How "mean" are you?

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by raneydae, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    Oct 17, 2008

    How "mean" are we supposed to be? I'm a new teacher, so I've only been doing this for 7 weeks, but I'm already getting to the point where I realize that I enjoy my job (and my life) if I don't care as much what the students think about me.

    I think I'm getting meaner and stricter as the school year goes on - I've got too much to do to try to understand my students personal circumstances. I want to teach my lessons, and of course I want them to understand and like math as I do, but I don't really care if they are having a "fun" time learning it anymore.

    How mean are you guys? Do you not allow them to talk at all? Or can they occasionally make comments if they can bring the attention back as needed? Do you enforce each and every little rule? Do you bend the rules occasionally (like allowing students to listen to music during assignments)?

    Maybe I'm just tired after a long week, but I'm getting to the point where I don't really care if my students hate me or hate my class or math in general, as long as I can get them to shut up during class and pretend to pay attention.

    Am I supposed to be like this - or am I supposed to be nicer and want to do everything possible to somehow entertain them enough to like me, my class, and math in general?
     
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  3. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Oct 17, 2008

    First of all, you always want them to enjoy the subject. If they enjoy the subject, their behaviour will improve. Before that, however, you want them to respect the rules. Offer incentives for good behaviour, such as fun activities. I do the Math Olympics. My kids work hard in math to behave so they can play! It's great, and I will never do it more than twice a month, so my Math classes are nearly silent all the time.
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 18, 2008

    I don't think the emphasis should be on "mean." It should be on "consistent." Determine your rules. Enforce them every single time.

    The kids will see you as FAIR, not MEAN. And you'll earn their respect.

    I don't go from mean to nice, I am who I am from day 1 and stay that way.
     
  5. Mathfan

    Mathfan Rookie

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    Oct 18, 2008

    I feel like I need to be mean to be able to teach high schoolers. If I give them a little hint that I'm going to listen to their endless, irrational complains (tantrums), I'm not going to do any teaching. I finally told my students this week that if they had any complains, they could meet with me after school and discuss it in a one-hour long meeting and that during my class I was not going to tolerate any disruptions. I told them that they had two choices, either leave the class and deal with the consequences if they were very unhappy or stay and be quiet. I felt really mean about saying this, but it actually work and stopped all the nonsense.

    I tell my students frequently that my job is to teach them and not be popular or make them happy. If fact, I often tell them that there is a contest in the school for the meanest teacher and I want to win it. This way, when they complain, I tell them that it's a good indicator that I will win. I believe that if they think there is a way to make me feel guilty, they will take advantage of that.

    I still care for them and take the time to talk to some students who are really struggling and they know that I will always offer any help they need but I won't tolerate nonsense.

    There are times when I feel that I should be nicer but then I can't teach much and I go home frustrated wanting to quit teaching because I can't control the disruptive students.
     
  6. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Oct 18, 2008

    Alice - I agree with you. Both RULES and CONSEQUENCES are posted in my classroom from day 1. I also don't fight to talk over top of students. I use signals, like raising my hand if I'm far away from the lights, turning the lights off, or, if that fails, I'll blow my whistle to get their attention. The kids know if I've blown my whistle, I'm not impressed with their behaviour.
     
  7. Beverly

    Beverly Comrade

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    Oct 18, 2008

    It sounds so funny to phrase it that way, but I know exactly what you mean. I'm very preoccupied with this issue right now, as I have had varied experiences and always seemed to have classroom management issues. (Now some of my examples were before I had any official training, experience with children even, or related education). But the point is, I've been around enough to see that there are excellent teachers without degrees, excellent brand new teachers, and terrible teachers with degrees.

    I don't think I've ever been more worried about "kids liking me" than about their learning, BUT I have tried being more positive and sensitive in my response because I know plenty of times when kids are unfairly punished or teachers react without knowing the exact situation. (For example, a pre-k kid stood up to ask if we could tie his shoe, but before the words even came out, my assistant responded "Why are you up when everyone else is sitting? You think you're special? You're NOT"). But after all this time and experience, I'm starting to feel like it's not up to me to treat the children in a sensitive manner. (I still try not to resort to humiliation or something cruel, but I just worry less about giving them chances or speaking gently or positively). Or, again it's not that I want them to like me, but in the past I might have been less strict with the intention of not completely stifling their creativity. But now, again, I'm starting to care less about that because that's a privilege, not a right.

    I feel like I've tried varied techniques and am flexible and open to self-evaluation and change. But all the little tips like "if you can hear me, clap twice"- no effect. I have seen them snap to attention for this other teacher, and she's not really more "mean" or "strict" than I, that I can tell. So I am at a loss, trying to figure out- is it my tone of voice? Is it my facial expression? Is it the way that I communicate with their parents? I'm not inconsistent, but I would think the "testing" phase would be over by now. If the answer has been no every day, when are you going to stop asking?

    Sorry for high-jacking the thread, but I'm happy knowing that there are other people out there feeling like this.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 18, 2008

    I think some of it has to do with your confidence level as a teacher.

    I can walk into a class of kids who have never met me before, say "Can I have your attention please?" and get it. I'm not intimidating at 5'4", but I am confident that I know what I'm doing. That confidence works wonders.

    I had a chat yesterday with the new teacher I'm mentoring. Because of a nightmarish start of the year for our department, we have a 22 year old teacher teaching all Senior classes. Her math skills are incredible, but I think she's feeling a little intimidated with her role as teacher of kids 4 years younger than she is.

    I told her I want her to stand outside her room, and correct uniform violations of the freshmen and sophomores who pass by. (Our kids wear different colored uniforms for grade 6-8, 9-10 and 11-12.) I want her to catch every shirt tail that's out, every kid who is chewing gum. Aside from enforcing school policy, she'll learn to put that authority into her voice so that what sounds like a request is not mis-interpreted. And I want her to stand in the doorway as her Seniors walk into the room, and do the same thing. She'll start to accept herself as an authority. Then, by extension, the kids will too.
     
  9. flesteach

    flesteach Rookie

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    Oct 18, 2008

    I try to remember this quote

    "they may not remember everything you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them FEEL."

    I can't recite the formula for quadratic equations, but I know that my math teacher made me feel stupid and worthless.

    I also can't remember the exact words to the Gettysburg Address, but I know that my history teacher loved me and cared about my success.
     
  10. Beverly

    Beverly Comrade

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    Oct 18, 2008

    That kind of makes me laugh- yet it's a more concrete exercise than what my university supervisor told me.

    One of my comments from my CT was that my "attention signals" were not always fully acknowledged. My problem is- I have tried the "I'm waiting for you to be quiet" approach and it wasn't constantly effective. Now, it's more like "We're not going to wait for you", so I guess I'm working the guilt trip angle from the rest of the class. With my 3rd graders, I was able to have the students sit, stand, or read silently as a punishment, but neither that nor going over the rules and consequences seemed to have a lasting effect.

    I'm working in a childcare center and the one thing besides me that is not consistent is my co-teacher. I started out this job as a floater, then kind of hanging out as the 3rd teacher in this classroom while we waited for a new room to be opened. (We alternated duties and I did everything from teaching whole group to monitoring centers, to cleaning the room and monitoring the bathroom). One of the teachers was very strict and had excellent classroom control. The other was lazy and inconsistent, but able to scare the kids into listening most of the time. Then the strict one left with half the kids for the new classroom. It was me and the lazy teacher. Then she was out for medical reasons, and I ended up doing all the work. Finally, the director sent her to a different room and brought in someone that she deemed "strict" to be my current co-teacher. I was happy with her because she's not lazy, but she's constantly negative and is imploding from stress. (She's beginning to act very unprofessionally in front of the kids). Furthermore, since she's the opening teacher and I'm the closer, I don't have a co-teacher in the afternoons. Because we're over ratio, my kids get shipped over to the other classroom on a daily basis. OR I'll have any random teacher come in to help me. It all depends on what the director feels like doing. I really hope that when I get my own classroom, which will be mine from the start of the year, and not shared with a co-teacher, the management will improve. (If it is a confidence issue. I don't want to blame everything on the co-teacher situation, but it would be easier if all these changes hadn't occurred).
     
  11. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 18, 2008

    The example I use is this: try to imagine General Colin Powell giving a "request."

    "Could you pick up that paper please?" may sound very polite, but I'm willing to bet that everyone reading this would jump to pick up the paper if General Powell requested it. THAT'S the point I'm trying to make with this young teacher-- to put a polite air of authority into your voice. It's hard. But once you have it, it's an incredible tool.
     
  12. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    Oct 18, 2008

    I like this thread. It's a constant struggle. Someone mentione confidence and that's a big thing. I feel much more confident now in my ability to be consistent, which was an issue I had when I started teaching, I am also more confident that I actually know what I am doing. I know what I want from the kids and am confident enough to not care what they think when I enforce my rules. That makes life a lot easier. However, you will always have those who test you anyway and those are the ones that rattle the nerves (for me anyway). I personally find it so exhausting staying on top of all the little testing behaviours, but I know that if I let them go, I am in for hell later. Might as well deal with it now--If I go through hell anyway, at least I'll know I did my part.
     
  13. Samothrace

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    Oct 18, 2008

    I wouldn't say they have to like you..but I think it helps if they enjoy being there. If they really hate your class it will be an uphill battle with discipline and assignments.

    I personally think it is part of our job and obligation to try and understand our students personal situations. It's part of our job of teaching outside of our subject area. I think it's pretty lousy to just turn them into maybe paying attention robots in your class. Why did you got into teaching then?


     
  14. Samothrace

    Samothrace Cohort

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    Oct 18, 2008

    Creativity is a right and not a privledge. I'm an art teacher and always have to advocate myself and my profession. They learn just as valuable of tools in art as they do in reading/math/writing or whatever the case may be.


     
  15. Beverly

    Beverly Comrade

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    Oct 18, 2008

    Sorry, I can see how that might have sounded like I was anti-arts, but I'm not. What I'm trying to say is that with this particular class, I'm not seeing the minimum level of respect towards the materials and teacher to give them that leeway.
     
  16. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    Oct 18, 2008

    Well, of course I like my subject matter and of course I like teens. I'm not saying that I hate them - they just wear me out sometimes! I would absolutely LOVE to make my class fun and exciting and I consider myself a fun and exciting person, but when you cannot get a classes attention enough to do those fun activities, you're kind of stuck.

    I don't like being mean, but I'm finding that being "mean" (and of course I'm not talking about being humiliating) is the only way I have enough order in the class to actually teach anything.

    It's a huge shame, but while I was always told that if I'm engaging, aka "entertaining", enough to keep their attention that I won't have behavior issues, I'm finding this not to be true. If high schoolers think class is fun time, then they don't want to do anything that makes their brains think.

    So I'm just trying to find the balance and wondering what other teachers are like. :)
     
  17. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    I agree with you 100%. As teachers, we are taught theories of teaching and learning. Quite often, those theories do not do justice to reality. For two years, I taught in an environment where I could be creative and engaging. The results were exactly like what we are taught to expect. However, I have come to believe that this didn't happen because I, as a teacher was engaging--it may have helped, but the bottom line is that the kids that I was teaching were taught respect and manners by their parents. They were well rounded, which led them to be receptive and to benefit from creative and engaging teaching. This year, I am in an environment where the home stories of most are very sad. Attempts at some of those previously successful creative ideas here is a total flop. The only thing I can see (since I have not changed), is that my 'clientele' is different. They are cynical, have no manners and are disrespectful. They have not been taught the basics of dealing with people and new situations, and so are not receptive to learning, even in a more interesting and fun setting. It's draining. I've realized that this year I'm playing a different game--so as long as I'm in the school I'm at, I'm all business, all about routines and not letting anything go.
     
  18. MsMar

    MsMar Fanatic

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    Oct 18, 2008

    So true! I haven't a clue what I specifically learned in 7th grade math but I know I had an unpleasant teacher who looked distinctly happy any time I did poorly on her tests.
     
  19. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Oct 18, 2008

    You are not mean. Kids refer to anyone who has any type of standards as mean. I recall a parent who had her child removed from a class because her daughter complained her "mean teacher" only served cake at the class party while next door in Mrs. X class the fare was cake AND ice cream.

    Like it or not, every teacher is a disciplinarian. Many associate disciplinarian with drill sergeant, heavy handed, don't smile until Xmas types. This points to fact how little we understand about discipline.

    The notion a teacher can have high standards and, also, be friendly, warm, and caring is foreign to many. The stereotype dictates if you run a tight ship you must be "mean'. Moreover, research done in real classrooms points to fact effective teachers - those who ensure students reach their full potential, increase time on task and elicit cooperation - are anything but mean.
     
  20. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Oct 19, 2008

    I don't think I'm "mean" at all. I'm consistent. Consistency goes a LONG way toward making your life simpler. When you are consistent, nobody is left guessing what you expect at any given time.

    As far as enforcing all rules all the time, yes I do. The "rules" are the things that aren't up for discussion . . . fighting policy, drug policy, dress code, prohibited items, etc.

    How you run the classroom from day to day falls more in to the "procedure" category. You decide what you permit during any given activity and stick with it. Now, procedures CAN change, but you need to not change them up too much or you lose your consistency. For instance, if you allow them to listen to music one day and not the next, then you are setting yourself up for whining and the "why not" questions when you don't allow it.

    As for talking, they can talk sometimes. Sometimes they can't. The important thing is that I have taught them when they can and can't talk, and at what levels. For instance, when they are reading silently, there is NO talking. When they are working on independent work, they can talk . . . but only at a level 1 voice, which is a whisper. And they have also been taught that the whispers have to be to a desk neighbor, and they have to be on topic and last less than a minute.

    It's also easier to loosen up on them when they show you that they can handle it than to try to tighten down when you started them with less structure than they needed.
     
  21. TeacherC

    TeacherC Connoisseur

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    Oct 19, 2008

    I know exactly what you mean. My 'clientele' come from homes where education isn't valued and very rarely are rules enforced. (Although I feel that I must say that's not 100% of my students...just the majority). I do teach 4-6 year olds, so it is a little different, but sometimes when I tell my husband something that happened during the day, he'll say "You're so mean!"....I don't think I'm being mean, just fair. The kids I work with need STRUCTURE big time since most don't receive it at school. I keep my standards high (especially for behavior), and most of them rise to the occasion. I actually have one little girl that will be starting her new behavior plan tomorrow, and can move back to a table with the rest of the students when her behavior improves.....mean? Maybe to some, but I think that when she is disrupting her tablemates and not learning herself, something needs to be done.... :2cents:
     
  22. CanadianTeacher

    CanadianTeacher Groupie

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    They say that the first five years of a child's life are the most important. If your students do not get the structure at home, you are doing them a great service giving it to them at school, even if it is perceived by some as being meant It may not change much, but then again, it may because they are still impressionable and want to please adults. When they are taught how to behave early in life, less intervention is needed later. What happens when you don't bother to enforce rules early and insist on appropriate behaviour? You end up with unruly, disrespectful and manipulative middle schoolers later on who are a drain on society! (And from there it just gets worse!). Good for you for sticking to your guns!!

    I just want to add, that I also have a few good kids in my classes, but unfortunately, they are the exception, not the rule.
     
  23. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    Oct 24, 2008

    Just wanted to say that I am really enjoying this thread! There are such thoughtful comments and responses...thanks!
     
  24. ABall

    ABall Fanatic

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    Oct 24, 2008

    Just wanted to jump in here and say.......

    I homeschool my kids and they are always telling me how mean I am for making them "do those hard pages"......the one that whines the most is usally the one that finishes first.:thumb:
     
  25. Sam Aye M

    Sam Aye M Mr. Know-It-All

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    Oct 27, 2008

    I work in a high school special ed class, and have been there for 12 years.

    My students always know what to expect from me. They will argue, bicker, yell, curse, etc, but they know that for the most part, I am not going to budge on rules. They say I am picking on them, I tell them that I am just enforcing rules, same as everyone else should be. "But Mr so-and-so doesn't enforce that rule!" Well, I do. I've had kids curse at me at the top of their lungs, and not win whatever they were trying to win. After a while, everyone learns to not argue, because (as one former yeller stated to me) "We can't win, so may as well stop." It sounds harsh at first, but after a while, the whole class runs smoother when everyone knows what to expect.

    Students have told me "You're Mean Mr Sam," and I usually reply with "I know, I've been saying that for years, but no one ever believes me," or "I know, you should try it, it's fun. Oh wait, you already do!" Both usually illicit a laugh from them. Just recently, one student, after having an argument with another teacher, came into my class and told me that Mr so-and-so is "just mean and bossy and rude. He doesn't want to hear anything." that student, who has had arguments with me in the past, said that so-and-so wasn't like me. She said I wasn't mean, I was strict. She said I explained things and listened, but I wasn't a pushover. She said that I was "fair," even if they didn't agree with my decisions. The way she described me was perfect, because that is what I strive to be. I try to be fun, fair, and consistent. I'm not successful all the time, and i know sometimes i can be dragged into a power struggle, but in the end, I try to be as fun, fair, and consistent as I can. As I tell my students, there's a time for clowning around in class, and a time for serious business. The sooner we can recognize when it's time for each, the happier we will all be.
     
  26. Greensleeve

    Greensleeve Rookie

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    Nov 2, 2008

    Though I am still new, I can say that there's a big difference between being strict and being mean. I don't think you have to be mean to be strict. What about the saying, of "drawing hard line with a soft touch?"

    All things aside, I still desperately need to control my classes. I made the rookie mistake of being the softie in the beginning and now I am fighting an uphill battle. But tomorrow is going to be a new quarter, so I can start everything anew (though students still think I am a pusher). I can expect a lot of battle to reestablish my authority, though being respectful and humorous to students helps.
     

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