The Sort-of-Scientific Method

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 19 2013

Zen Death Stares

Day 118: One of my favorite teaching analogies is that teachers have to operate like really good race cars. I’m not talking about NASCAR; I mean the really neat F1 cars that go on road courses in Europe. Those cars can’t just go 200 miles per hour the entire race. They have to have other gears – other speeds. They need to be able to fire up the engine down the straight-aways, and then slow it way down to take the curves. 0 to 60 and back again, as fast as possible.

This year, my racecar acquired two new speeds. First, the death stare. Second, the zen master. Today was one of those rare Mondays when they manage to come together.

Case in Point: 6C, sixth period. Teaching 6C after lunch on Mondays is loads of fun, perhaps only matched by teaching 6C on Thursday’s double block. About 15 minutes in, as I’m trying to introduce the health fair, I notice a pretty consistent level of chatter. I take a deep breath, go to my computer and type, “I’m noticing we’re having trouble staying quiet. If I hear more whispering, +2 minutes of recess each time.” No more chatter.

Without yelling, I put on my scary face. I let the class know this is one of the most serious things we’ll do all year, that the health fair is our opportunity to prove we are leaders, capable of educating others. Given that, I will accept no silliness. I expect professionalism, and leaders. Lo and behold, with only a little silliness, I then got 20 minutes of solid group work. Even the dangerous groups – of which there were several – got their work done.

Later in the day, two of my girls let me know the class was not being well-behaved in Music. Earlier, I’d found out they were terrible in Math. When I asked why this didn’t happen in Science, they said, “You don’t yell.” No yelling, sure. Calm, collected and crystal clear about what I expect? Much better than yelling. Especially on Monday.

About this Blog

Experimental Procedures of a Second-Year Teacher

Greater Boston
Middle School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)