You Don’t Have to Be Nice — Continuing the New Teacher Disciplinary Implosion Posts

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You don’t have to smile all the time. You don’t have to seem warm and fuzzy. If you are doing your job, your students will sense your effort and commitment. You may not be a “popular” teacher, but your students will have your back. Sometimes I think education classes underestimate America’s children. Children know when people are trying to help them.

I saw a poster in a classroom yesterday that I liked:

As long as your kids understand your mission, you will be fine whether you can manage warm, fuzzy and fine or not.

Eduhonesty: One difficult part of classroom management for some starting teachers is a natural inclination toward the warm and fuzzy. You love kids, right? Most people who go into teaching love kids. That’s why they decide to teach, foregoing twice their starting salary by studying differentiation strategies instead of engineering.

But warm and fuzzy can be antithetical to classroom management. The degree of warm and fuzzy you can get away with will depend on the size and composition of your class, as well as your own ability to project authority. If projecting authority does not come naturally to you, warm and fuzzy may translate into “Yes, teacher, we will start the work as soon as we finish this game” or a sea of conversations that block all your best attempts to explain a set of directions.

You have to feel out this piece of advice for yourself. Maybe warm and fuzzy has been working great for you this year. Some teachers can get all the content across while still being a teacherly version of a Care Bear. If so, kudos, and feel free to completely ignore this post!

If classroom management has been providing moments or even days of stress, though, I will make an observation: Some students will take advantage of too nice or too understanding, and it only takes a few kids going off track to take a class off track in the wrong circumstances. Yes, Joey is tired, yes, Chloe is dealing with issues at home, yes Brandon is struggling with ADHD, and Kit has an eating disorder. You want to be kind. Letting your students off the hook on any regular basis will not be helping them, however. In the end, sixth grade will follow fifth, algebra will follow pre-algebra, and your job is to get Joey, Chloe, Brandon and Kit ready for their next adventure. That may require not smiling. That may require calling home regularly to get a student to do homework and classwork. That may require detentions and consequences, as well as the easier pep talks and offers of understanding.

Strictness works when students see that you are treating all your students in the same fashion, especially when praise is regularly bestowed for honest, diligent efforts. Joey and Chloe will do their best work when they know that you are paying attention to their attempts to keep learning.

Are you, possibly, being too kind? If you are spending a lot of time managing behaviors at this point in the year, you should at least look at the possibility. More detentions and fewer smiles may provide you with a more orderly daily environment — which will boost learning and lower your own blood pressure most likely.

P.S. Putting that Jobs poster on your wall could help you as you work to suppress those natural smiles that may be complicating your personal disciplinary piece.

Hugs from the Blue Room.