Current/Recent Reading List

07 October 2006

One-Sixth of the Way Home (Part 1)

One of the toughest teachers at our school, our World History and Civics teacher, told me that a couple of students we had in common last year visited her the other day. They told her that Mr. P's class this year is harder than their history class last year. Well, I don't believe it, but I'll still take it as a good sign. Here at the end of the first six weeks of year #5, I believe I'm closer than ever to being the type of teacher I aspire to.

I'm not intending to brag, because I have miles to go before I sleep (so to speak). However, I'm a better planner, a better organizer, a more efficient worker, and most importantly, a better classroom manager than I've ever been. It used to be I would enter the school year talking a big game to myself about how the kids were going to tow the line this year, or they would find out I meant business real fast. But this internal bombast always felt a little hollow, if I'm going to be honest with myself. I'm a softy at heart, and nine times out of ten I would threaten kids with disciplinary action and then not follow through as well as I should have - or at least I would wait until things had gotten much worse than they needed to be.

Sometime last year, though, my confidence started to click. By the spring, I had become less afraid of conflict, and had fairly well-run classes, even though there were some challenging kids in them. As a result, I guess, this year I didn't come in trying to pump myself up about my new tough-guy attitude. I've just gotten in the trenches and stayed there. Within the first two weeks I was calling parents left and right, and keeping in touch with the principals about problem kids. I also flew into a well-timed (though authentic) rage a couple of Fridays ago in my Honors class, something quite rare for me. I think I shocked them, and they have been easy to settle down since then.

There really is no secret to this, in teaching or anywhere else: take care of problems as soon as you see them cropping up, and you save yourself long-term grief. I'm a natural conflict-avoider, though, and my learning curve on this life lesson has been a long one.

Of course, now that I've publicized how pleased I am with myself, I'm sure my classes will turn into total wrecks.

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