more time in goofing off with Goober than I would have in disciplining him. But now he likes me and the kids think class is fun.
Still, mayhem is not for everyone. One of the best teachers I know somehow magically terrorizes her children in to being on time, even if they’ve lost a limb. At least once a week, I see a child hauling ass down the hallway three seconds before the bell rings shouting, “Aaaaaarrrrrrrrgh! Smith’s claaaaaaass…..”
But this is the teacher who color-coordinates her wall decorations and hangs them all using a tape measure and a level.
The only thing a level is going to be used for in my room is to whack the desk of a sleeping student to see if I can scare him/her into falling on the floor.
So if you’re fresh to the classroom, or even if you’ve been in there a few years, take a step back and think for a second. How true are you being to yourself? Because one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is teaching them to use their strengths.
Fart jokes and referee whistles most definitely included.