Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Strict, Not Mean

I'll never forget the student who came to me near the end of the year and said something to the effect of, "I went around telling everyone that you were mean, but then I learned the right word.  You're strict."

(To my credit she also added that I was fair, and pretty and that she loved me.)

I actually like having the reputation of being a strict teacher, so long as nobody thinks I am cruel or unfair.  A better way of saying it these days is that I have high expectations for all of my students.  (And for myself.)

When we hold students to high expectations both behaviorally and academically, they tend to meet them.  In the essential agreements our class wrote together this year, the students actually talked about how they wanted to hold themselves accountable for their thinking, their work and their behavior. I felt so proud of both them and the stellar school I teach at that has taught them to expect the best of themselves and others!

Students (at least in primary school), often come up to their teachers with their work and say,"Is this good enough?"

My response is always, "I don't know.  Is it?"

The answer is often a sheepish look and a mumble of, "I guess I could __________."

By and large, students know what to do to improve the quality of their work, though they may not know HOW to do it.  That's where we teachers come in: those one-on-one moments, the mini-lessons, the guided reading sessions, the impromptu "Hey, I noticed _______: do you mind if we take a few minutes together to figure that out?" are some of the most powerful learning moments for students and forge some of the most trusting relationships where students know they're not going to be labelled as dumb, but they're going to be accepted for where they're at, and helped to advance a bit further.

I hope the fact that I take the time to share and chat and demonstrate and sit down on the carpet and read with a kid even though my back really hurts mitigates my reputation for strictness.  Also, laughing long and hard about twenty times a day, telling really great stories and listening to their sometimes really boring stories with genuine enthusiasm probably helps.

I'm not too worried about being mean.  And, anyway, aren't you supposed to start off the school year being really mean?

Does this look like a teacher students are afraid of?

No comments:

Post a Comment