The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 23 2012

Fight, not Flight

Day 33: I had a very solid Monday in the classroom. I ate a candle second period. Sixth period, my homeroom managed to pull itself together after lunch, no small feat for 25 hyper 12-year-olds.

However, my good day evaporated in the middle of eighth period. A couple of students of mine were in the office when I dropped by. Both are “frequent fliers” to the office, but I am fortunate to have good relationships with both. I spoke to the first for a few minutes about why she was there, and then offered to take the second to another room; her teacher had tried to send her to a buddy room to calm down.

Just then, I was called into the vice principal’s office by another staff member, who proceeded to tell me that I had stepped on her toes by talking to those two students when she was trying to deal with them herself. The only problem is, “tell” is not the right very in the previous sentence. It would be more accurate to say I was aggressively and unnecessarily berated for about two straight minutes.

I had no idea this staff member was interacting with the students at the time. Had I known, I wouldn’t have gone stepping on toes. And had I been told nicely what I’d unintentionally done, I would have apologized, and that would have been that.

But I wasn’t told nicely. This led me to a choice. I could either concede and apologize and be frustrated that I hadn’t stood up for myself, or I could make plain that I wouldn’t be talked to like that.

I opted for option number two. Without getting into details, it wasn’t pretty. As I said, I was pretty steamed for a few hours.

And then I realized a wonderful thing. My teacher personality is rubbing off on me. A friend and I were discussing this weekend just how different a teacher’s classroom persona can be from his or her general operating personality. I’m just as goofy in the classroom as I am in real life, but in the classroom, I can shoot a mean look. I can loom silently until I get what I want. I command complete authority.

I wouldn’t call myself meek outside of the classroom, but I wouldn’t win the Golden Backbone award, either. Today I made a conscious decision to stand up for myself, and while it took me a few hours to realize it, I was able to bring the same confidence to that interaction that I bring every day to the classroom. As much as I value success in my classroom, if a side effect of my improved second year is confidence that I can take outside the classroom, and maybe even beyond school grounds, that would be a serious win.

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Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
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