The "Nice" teacher

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Today is only my second day, and our office manager sent me an e-mail telling me that one of my students apparently said I was their favorite teacher because I was "nice".

    I am glad for the compliment, but I must confess, the word "nice" makes me cringe. I've been trying to be more consistent with consequences, and responding to behavior this year. I am really trying to work hard at catching things and coming off as the teacher who runs a tight ship.

    However, I am always generally very happy to see the kids and can't help but be "nice" all the time.

    I had a major problem last year where this "niceness" was seen as a weakness, and the students didn't feel like they had to listen to me.

    I have a consequence system in place and have been working to implement it religiously, but I'm still allowing a bit of leeway since it is only the second day. I know I'm supposed to be extremely consistent and set the pace from the beginning, but it's hard for me to give consequences when I'm pretty sure that they just haven't had practice with it.

    I think I'm at the point where I'll warn the class once and just begin implementing consequences, but I'm wondering if they've already seen me as a "nice" teacher and that will have consequences in the future.

    Does anyone else have the same problem? I'm also really young and energetic, so they tend to relate to me more I guess as well. Really trying to draw a boundary here.
     
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  3. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I would vote for enforcing the rules and consequences 100 % of the time, even now, on day 2.
    Why would you wait longer? The longer you wait, the deeper you enforce that you don't always mean what you say.

    "I know I'm supposed to be extremely consistent and set the pace from the beginning, but it's hard for me to give consequences when I'm pretty sure that they just haven't had practice with it." - I'm sure your rules are not anything new to them. If they're simple things like raise hand before speaking, stay seated, be respectful, etc, they've had enough practice with it before, this is not their very first day in school ever.

    So I say go for it tomorrow!
    But also don't overthink the comment, this student may feel that you're strict but also nice, and not in a way that you're a pushover.
     
  4. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician Groupie

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    I think you're doing it backwards. You're supposed to start tough from day 1, and then loosen up. Not start loose, and then tighten.
     
  5. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    I am a very nice person (from what I am told), but I mean business in my classroom and am pretty strict. While I am sure my students find me very friendly, they also know that I won't allow them to misbehave. You have to put your personal feelings for the kids aside in order for that to happen. Just remember that being consistent in enforcing the rules will allow all students to learn in your class.

    Here's an example from one of my classes today: One rule that I am always big on is that students need to raise their hands to speak during class discussions. I was asking some questions at the beginning of the period, and one of my freshmen shouted out an answer. I reminded him that he needed to raise his hand to answer a question. Later in the period, I asked another question and the same student shouted out again. I issued him a "minor offense" (a warning that's part of our school's discipline system) and told him that I needed to speak to him briefly after class. When the kid stayed after, he started crying! :eek: I just wanted to tell him that I appreciated him trying to help the discussion, but that my rule is in place so all students have an equal opportunity to participate in class. I have felt bad all night over his reaction, but at the same time I know that this behavior needed to stop today (2nd day of school) before it became a bigger problem and other students started shouting out.

    My main priority in life isn't for my students to love me. I hope they all respect me and see me as a fair teacher.
     
  6. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

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    I'm nice but still have a well-managed classroom. You set expectations for appropriate behavior and don't budge on them.
     
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I've been pretty good at reminding them of the procedures I think, and I did give out consequences for the first time today in a few of my periods. I need to just be quick and straight with them starting tomorrow. I'm writing notes of things I need to work on. I really want to keep working on being a lot more strict with speaking out loud in class.
     
  8. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I have my expectations. I just need to practice immediately catching inappropriate behavior, and acting on it.
     
  9. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    That is really important (in my opinion). I am always walking by classes where teachers are asking questions and ten kids are shouting out things at the same time. That has always been one of my biggest annoyances, and I let my students know this from day one. I won't even acknowledge a student's response if his/her hand isn't raised. They pick up on that very fast!
     
  10. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    About acknowledging a response, I've ignored it in the past, and I found that doesn't work. I really need to provide a consequence to drive the concept in.
     
  11. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Why are you warning 8th graders??? They know the expectations. Follow through and move on.
     
  12. SingBlueSilver

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    A lot of kids view me as a mean teacher. I rarely smile, not because I don't want to, but its just my normal expression. I don't look upset, just not always happy. I run a tight ship in the classroom because I ONLY have 50 minutes with my kids. Every minute that's wasted on correcting behaviors is a minute lost of curriculum. I don't "sugar-coat" or coddle the kids and am very honest and straight forward with them. I can either tell them how it is, as it is and have them correct their behavior quickly after their mistake -or- I can be 'nice' tell them that 'it's ok' when it's not and have them make the same mistake over. The latter is not an appealing option. The kids don't appreciate my bluntness at first, but in the end they make for a better student. I also am involved in the after-school programs where I do smile and I do laugh with the kids and I do joke around with them and have conversations that aren't about school work, so the kids end up seeing me in a different way. They understand that in my classroom its business, and outside is fun.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I don't think "nice" has to mean the same thing as "pushover."

    But... I think you need to be careful. I agree that 8th graders shouldn't really need a whole lot of warnings. What sort of behaviors are we talking about here?

    If they're already pushing boundaries on day 2, I think I would start some serious work on the way I wanted my classroom to run. Normally I get a honeymoon period of a few days before I have to really enforce anything at all.

    Start to devote some serious time to classroom management. You can still be "nice" but they've got to realize (today-- that first week) that you mean business.
     
  14. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Yes! Today, I will be strict! ]:<

    Gotta pump myself up and be on my game.

    About the behaviors, simply not raising their hand to speak. Yesterday, I jumped on it immediately and asked them what the procedure was. The next time someone was talking while I was talking I gave them a "check" which means a minute after class.

    Today I'm going to introduce the concept that when I give a check, I won't say their name but I will show off a small hand signal and inform them before the bell rings privately. Eventually, all I will do is give a look and they should know if they have a check.
     
  15. platypusok

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    The seventh graders think I am the most horrible person on the face of this planet. One of the juniors popped in the other day to say hi and tell me she missed me and one of the 7th grade boys said: "why do the older kids like you so much?" I wish I could explain the amount of confusion in his voice.

    I'm serious about paying attention, being respectful, doing your work but I can be nice too. The 7th graders obviously just don't think so.
     
  16. Cerek

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    Our "honeymoon period" is coming to an end as well. The kids have been very well behaved (for the most part) the first two weeks, but started becoming more bold with testing the boundaries this week. Nothing major; just having side conversations and blurting out answers or comments without raising their hand. I've also had some just sit and do nothing.

    My most advanced class has been the worst, with lots of side conversations going on, sometimes even when I was talking. Yesterday, they found out very quickly they were pushing the boundaries too far. I gave the entire class a dressing down and told them I expected...no, I required.....a lot better behavior from them. They were very quiet and dutifully raised their hands to ask or answer questions after that. Haven't had to give any consequences yet, but I let them - and the rest of my classes - know that this was the one warning they were going to get.

    As for being "nice", I agree it does not have to mean "pushover". You can be "nice" to the kids while still being very professional and running a tight classroom.

    My students have told me I'm a "mean" teacher because I never smile. I find that odd because that is completely opposite my natural personality. Then again, I have been through some major life-changing events in the last few years (divorce, hostility from my ex, loss of my dad 1 yr later, near loss of my own life the following year and then beginning a new career in my mid-40s) and I realize my personality has changed because of all this, but I still feel like the "nice" person on the inside, so I am trying to get back to that.

    But I've also told the kids that when they come into my classroom, it is time for business and learning, NOT time for socializing. I'm there to teach; they're there to learn. The rest will take care of itself.
     
  17. McParadigm

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    I always felt that if I was having to address behavior problems, then it was because the wrong behaviors were occurring. This may seem obvious, but the reason I mention it is because it seems to me that a truly successful teacher should be capable of creating a classroom where wrong behaviors are prevented before the fact.

    I always looked for ways to avoid issues, rather than react to them. For example, since I had a writing class I created a student-run help desk and then developed some procedures and lessons where a visit to the help desk was required to complete the task. Over time, kids got used to going there and seeking advice or assistance. Attention needy kids stopped acting out, because there was an avenue for their need. ESL kids stopped shutting down, because inevitably there were proficient dual language speakers who I could include among the help desk personnel. And, obviously, it produced a student buy-in that turned their perception of the classroom. It wasn't Mr. Soandso's class anymore....it was ours.
     
  18. Peregrin5

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    I love the help desk idea. Who would run it though? It would have to be someone who knew a lot of the answers. How does it work in detail?

    Today is going pretty well! I've been very consistent with the consequences most of the time. A student in just my last period happened to talk again after giving him a check, so I had to give him another one and send him off to another classroom with a Behavior Action plan to fill out.

    He returned it to me inadequately filled out, and I gave him some notes on it, i.e. I need complete sentences, I need you to have a SPECIFIC thing to help you fix that behavior, and so on, and I sent him right back.

    He came back, and I thanked him for taking the time to do it, discussed it with him while the rest of the class was working, and put it in the front of his binder to remind him of his plan.

    I also noticed that part of the problem was that he was sitting next to a student that was also very talkative, and I gave him the choice of moving or just trying to work things out by staying there.

    He VERY WISELY chose to move, and I told him I was proud of him for making that wise decision. He was beaming, and following procedures by the end of the day. It was AWESOME.

    I also kept kids in to have them FULLY complete and organize their binders.
     
  19. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    I'm the nice teacher because I let them use the restroom before they pee thier pants.

    I'm also very popular, I've recently learned, with the parents from the part of our attendance area that everyone thinks is the cause all of our behavior problems.
     
  20. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    I always tried to staff it with one high ability reader or writer (depending on what kinds of projects we were doing at that time) and one wildcard....which could be a bilingual student, a studious but low scoring individual (especially in cotaught classrooms), or a "naughty" kid with leadership skills. The strong readers are often a bit quieter, so combining the two really worked well.

    I also made a point of working hard to "sell" it to students....I gave the help desk my teacher desk and a corner of the room, decorated it substantially, and gave them a lot of minor clerical "power" as well. If there was an activity, I'd place any and all supplies needed for it in their supply cabinet, and they'd be in charge of passing them out. It cut down on a lot of transition time, too. If I was using student notebooks or folders, they'd pass them out and pick them up, which resulted in a lot fewer missing notebooks and usually meant that all the books were out before the bell even rang.

    I usually had to train the first set pretty intensely, and I did this as a whole class activity so that everybody had a clear understanding of what the desk was and why it was important. After that I'd just overlap the replacements with the old hands for a week and let them train each other. The kids got to do a lot of peer tutoring, and there were times when it felt like I had two paras in the room (except my "Experts" were often a lot more helpful).
     
  21. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I haven't had a single discipline problem yet that required more than a verbal warning. We're two weeks in now and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop :lol:

    My seniors think I'm mean so they're super quiet. My sophomores like me so they're well-behaved for me. I know it will change soon but it sure is nice. A teacher asked me today how a student's been and I said perfect and she looked at me in disbelief! For that reason, it can be helpful to talk to other teachers who have the same students. They may have ideas that work. Or you may find out they all struggle with him/her and maybe a meeting is in order.

    Keep up with your consequences. My kids usually get one warning for most things and then that's it. They have a demerit system at my school, which I really like. We also have homework intervention for kids who don't do their homework.
     
  22. Mathemagician

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    The easiest fix for poor behavior from advanced students is to mix your class more challenging.
     
  23. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Many teachers seem to set up a dichotomy in their heads of "nice vs. mean" where nice equates to having no consistency or consequences, while mean equals firm and strict. My experience has been that effective, experienced teachers know how to build strong relationships with their students, demonstrate concern, and do other things that would make a student call them "nice," yet still know how to enforce expectations, deliver consequences, engage in the "business of the classroom," etc.

    As humans, we like clear, polarized situations because they are easier to understand, and if we identify something as good we like to do more of it. So it is with being strict - some teachers decide that they value consequences and high expectations, and almost see it as a badge of honor that they are called "mean," as though that's an indication that they've stood true to their ground.

    In reality, balance is often better than the extreme. It's not an "either/or" discussion, and no teacher should take offense to being called "nice," nor accept with pride being called "mean."

    If you're confident with your expectations and consequences, and know how to demonstrate that you are serious about business of the classroom, then you can always demonstrate empathy, concern, respect, and empowerment effectively. Teachers who try to be too strict and withhold all emotional connection/support and who refuse to share control end up losing kids. It's also important to keep in mind that compliance is not the ultimate goal. A teacher is not successful because his/her room is silent, but because his/her students are learning and growing as people.
     
  24. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I'm nice, but I don't put up with crap either.
     
  25. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I'm completely understand. I simply can't help being nice, but I always want to be known as being strict too. The kids pretty much know I already love them all and its only the second day.

    But I had such a rough time last year because I was seen as too nice, and I wasn't taken seriously. I have mixed feelings about being called nice this year, consequently.

    I feel like the other teachers at my past school all thought of me as the young teacher who all the kids love, but who can't actually teach. I want that perception to change, and I've already put into place many things which I feel will have a GREAT impact this year, and am much more focused on getting work and learning done.

    The rest of the day went okay by the way. I had a problem with another student in my last period that didn't go as well as the last problem did. Apparently all of the teachers have had problems with this student, and he is just "surly". One of the teachers actually said that it's a good thing in a way that he's acting up because at least he's participating. Last year apparently he just sat in the corner and did absolutely nothing.

    The rest of the period was rather tough too because people kept talking out of turn. I gave out a lot of checks (a minute after school for those who get it), but apparently it wasn't really effective, because I heard one of my girls say: "It's okay, this is my favorite class. I like spending a minute afterwards." In response to her friend saying: "Oh you have to stay after class. That sucks."

    Apparently, I have to make my punishments more... punishing. Probably bar all friends from entering the room and require silence of those staying after.
     
  26. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Is a minute after class working? I don't think it's enough of an inconvenience for them. I would basically do the 3 strikes you're out strategy, meaning 3 warnings and then serve a 30 minute detention.
    The girl's comment about loving to stay here was kinda of making fun of the fact that's only a minute, in my opinion, as in 'so what? a minute is nothing! that's all I get? no big deal"
     
  27. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    You can always be nice but have a titanium spine attached to your smile.
     
  28. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I can make that minute very not-fun. (Pardon the horrible grammar)

    Generally they clean, stack chairs, etc. I am going to make it silent and bar friends from being in the classroom.

    The reason why it's only a minute, because that essentially IS my warning. My warning is already a consequence in itself. I have 15 minute lunch detentions for things like disrespect, unsafe behavior, etc.
     
  29. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    xD
     
  30. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    That only works if the students have the self-motivation to meet the challenge. So far, I'm not seeing much of that, but it's still early so I hope that will improve.
     
  31. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    At the end of my first year my mentor came to me and said, "You are lovely, you are sweet and you are calm. But instead of a spine, you have a giant metal rod up your back". I took it as a compliment.

    I love my kids and they know it, but I am consistent in my expectations and consequences. It's not about being 'nice' or 'mean' ... it's about consistency. Do you have someone at your school that could come sit in on your class and give you some helpful feedback? It's so hard to give advice when we can't see you in action!
     
  32. Cerek

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    You're right that balance is the key. The reason I had been giving my advanced class some leeway is that they are a rambunctious group to begin with and we meet immediately after lunch, so they are still hyped up from that. Ideally, I like a room that is quiet except for the pencil scratching across the paper, but I understand that isn't realistic and, actually, isn't even desirable. If they are that quiet, they aren't asking questions, which means the work is too easy and they aren't being challenged, or it's too hard and they aren't even trying. So I've tried to work with their talkative nature, but it did go past the line on Thursday. Not only were they having lots of side conversations, but one girl started making catty comments to another, which got the 2nd girl (and her friends) wound up and the situation had the potential to escalate. That's when I put my foot down and stopped ALL the talking completely.

    I also agree that it is extremely important to build those personal relationships with the kids. I learned that during my student teaching when I went to watch my students play basketball or volleyball or baseball or whatever sport. They realized I cared about them as more than just a body in the classroom. That created a bond, which in turn, led to them wanting to behave better in my class. And, yes, they DID think of me as a "nice" teacher, but still knew my rules would be strictly enforced.
     
  33. Myrisophilist

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    Haha, easier said than done! I totally agree with this, and I wish it was intuitive for all teachers.

    Part of the drive to categorize teachers comes from education programs, IMO. I was assigned over the years to read so many texts that classified certain teacher behaviors as good/bad, authoritarian/authoritative/permissive, facilitator/expert/coach etc. It comes down to a mix of all these different theories and categorizations which is why no one can write a guide to being the perfect teacher (although we all know people have tried!).
     
  34. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    OK, so obviously that's not working. One minute causes them no problem; it apparently doesn't interfere with their ability to get to their next class on time.

    I would talk to that young lady. Tell her what you overhead and how glad you are that she likes your class. Then tell her that you have such great plans for this year, but that they're all dependent on a class that works together WITH you, not AGAINST you. Ask for her help in this regard. Ask her to consciously work to stay quiet in class, and to get her friends to do the same. Let her know that you see her as a leader, as someone who has the power to help you make the class all it could be. (that one phrase, "I see you as a class leader" can be a miracle worker under the right circumstances. )

    Get one or two class leaders on your side, and you're good to go.
     
  35. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    There are seldom "easy fixes" when you're dealing with kids. With some groups, making the work more challenging will lead to a mutiny. Some advanced kids are incredibly high strung... push them too hard and they'll have a meltdown or worse.

    Making your class flow, minimizing transitions, using a seating chart to your advantage, talking to particular kids individually... these are strategies that might help. But none is an easy fix, particularly with a group of kids that only Cerek has actually seen.
     
  36. nyteacher29

    nyteacher29 Comrade

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    Being nice does not mean you do not have strong classroom management. Why wouldnt you want to be nice? If I heard that a student didnt think I was nice, I would be so upset. People often confuse the term "nice" with meaning weak, it does not You do not have to be mean in order to have a strong classroom management . Be nice, but be consistent with the rules. And always smile, dont listen to the "dont smile until December" What students are going to want to be in a class where their teacher does not smile!
     
  37. Rockguykev

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    I tell my kids day 1 that I'm probably the nicest guy they'll meet on campus. I then immediately tell them I am also the most demanding guy they'll meet on campus. I put my all into every lesson I create and teach and I expect the same from them. Invariably they will test to find my boundary (period 6 this year managed to push it within the first week!) and when they do I come down hard.

    I rarely have issues after that. Being nice is a huge advantage. Most kids will want to help you out. You will not face rebellion issues which are far harder to deal with than the typical "I'm going to talk because I think I can get away with it" mentality.
     
  38. Brendan

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    I echo this. I'm a very demanding teacher. Always have been. However, we as teachers, must recognize and respect student's academic limits.
     
  39. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I love this. I believe every student has the potential to be a leader. Since it's still the first week, I don't exactly remember which student said it (also because my attention was elsewhere at the time).

    I've also been told by a lot of the other teachers, the principals, and even the custodians that a lot of the girls have crushes on me (I'm pretty much the only young male teacher on campus), which they told me could be contributing to their wanting to stay after class. :confused:
     
  40. Peregrin5

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    Sep 1, 2012

    How do you come down hard?
     
  41. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Sep 2, 2012

    I stop class immediately and change the lesson. I immediately change my tone. I remove all the bells and whistles and go "old school" for lack of a better description. I write the new assignment on the white board and put them to work independently. The first student who says/does anything inappropriate AT ALL is removed immediately.

    At the end of class I explain that legally I have to teach them certain material but the law does not indicate how it has to be taught. If they want me to continue to create simulations, let them do collaborative work, etc. then I have to trust they can act like scholars. If they are going to waste time when we do something "different" then we just can't do something different. I'm bound by the law after all and I wouldn't want to break the law.

    I also kindly remind them that I know they have other classes that function like that all the time so they should understand it isn't a punishment but simply an option if they function better that way.

    They, shockingly, never want to find out.
     

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