Personal Power

What is teaching? It’s a lifetime of learning how to access one’s personal power. That’s one definition.
I haven’t written this anywhere, but I feel that one of the root issues of bad classroom management is a lack of personal power in the teacher. That’s not an easy one. We are taught to please others and then we have to turn around and be unpleasant, or smile and fake being pleasant when we want to strangle the kid who is ruining our class.
That smile, don’t talk and point to rule #2 thing that I started doing about ten years ago is good, but you don’t have to smile. You can keep a straight face.
I wish I could have those books back from Teacher’s Discovery to fix that. We don’t have to be stern and smile at the same time. It’s too much.
Well, at least I can say it here. Most of us know it anyway. And most of us know that everything in the natural approach books and all my books really is just a suggestion. We all have to do find our own power in our own classroom ourselves bc we all have different personalities.
The main thing is to not get so bent out of shape inside while we are teaching and then hide it. The kids can see it.
The natural approach books are the only thing I have ever used that allow me to not feel all twisted up inside when teaching, that make me feel good in the classroom. The natural approach books brought me the only real freedom I have ever experienced as a teacher.
That pedagogy brought me the personal power I needed to not be crazy all day in the school building. It really is something. I’m glad I invented it. Actually, God gave it to me. So I should say thank you to God for showing me a way to teach that isn’t crazy.

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9 thoughts on “Personal Power”

  1. I too often have a hard time faking the smile when pointing to the “rule” on the poster when a student(s) is being disruptive. But I get it, the smile is to show the kids that they aren’t going to be able to plant their itchy bug on your happiness inside your skin. In fact, with certain kids at certain times I just might snap at them. Though I’m learning to turn my snap level down.
    I’ve learned to do this thing where I slowly spin around in a circle and make a funny noise to indicate that I’m switching from being angry to being pleasant again, just like I do, sometimes, when I’m switching from speaking in English to speaking in Spanish again.

  2. We have now over 54,000 comments and 7,000 posts here and that topic of dealing instantly with anger that comes up in class has rarely if ever come up. Perhaps it is because the topic is so personal and unique to each class we ever teach. One bad apple in one class can make us be on the edge of our emotional capacity as Sean describes above and another class, which does not have that kind of bad apple in it, is a dream to teach.
    Of course, it has to do with the post on personal power from yesterday. If our sense of personal power is firmly rooted in our teaching persona, then the rock of our emotional center during class will not be buffeted by such stinky oral winds that emanate from the kids who are mere victims of a society that is unable to convey to children who are growing up what is right and what is wrong.
    Again, it falls to our profession to try to do the impossible: convey to children things they should have but did not learn at home.
    I am currently talking via IM to one of the three teachers who has posts coming up here on the subject of blurting and rude comments. This teacher is hearing “suggestions” in the OWI activity of a sexual nature from a group of boys who can’t see what is wrong with doing that. I am unable to contain my own anger just reading about what this one group of boys is saying in her class.
    Hearing about this group of boys becoming upset that the teacher won’t accept their suggestions in the OWI, I realize that I am still trying to process, to come into balance with a (now completed) career of thousands of such moments of trying to figure out in the moment how to deal with inappropriate comments in class, as Sean’s spin move is meant to do. (Sean’s move should work because if I’m in high school and an imposing 6’2″ teacher did a spin move on my comment I would probably shut up.)
    I think a post or even a little booklet is needed on the subject of inappropriate blurting. Why? I don’t think the classroom management bite size book or the way the topic is treated in both natural approach books does justice to this searingly important topic.
    I think that Laura in her comments here yesterday added some insights that need to be said, little details about how to deal with “those students”. Such additions to the discussion make me want to give top priority to this writing project in the next few days. We probably need to get deeper into the topic of Classroom Rule #2, and now is the time of year to do it.
    (It is interesting to me after making up hundreds of rules, of which the six or seven that we now have are the survivors, the ones that REALLY WORK, to see Rule #2 – One Person Speaks and the Others Listen – emerge as THE rule to rule them all. It has been around for at least fifteen years but never received any attention until now. It’s like One Word Images in that way.)
    In the next few days, I will try to cull together the information on this topic we have here over the past ten years. (There must be hundreds or more of related posts if I can find them.) Why even teach kids who don’t know how to keep their mouths shut? This is a great reason to use the textbook and worksheets.
    Truly, isn’t this topic of blurting and how we feel when it happens one of – if not THE – most important thing we can ever try to master as language teachers? By thus healing our classrooms, by ridding this dark element of rude kids from our classroom, because we will, we thus become part of the Great Healing that is clearly under way right now in our society.
    Related to this, we may be able to find articles from past years in the Bullying of Teachers category on the right side of this page. I will go back in the vaults and look.

  3. I so much agree with this Ben. Blurting should be our collective #1 topic. Just like you came up with Plan A to deal with much of CM, it would be great if we could develop a strategy just as smart and powerful for the blurters. An effective strategy would solve the problem without depleting our energy with having to deal with their parents. For the most part, parents are the worst of the worst.
    For about the first two months of the year I can point and smile at rule #2. After that I do the whole thing but find it really hard to keep smiling, so I start using the the queen Victoria stare more often as I point. The love starts to thin out. Where I have extreme difficulty is with the blurters, because it is generally not one but two or three who want to prove to each other how smart they are, and manage my classroom with their “little pi-pi” contest (I’ve only had 2-3 girl blurters so far).
    So, how to silence these children when it becomes a pop-pop-pop back and forth of unstoppable, rude, generally negative comments that make everyone else laugh and take my affective filter WAY up. I know self control is key to us teachers. Using English ourselves, to explain, scold, or whatever it is we say in English, is in my experience a total no-no. But the moving to rule #2, point, and smile etc. does not always work with that group, and we get the defiance very well described by the 2 teachers above.
    One thing that helped me much last year was my inner process of thinking it doesn’t matter how much Spanish they get to hear and read. It doesn’t matter how much they’ll be able to acquire. I was able to let go of my need for them to take in a lot of CI.
    One of my level 1 classes had two such blurters there was nothing that would calm them down. They did get in line in the 3rd quarter after I sent them straight out to the office and took their grade down a lot. Finally they tenuously stopped the behavior. However I think I got lucky that these particular boys were grade oriented and the hit stung. Many blurters could care less about going to the office or having their grade go down. So the problem is still there.
    I don’t have a conclusion paragraph. I see this problem as the open wound of us CI teachers.

    1. I confess, my classes are super small again this year, so the blurting problem is manageable for me. But I agree, Laura, and Ben, that this should be a priority to discuss and tackle. It’s nuanced. There’s so much nuance in how we present ourselves and relate to students. I look forward to being apart of this conversation.
      Greg, blurting is also something we could focus on for our TCI Chicagoland meeting at 9/22.
      One reaction to your post above, Laura, is remembering how I started to allow for certain conversations to happen in English if a student blurted out something. We’d have conversations for 10-15 minutes about whatever… about my travel experiences; about how a student used to eat bush meat back in Nigeria (we’d even look images up on Google). I had 100 minute classes last year. We needed the break anyways. But, since we can not relate to students with any degree of intimacy in the L2, I think we need to have chat with them in English (L1) from time to time. I certainly couldn’t just let drop when Rayshaun said that he witnessed a man get shot over the weekend. That would be insensitive. We had to meditate on that for a bit. Talk about it.
      Laura, I’m glad to hear that you too found it a relief to let go of trying to jam as much L2 input down their throats as possible. I really do think this is a key part to CM and a joyable experience.
      Another aspect to this issue is the school culture. Finally, at my school, we got rid of the 5 Strikes system. We were told by some fast-track administrators with no real teaching experience a couple of years ago to say “Strike 1” if a student is disruptive, then “Strike 2” if it happens again, then talk to the kid privately. Then then change seats. “Strike 3”. “Strike 4”. I never said it. It’s so negative. So combative. Anyways, I mention this because school leadership varies from school to school. Right now we have wonderful school leadership with an AP who truly implements restorative justice practices with students. It’s real easy to manage students who constantly make sexual remarks when you have leadership that knows what it’s doing.
      … to be continued!

  4. I think it’s because over the past few years schools have transitioned to just issuing CONSEQUENCES to students (aka detentions at inconvenient times) to asking the teacher to simply “redirect” the students. Also most places students can now PICK the time they serve their detentions- even during lunch. There are no real consequences anymore.

    1. I think the consequences come down to making the kid have to find a way to relate to you as a teacher. Good admin can help make this happen, after some reflection and things. The kid has to swallow their pride and ego and learn how to relate to you. They have to practice acts of kindness. That’s the consequence!

  5. I had a student who used inappropriate language. I documented it every single time. I asked for support from colleagues who had the student. I ended up just moving the student. However, this year, I just ignored the student but I would always respond class wide about the negative behavior. I would stop class and tell the student that they will speak to me after class. We have to be consistent with this. In the end, I would just continue t be kind to the student and encourage the student one-on-one to share out their appropriate ideas. During collaborative suggestion time (much needed for a break and Pair/Share) I would say “Yes that is a good suggestion. I want you to say that when I pick you.” Well, the student did not like this engagement and decided to switch classes. Oh well.

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