Teacher War Stories 6 to 10
The Lesson of Power Struggling
"I will never forget when I "demanded" that a student put
the gum he was chewing on his nose. This was a defiant student who had been
giving me trouble since day one. It became a public power struggle as he
refused to do what I had asked him to do. I kept insisting that he put the
gum on his nose and I finally won. Later that day, after school, I was called
to the principal's office and was informed that the parent of that student
"demanded" a meeting with me the following morning. The next morning,
a meeting was held in the principal's office and I was told by the parent
that unless I gave her son a public apology in front of the class that I
had "humiliated" him, I would be faced with a law suit. The parent
was very angry and also thought that as a punishment for me, I should have
to walk around for a day with gum on my nose! You can't imagine the anxiety
that I went through. Because I did not react and stayed calm and immediately
took ownership for my actions, I believe that the parent backed off on the
punishment for me. I immediately agreed to apologize to the student and
did so as soon as I returned to my classroom. I learned a lesson from this
experience because I have never put myself or a student in a power struggle
position since then. If I have to hold a student accountable for inappropriate
behavior, I now do it privately or in a more subtle way. I also came to
realize that junior high students are under a lot of peer pressure and do
not take well to open confrontation."
The Female Challenge
Upon meeting the parents of a new child in my classroom, I was confronted
with a father who thought that teachers knew nothing and that he knew every
thing. He had little respect for women in general. He shared with me how
the teacher from the previous year how taught very little and didn�t know
how to handle his son. He began by telling me how I should handle his son,
how I should punish him and that I should not let him get away with anything.
I thanked him as politely as I could and told him that my short 25 years
in education would probably give me a little edge on his son. I told him
that I would be in contact with him and his wife and see him at the first
parent-teacher conference. The child was energetic, but very quickly realized
that the rules were also made for him. He was bright, receptive and a delight
to teach. He was respectful and when he did �forget� the rules, a simple
look was enough. By the time we had the first parent-teacher conference,
I was ready for the father. I began the meeting by telling the parents about
the talented and intelligent child that they had . He was already reading
and other subject areas were just as good. They had seen the change at home
and could not believe how he loved to read. They couldn�t believe that he
was well behaved in the classroom. I never had to call home about behavior!!
After this conference, mom began to volunteer once a week in our classroom.
She witnessed her son�s behavior for herself. Dad came to school one day
on his lunch break and asked if he could help in the classroom. I invited
him to come and join us. He began to come on his day off and help with groups
in the classroom. We all grew in respect that year, especially Dad!"
Language Lessons For An English Teacher
"One year, I gave a writing assignment and a student (while laughing) asked, "Does it have to be in English or can we write it in Japanese?" Tired and not thinking, I blurted out, "Any language you choose!"
When the students returned the next day, I had six papers in foreign languages. It must be this Internet thing I told myself. I then asked the students, "Can I grade it in any language?" They all replied "Yes!" This gave me some leverage.
I went to the nearest electronics store and brought a translation program. This allowed me to read what they had wrote. I made marks on their paper, but left the writing off. I then found a web site that translates your entries into Sanskrit a 2,000 year old dead language. I then printed out a copy of each of the comments I had for their papers.
When I gave them back their papers, they were at a loss for words. As I approached they said "Have any trouble grading our papers. I replied "No, but I think you may still have some language learning left to do." It took them two months just to figure out what language I wrote their comments in.
I admit it was a lot of work, but I don't think those kids will every try that again."