interactionDecember 21, 2007
My principal gave me this big ‘ol book to read. Discipline in the Secondary Classroom: A Problem-by-Problem Survival Guide, by Randall S. Sprick, Ph.D. Survival indeed.
Anyway, I’m plumbing through this book, trying to decipher exactly how much of this will pertain the my immediate problem, and it slowly dawns on me that my problem has little to do with procedures or rules or how I implement disciplinary tools. Granted, all of those stem from the root cause, but they alone are not the major issue. Overall, I’m finding I just don’t get along with junior high students like I should.
1. Sarcasm: This is the bread and butter of my conversational abilities. I can be outright funny, or just silly, but for the most part, my humor is dry and best with a bitter cabernet sauvignon. It’s not that I’m hurtfully sarcastic, or that I think the students are stupid. On the contrary, I expect most of them are far smarter than I give them credit for. I don’t know if that’s good or naive (as some of my colleagues at school have indicated), but I don’t think badly of most the children. My sarcasm tends to get in the way, however, because I don’t think they understand my humor. Thinking back to where I was as an eighth grader, I was hanging out with a group of girls that were very bitter and angry and very sarcastic, and it took me a long time to acquire that taste. When I did, I nearly pissed myself with laughter. And it doesn’t help that my whole family is really sarcastic, but I guess that doesn’t work too well with thirteen-year-olds.
2. Intolerance: I don’t put with much from anyone. Even if I’m not that type to get in someone’s face when they bother me, I don’t usually let them have their way just because. This translates to junior high kids in that I don’t want them messing around, and that should be enough. They need another reason more than me saying no. That sort of respect should be included with the fact that I’m simply older than them and I have the degree and I know what I’m doing blah blah blah. Such flawed logic. And while I don’t actually express this idea to students, I think I do reflect it a little in my actions.
3. Impatience: If a student has been pestering me, I tend to fly off the handle. I’ve gotten better over the last few months, but part of my principals problem with me has been that I don’t use the discipline system in a way that’s appropriate. I’m sending kids to the office for silly reasons and having no documentation of previous offenses. I use the referral as a threat in the classroom, and the students have picked up on it, and joke about it now. Clearly, that tool is probably long useless. I can only imagine what happens when a student gets to the office, and they can’t do anything with that I’ve given them.
4. Discomfort: I don’t feel comfortable with most of the little processes involved in being a teacher. The disciplinary process, the need to be gentle, the assumption that they really don’t know better.
It’s all about interaction. So I’m reading and reading, and trying to glean the tools I need to just be better at talking to people, essentially, which has not always been my strong point. Baby steps, baby steps.