Friday, January 11, 2008

Consistency Is Not A Bad Word

I've always thought the quickest way to undermine student trust is to enforce rules which students must follow...but teachers don't have to.

Case In Point: I recently went to an ARD proceeding in which the parent brought her attorney (this after a long history), and in which she demanded neuro-psych testing for her child. Our school's diagnostician was called in to explain why our school does not offer this (very complicated). The diagnostician, young and enthusiastic, was wearing a skirt which was out of school dress code. Sitting a little away from the table, she crossed her legs in front of the parent and attorney, and we all got a panty-shot. (I suppose I should be glad she wore underwear.)

Fast-forward to today:
One of my inclusion teachers is a first year teacher who has expressed to me he wants to switch over to classroom teaching, but he's in an alternative program and hasn't had any student teaching. Since he's in the same class twice on different days (A and B days), I've offered him the opportunity to re-teach certain portions of the lesson after he's seen me perform the day before to experience real-world classroom teaching.

Today was one of those days. He went up to the front of the classroom to review homework and begin the journal. The kids gave him a good-natured ribbing. One said, immediately, "And who are you?" though he's been in the class since day 1. We all laughed, but the same student said, "I don't know if I'm comfortable with you teaching me. What are your qualifications?"

We all laughed again, but it was a valid question, and one which this teacher will have to get used to if he intends to walk into a full-size English classroom next year with little-to-no preparation. Darwinian classroom survival continues to be the method by which education trains its teachers.

Our school policy forbids students from having food or open drinks in the classroom. To start off the new year, I re-wrote these directives in very big letters on the board. So it was that I noticed the teacher was standing right underneath NO FOOD, NO OPEN DRINKS with an enormous, open Styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand.

I didn't want to embarrass him. But by the same token, I won't subject my students to policy they are expected to follow which conflicts with what is modeled in front of them. I said to him, "Mr. R, do you have an open drink in the classroom? Because that's against school policy. If you want, you can put your drink over behind my desk where it won't spill, and pick it up again on your way out." (Which is how I often negotiate on a first offense with students.)

He laughed (we have a very amicable relationship), moved over near my desk and said quietly, "It's my drug of choice for getting through the day."

I said, "Well, you're going to have to shoot up before class starts then."

Luckily, he thought that was funny.

No comments: