Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mary Poppins

Today the assistant principal (next year's principal) told me that next year I have to start off the year "mean" and that I can't act like "Mary Poppins." His comments are apt-- although I have never heard the Mary Poppins comparison before. He went on to say that I can prove I care by acting mean. He wasn't mean about it or anything and he said it in a fatherly type of way. He is right-- I have struggled with this all year. My students know that I care-- which is great. But, I have still not mastered-- or come anywhere near-- mastering classroom management. I have to be "meaner." By far this is my biggest weakness--- and strangely my biggest strength. Before teaching in the delta-- I had never had a negative encounter with students. This is actually an accomplishment as I worked with emotionally disturbed youngsters who had been abused. Most times, I try my best to be "nice" with everyone. With my students, I listen and take very seriously their concerns, successes, and failures. And this is year has been hard because students, say, the darndest things. Amongst them-- most times-- unreasonable complaints. For example, I can call on a student twice during a class period and then the next question, the student will gripe that he/she never gets called on. Even on days when I utilize the "popsicle stick method" there are hints that it is unfair.

My real revelation this year has been you can't really win-- but you keep trying. It is not that I want to be liked or popular, but I want to treat my students with the same respect I expect. The truth of it is, the power relationship is unfair and my students don't have any real agency. With my Antioch education (note I just used the terms--agency and power), it is hard to just be the boss. But I HAVE to be. Their job as students, is to test the limits and the boundaries because they need to learn those things. Being a middle school teacher, it is really just part of the process. Throughout this year I have been challenged by how to let my students have power (in a constructive way) in my classroom. I can read Wong until I am blue in the face, but I had to learn my own style. I am just beginning to understand what that means and how students respond or don't respond to me. My students get to be creative in my classroom and that I am truly proud of-- even if they can't come back from lunch quietly. They cheer each other on when we do creative expressions and group projects. Now I know what works and what I cannot do. I wish I had had less expectations to start with-- I expected more of myself than was possible. But as I have been saying my expectations are my goals now. Sometimes, really wonderful moments happen. Sometimes, it is a real mess. I don't know what next year will look like, but I am gonna plan my ass off this summer, because I want so badly to have more good moments and less mess.


Blogger Ruth Kuhnau said...

You are an amazing teacher. No matter how much of a zoo our school (or wing) may be, you always take the time to listen (really listen, not just nod your head) to what the students are saying. You have remained who you are through this whole process. Maybe you do need to start off next year 'meaner' but I know that even if you do that you will never truly be mean. The students are so lucky to have you and I know that they enjoy your class because we hear you chearing through the walls and my kids groan loudly that they wish they were in Ms. Lee's class!

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