(More management advice as we move toward the antsy days of winter. Please pass this one to newbies.)
I took my elderly parents to Arbys recently. We sat near two women with three kids, a couple of friends out for a family lunch. One kid complained about mom telling him to keep his sandwich together while he ate. I liked her response.
“Well, I understand your feelings,”she said’ “but I make the rules.”
No hedging, no discussion, no negotiation. You can’t smear your cheese around. You also have to pick up after yourself at the end.
I liked mom’s attitude. She seemed entirely calm, relaxed. The family structure was not a democracy. The kids still seemed to have a fun lunch within the prescribed limits. Lunch was a win for the moms, kids and all the people in the restaurant. Future patrons won’t have to clean random cheese smears out of their clothes.
Those kids should also be easy to teach.
Eduhonesty: Firm, loving parents tend to produce successful students. All kids are different. Some can be more challenging to teach and to parent. But “I make the rules” establishes a helpful framework for parents and teachers. Teachers may wish to talk about rules at the start of the year and current fashion has students helping determine those rules, a good policy when enough critical discussion about the rules leads kids to know why they are doing what they are doing.
But once the rules are in place, you will want to avoid interchanges with students about whether or not those rules are fair, desirable, applicable to the current situation, etc.
“I make the rules.” You can say that. Or “I understand your feelings, but I must enforce our rules. We have a lot to learn today and we can’t bog down here.”
Your classroom, your rules, your rodeo.
If an errant student still wants to smear cheese, you should call home and apply an immediate penalty. Many teachers get tired in November as the days get shorter and colder, and the honeymoon period from the start of the year fades away. That tiredness can lead to apathy where the cheese in concerned. What’s a little cheese? You might think, while busily planning your next activity. But don’t turn your back on the cheese! You have to keep the cheese inside the bun. If not, you will be fighting cheese smears all year.
A catchphrase like “My classroom, my rules, my rodeo,” can help. Your phrase is shorthand for the more inflammatory, “I am in charge here.” An added, “We have a lot to learn!” puts the big issue out on the table. Praise the student who gets back on task. But get that student back on task. Moving a student to a desk near you or to a desk away from other students often helps.
You will be much happier in February if you make your stand now.