The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strictest Teacher?

Last year, to my shock and amazement, I was voted strictest teacher in the year book. Strictest teacher? What? Me?

I was genuinely surprised. I don't think I am all that strict at all... but apparently I am. Another teacher here at school has apparently been having some trouble with getting the students to listen to her, so she came to me today for some advice about a particular student. When she told me the student, I was shocked. It is one of my honors students, and a student who I could never imagine talking back to me, yet she is talking back to this teacher very disrespectfully and not listening at all.

Then I started thinking, there are very few students whom I can imagine talking back to me. There are only a couple I can think of who would dare talk back to me in class, and I have them on a very tight leash. They know that it would be one stern warning and then a quick trip to the principal's office if they so much as rolled their eyes at me again. But seriously... that like NEVER happens in my class. I was honestly astounded to hear what is happening in this other class. I think of all my students as such good, respectful kids. Lazy, yes, but disrespectful- no. How then, could they be so different for this other teacher?

I suppose I am a strict teacher... although I don't really know what it is that makes me "strict." I honestly send maybe only 1 or 2 referrals a week, if that. There are weeks when not a single referral leaves my room. Wouldn't a strict teacher be one that is sending students down to administration left and right? It just doesn't happen in my class. It is not like they sit in rows and work quietly all period. They do group projects and discussions, and I usually let them talk quietly while they work, as long as it doesn't get out of hand and work actually gets done. How is that strict?

Okay, I do set high expectations for them, and I do expect them to meet those expectations, but I don't really see how that is strict. I do assign Saturday school if they don't get their major assignments done (not little things like homework, I am talking about major essays and projects), but I'm just being consistent in my expectations that they strive for success. That's not exactly strict.

When she came to me for advice this morning, all I could really tell her was, "Be consistent and just don't take any crap." I don't really know what else to say. I don't know how to teach discipline, because I don't think I ever had to learn it. Can it even be learned?

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