“HEY! SHUT UP! Can’t you see I’m talking to another teacher? Stop being so rude.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been in the room. After all, it was the second semester, and this was a new group of students. I was there to demo some features about Google Drive that the team was incorporating for the semester, and was asked to be there at the beginning of the period.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have remained silent, flabbergasted by the combative response to a group of students off task. It was the first day of the semester, and they had not yet been instructed on procedures. That doesn’t excuse it, yet how am I to respond without turning every one of the 33 skeptical and stunned sophomores in the room against this teacher? I don’t believe in the pitchfork mentality, and nothing I can think of would have helped here.
Perhaps I shouldn’t harbor this disgust for something that happened so long ago. The students in the room have likely moved on, grown accustomed to this teacher’s abrasive demeanor, and accepted that it’s just how it goes in (teacher)’s class. Damn, that’s painful to write. In some classes around the country, students are forced to thicken their skin out of tough love or blatant disrespect, and they do, most of the time without defense.
Perhaps this is the reason why I am out of the classroom, supporting teachers to create better experiences with—and for—their students. For the majority of my job, I am working with the willing. They welcome me in, ask for ideas, and collaborate on ways to improve instruction. How about those who aren’t asking? Am I doing a disservice to those teachers’ students by intentionally ignoring the problem?
Perhaps this is why I wrote a book on taking risks and creating a positive classroom culture, because we can’t be naive to the idea that all teachers have the same method of showing that they care. Not all teachers care if their students care. I have no illusion that everyone who reads Classroom Chef will set up a risk-taking classroom and acquire a desire to cultivate curiosity.
Perhaps this is yet another reminder that a class set of devices, a training on effective instruction, and any other form of support or intervention, will not make you a better teacher. In fact, it can make you worse. Think about that.
Going back to the quote above, I’m printing this out and putting it next to my computer. I want it to serve as a sobering reminder that we all have work to do, whether it is in our own classrooms with our own students or within a larger ecosystem to affect change in a broader scale. We all have work to do.
Be the person who reads the first line of this post with disgust, vowing to ALWAYS make your classroom a space where kids feel safe, welcomed, and cared about.
Happy “I’m Gonna Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap” Fishing