Monday, July 18, 2016

Oh No, We Got Ms. Xavier




Yes, I'm the mean teacher.  I am very strict and have no tolerance for misbehavior in the classroom. When my kids hear my high heels clicking down the hallway, they all start shushing each other and warning each other I'm coming.  Kids do not walk up to me in class and ask me questions, they also do not walk over to my desk during home room and give me papers.  I must have been a Roman Centurion in a former life, order and rules are my happy place.

But you know what?  Even though my rooms sounds like a military barracks, it works.  My first class was very tough.  5 of my boys that year got the cops called on them for stalking one of my girls home. They cursed out the cop, who then offered me his gun when he returned them to my class.  My second and present school was even worse. We were a Bloods school when I first got there.  Bloods, as in the street gang.  I had to be tough to get respect.  The good kids always appreciated my ability to keep the bad kids in line so they could learn.  The vast majority of the bad kids, respected the fact that I was the alpha dog in the class.  Like I said, it works.

The population in my school has drastically changed in the 10 years I've been there.  Nowadays, I'm more apt to get a kid who cries because he or she didn't do his or her work and is failing.  They think the tears will help.  They won't.  6th graders need consequences.  Yes, everyone screws up every now and then, but continued transgressions need a consequence.  That's how we learn, we make a mistake, we get an outcome we don't like, and we learn how to not get that outcome again.  That's growth.

I'm no longer as scary as I was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago.  I'm still strict and expect all of my students to work, to their own level of course.  And guess what?  My kids are respectful, hard working, and achievers.  We work in groups regularly and every one understands that everyone is equally important.  They vote (or rock, paper, scissors) their disputes away and get right back to work.  I have very few kids who don't do homework.  I have very few kids who get into fights outside of the classroom.  We have real conversations, not just about school work.  They appreciate the autonomy they are given and I appreciate the effort they put into their work.

What do they get in return for being so responsible at such a young age?  I take my kids on constant field trips into the city (Manhattan).  We do lots of art projects.  We walk shelter dogs and create websites to try to get them adopted.  We learn to code and use our 3D printer.  I trust my kids to do the right thing.  I don't hover over them. I give them the space to explore and learn from each other and they come to me only when they truly can not figure something out.  While the other classes on my grade are still very elementary, my students are becoming middle schoolers. The 7th grade teachers always know which kids were mine the year before.

So as we return to school, I'll get the usual,  "How do you get your kids to listen so well?" questions  from the new teachers.  I usually joke and say it's because the kids know I'm not a nice person. It's really because they know I respect them.  And they,in turn, respect me as well.  So after my joke, I tell them to be who they are.  Kids have built in BS detectors.  If you try to act like someone you're not, they will not listen to you.  I'm a Roman Cemturion at heart, so order and rules work for me.  Go with who you are, kids appreciate honesty and will respond in full force. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Mrs. Thomas' Teachable Moments

27 comments:

  1. Great read, and way to go. I've taught in rough schools, and it is not easy.

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  2. Great post. I, too, have taught in tough schools. Being tough doesn't mean you don't care, in fact, it usually means you do. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Cheers,
    DocRunning

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    1. I agree. The kids in tough schools need tough teachers who care.

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  3. Mutual respect can go such a long way in a classroom, thanks for sharing this! I also love that you can give your students such diverse learning experiences!

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  4. I think my favorite comment note left from a substitute teacher was, "Your kids run on auto-pilot". Great management creates appreciative and hard-working kids. I love it. :)

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  5. Great post. I agree completely. You need to start as you mean to go and earn their respect quickly. Your class sounds like a great place to be.

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  6. A woman after my own heart! I too, learned classroom management in a school where my jaw hit the floor a lot during my first year. My favorite comment from students now is "I thought you were mean, but you're not. You're tough but you make learning interesting." I'll take that any day! Great, honest post!

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    1. That's awesome! What a great compliment.

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  7. I have a similar reputation too. In fact the discussion of the incoming juniors is how some of them don't like me...although they have never had me. I always get the: I was so scared of you, but now I'm not. Teacher reputation in a school matters, but I am not all tough and no fun...we have a ton of fun too.

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    1. It's a fine line, but if you can walk it, you have a great classroom!

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  8. Interesting post! Managing the classroom well is certainly in everyone's best interest, and it shows that you care about the students' education.

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  9. I love that you're able to take your students on field trips to connect their learning to real life situations. That must be a huge motivator for them,and it probably makes them love having you as a teacher even more!

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    1. The field trips are definitely the good days!

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  10. "Go with who you are, kids appreciate honesty and will respond in full force." Great line and great post -- mutual respect is key. Thanks for sharing this advice!

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  11. Mutual respect goes a long way. Kids really do appreciate order and structure. Best of luck in the new year!

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  12. The title of this post made me crack up! I love how honest you are in this post. I often worry about the kids "not liking me", and I know that I am coming to find that even when I am hard on them (for good reasons) they generally respect me more. I had an incident last year with a student who kept stealing from classmates when we would have a school store. I made her return EVERYTHING she bought that day at the store, and she had to pay her friends back for the things she had taken. She cried. A LOT. I was so worried she would hate me forever, but it was more important for me to let her know that I didn't tolerate stealing and neither would her classmates. I was at the movies this summer with the kiddos I'm watching and I bumped into her and her mom. When she saw me her eyes lit up, she had a HUGE smile. It was validation for me that sometimes, my students DO need for me to show some tough love. Also, I need you to know, I admire you! We are all definitely made for different circumstances and to reach different groups of students. I am from an itty bitty town in Ohio; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't make it in a Bloods school.

    Love this post! :)

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  13. Haha, I would be terrifying in a small town. There's an hysterical Key and Peele skit about a substitute teacher that is every inner city teacher ever! But sometimes you have to be the bad guy in order to be the good guy. I think you did the right thing and she obviously thought so too!

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  14. Took your advice to heart as a new teacher. Now I'm trying to hop to the next blog, but there's no link with the apple. It's just a picture. Please let me know if you get this fixed.

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  15. I hear you. I have a reputation as being a tough teacher as well. I've had others say things like "It's like the marines in her class" or "You can't breathe the wrong way in there"... But I get results. My students love me and I get stuff DONE. Positive reinforcement is so important (and I use it ALL the time)- but the reality is that students WILL make poor choices and there needs to be some sort of consequence. Consequences are a part of life! We need to set our expectations high and show students that we are fair and consistent. Great post!

    Melissa
    Real Life in First Grade

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    1. Totally agree. I would be an absolutely horrible 1stbgrade teacher. I would scar those kids for life but as a middle school teacher, I think I show kids how real life works.

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