“It is far better to be feared than loved.”
Middle schoolers are their own breed of student. They need to be taken seriously while they need the proper space to be gangly and independent and needy and sweet. And within those spaces to spread out, they need firm walls.
Oh yeah, no problem.
I achieve various degrees of success on employing this philosophy per class, per day. But I feel pretty comfortable overall.
There’s a teacher who teachers a harder subject than me. Harder in the sense that it’s more difficult for students to learn, and they’re more likely to act out. I also think it’s harder to make as interesting as Social Studies. (Which is AWESOME.)
Though this teacher works hard to be the most knowledgeable teacher she can in her subject, she struggles with discipline. The same students whom she’s coached, whom she’s tutored before AND after school, will act out during class with no remorse. I suspect they’d spend less time needing extra help if they paid attention during class.
This teacher recently acquired a student teacher. Both teachers have been frustrated with two groups, both of which I also teach. A couple of weeks ago, during lunch, the student teacher lamented about one group in particular.
I told her, “They don’t act like that for everyone.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Part of it is the subject.” I treaded lightly. “Part of it is different teachers have different classroom management styles. If I were you, I’d observe the group in other classes.”
“My student teaching only covers math classes.”
“You can go during your prep periods,” I said. “That’s what I did as a student teacher. Methods I saw other teachers use, I still use today.”
She didn’t seem convinced.
A couple of days later, she’d taken my advice and agreed that, yes; those students do behave differently with different teachers.
Last week, I woke up feeling lousy. By the time I drove to school, my stomach threatened to revolt, and I became hot and chilly at the same time. I didn’t want to call in sick because I had too much to do before February break. Three of my classes were working on projects, so I could hang in there (if I didn’t vomit). I had a little while to figure out what to do with my first class. Mediating a debate wouldn’t work in my state.
I directed the students to read two small chapters on microloans and answer four questions. My carrot was that if they finished in time, we’d watch “The Simpson’s” episode Lend-a-Lisa because it talked about Kiva microloans. “This isn’t my most stellar teaching moment,” I murmured to the teacher whose room I temporarily occupied.
I don’t have my own room, but instead wheel a cart with my supplies from room to room.
After class was over, I was glad to have a period off to rest. The room next door was noisy. Noisier than usual. It’s not my policy to interfere with other teachers, but I only heard the student teacher’s voice.
I peeked my head in and saw her trying to settle the students with threats. They didn’t care. I walked around, asking what they were supposed to be doing. I coaxed the ones with a worse reputation by saying something like; “She’s a student teacher, learning how to teach (I may or may not have added, “your rotten class.”). Why don’t you give her a break and get to work? If you don’t understand what to do, then raise you hand and she’ll help you.”
When the room was reasonably settled, I kept the adjoining door slightly open. Minutes later the classroom erupted. The student teacher threatened and doled detention left and right. One of the sassier students was in a state. I asked her what happened. It turned out another student had gotten injured, and a bunch of students had stood up because of concern, but had gotten reprimanded by the student teacher.
The student teacher just wanted a quiet room. She couldn’t tell the difference between bad behavior and an incident.
I sprang into action; checking on the injured student in the bathroom, interviewing other students, getting another teacher in the room, and alerting the appropriate people in the office.
The student teacher was beside herself when I spoke with her later. I reassured her, “It could’ve happened to anyone.”
It’s hard to stand up there, commanding respect, keeping attention, and teaching an interesting lesson that sticks. A teacher is constantly adapting. If the student teacher isn’t with the grade-level or the right teacher or in the right school or gets thrust in the wrong situation, it may make them walk away from teaching.
I hope this student teacher doesn’t give up, and figures out how to create her own space and walls.
Teachers, what one piece of advice would you give
new teachers about classroom management?
P.S. Tune in Thursday when post about the debate and how my heart has begun to break because my ETS job is nearly over.