I Am Just Stupid

This is a cautionary tale for new teachers:

I wish I had the 37 years in my classroom back. Every time a kid crossed me, whether I showed it or not, part of me, a slice of my internal fabric, maybe 10%, was afraid.

I didn’t want to make the kid angry and cause a scene. The result was that a rude kid caused anxiety in me and my power was lessened and small levels of rudeness came back to me and it did more to screw up my instruction than I think, as I see it in retrospect.

Only 10% of my teaching fabric had the stain of fear in it, and yet that was enough to allow the rest the class to see that I was nervous. Now I am fully grasping that my teaching was more nervous for all those years than it should have been. How should my teaching have been?

I should have showed more dispassionate power. We must never show meanness in our teaching, but we can find more dispassionate power. We need to be able to know in the instant when we are wronged and say it. Right away. Say it right away.

I should have acted from my core, from that point in my stomach region on my central meridian, where I let the kid know that I was not angry in anyway (sometimes we don’t act with rude kids because we are afraid of our own anger) but that the kid was going to do what I said in no uncertain visible terms or get a consequence that I would enforce. I could have done that with no meanness or fear, but I didn’t. I did up to 90%, but the kid and the rest of the class saw the fearful 10% and that screwed me more than I thought.

I say that all of us reading here on the PLC for teaching tips stop and consider this article that is directed at new teachers who may be like me and maybe you can avoid a full 37 years of that 10% fear I talk about above.

I wish I could have those years back. Now I know that no person in the world, especially no student in my classroom, can be anything but respectful to me. All the time. I know now that I must respond with an immediate response in all cases of even the slightest rudeness.

If there is a rude kid in my class and they are not following the rules and I don’t AT LEAST call a parent and follow up with a counselor to GET THE KID OUT OF MY CLASS if need be BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE, then I am just stupid. I need to point to the rules and enforce them at 100%, from my core, or I am just stupid.

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9 thoughts on “I Am Just Stupid”

  1. I know this may sound a bit ignorant, but what do you say to parents and counselors? Many times they think I’m being petty when I tell them that a student is acting out. If the parent or counselor don’t respond to your request to have a student removed, how do you respond? I found myself with several students last year (my first year teaching in the states) that destroyed my class. Fear definitely described my first 6 months in the classroom.

  2. Yes Paul I have concluded that the very common lack of a response by counselors is possibly THE most disturbing factor in this thing. It is serious and demands a response and we don’t get one. Talking to the student does not help. Talking to the parent does not help. Talking to the counselors does not help. Talking does not help. Action is required. Generally I try to find someone with a sympathetic ear, someone who gets that what I am trying to do is very subtle work involving the need for focus, rigorous work that a few bad apples can destroy for the rest of the class, and then use the power of that one person to get rid of the kid. If there is no one, then I become very aggressive with the kid as fast as I can, calling parents every day, going way overboard in my reaction to the kid’s behavior, because honestly we both know that minor offensive behavior in August and September becomes later on a disaster for all concerned. This is one of my main areas of interest in teaching, the wholesale dismissal of a teacher’s professional decision that there is a malefic factor in the room. Hospital administrators would be concerned if a virus in an operating room were not eradicated, so what is the difference? The comparison is not inaccurate. I have a category on Pigs (the wrong choice of words but so be it) here that talks about certain kids that MUST be removed from classes. I’m starting to rant here. Read some of the articles on Pigs and get your mettle up. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT WRONG and that THE KID IS WRONG AND MUST BE REMOVED. Ramble is continuing. Now, what to do if the people with power in the building fail and the parents fail, which they do most of the time in helping us effectuate change in their kids? What to do then? I say that on the very first day you assign a jGR grade. Then do it again on the second day. By the beginning of Week 2 of school you have five grades and the kid is flunking. You call or email EVERYBODY. The AP in charge of WL, the counselor, the parent, and (this is the mistake we make – we don’t do this) you raise hell about how this kid is failing the class and you see NO WAY that the kid will pass because they don’t have the necessary skills according to the national parent organization ACTFL’s Three Modes of Communication which, as national standards, drive your curriculum. So my answer to your question is to make it immediately and academic problem, that the kid is incapable of handling the academic part of our classes, and WE CAN DO THAT NOW BECAUSE WE HAVE jGR. We change it from a behavior problem to an academic one right away, so that within the first two weeks we can get the kid out based on grades when most of us kind souls want to keep on believing the kid will change (THEY WON’T!) and don’t even start putting any grades, like real fools, until the end of the first few weeks when it is too late. So we will focus on certain things this year, as we always do on this PLC, and let’s make this one of them. Let’s make a strong decision this year, a decisive one hear at the outset of the year, to ACT through people in our buildings and parents and when (not if, when) they fail we will be ready with a shitload of zeros and ones on the jGR on the kid and WE WILL USE GRADES NOT BEHAVIOR AS OUR EXCUSE FOR getting the not-ready-for-our-class kid OUT OF OUR CLASSROOMS. Good lord, Paul you have touched a nerve in me this morning and I am not even going to be teaching this year. I just have so many wounds of exactly the same type you have and now, like the character in Network I am saying, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” about these unconscious kids who have NO RIGHT, not a single right, to bring their shitty and disrespectful behaviors into my classroom.

    (“So Ben, what are you trying to say?”)

  3. This is such a timely discussion for me. I just saw my class lists, and I have one class, Spanish 2, that has every single one of my problem students from last year all in one class. They were talkative, slightly disrespectful, didn’t listen very well and were the students I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to. I actually am worried about this class already and I have 3 more weeks of summer! I’ve been trying to think about what I can do. I’ll be interested in reading what other teachers have to say, too. Unfortunately, there is no withdrawing in our school, so I have them, but I want to start off perfectly.

  4. Well they can withdraw themselves, right? I would burn them with jGR for the first 7 to 10 days in the way described above. Convince them that this is how you are grading this year. If you are not 100% familiar with jGR go read all those articles in that category now. It truly is an academic grade – don’t doubt that. It is the only way to deal with that class. I believe in a preventive approach. And keep us posted. Mere wishing will not solve this problem. We need concrete steps. Worrying about a bunch of hormone cases three weeks before you are even back at work is just not a good thing. Get your fangs out. They will not win. They won’t.

  5. “Worrying about a bunch of hormone cases three weeks before you are even back at work is just not a good thing. Get your fangs out. They will not win. They won’t.”

    Why should we have any anxiety over anything that might go awry with our kids this year?

    We are the teachers. We have full control over what we allow to happen in our classrooms. We have the power to not be moved.

    Yes, yes, yes. It’s my way or the highway, kids.

    I’ve done zero prep this summer teaching-wise, except for reading some French books I wanted to read, and deeply enjoying the summer, which I feel was exactly the “prep” I needed. Ahhh…summer…

    Isn’t it liberating to go into this school year unfrazzled, with the calm, certain realization that we can run our classrooms exactly how we want them run?

    Great post.

  6. An addendum to my above comment:

    Obviously the confidence we can have in our classroom control doesn’t come from the fact that we are such great teachers, or that we know how to boss kids around, or anything superficial, but from a thorough understanding that the way we are teaching our languages is rooted not only in research but in reality. An understanding that we are deepening more and more through collaboration on this blog and in person and from our own experience/research.

    So, when a certain child consciously or unconsciously does something that undermines the efficient, ethical, compassionate, fun language learning we are making happen with the majority of the class, we can be firmer than ever in our resolution to stop X behavior dead in its tracks.

    It’s the difference between vigorously guarding the good we know we can accomplish with CI instruction and merely maintaining classroom control with an underlying fear of our management falling apart.

    This is the confidence that allows us to remain upbeat and unfrazzled when discipline problems inevitably occur. We know that our kids know that our classroom rules and jGR are standing guard as watchdogs -an analogy we’ve heard on here before.

    Our work is already done.

  7. Yes Paul! Extend those fangs!

    The joy in teaching doesn’t come easy. Maybe that’s why it’s so powerful when it does come.

    Also, as much as it is important to start the year off with those fangs extended so that our students feel the threat of getting their blood sucked out of them instantaneously, I have most certainly had to learn how to extend my fangs in the middle of the school year, in multiple years. It’s not impossible to do it in the middle of the school year. Perhaps this can bring some relief to those anxious about starting off the year not addressing disruptions well.

  8. New school, inheriting a number of students with sometimes semi-CI previous methods. I am an optimist and a realist, I think. I go into it prepared to explain pre-emptively my expectations and research on why we’re doing what we do in the classroom. I am very hopeful that they’ll jump into it.

    My two goals for 2014-15 are:
    1. Working from rest (same as last year)
    2. Working without fear

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