Yes, I cursed my kids!
I’m not a bad guy. Yet, I cursed my kids. Why did I dare to do such a thing? Well, it seemed necessary. Not necessarily for their education, but for my sanity. Be honest… If you have children of your own or are a teacher, you’ve certainly considered it. But this time… I cursed my kids!
I know we are always supposed to be positive in affect and attitude. The media tells us that, as adults, we are to be bright and shining lights of encouragement to all our students, especially the most challenging and difficult ones. My Twitter feed abounds with feel good exhortations from other educators about being nice. And I agree with them. But this time… I cursed my kids!
My colleague once boasted that he always said hello to every student who entered his room and he advised that I should do so too. My response to that was, “What makes you think I’m not doing that?” He ran a teacher popularity contest one year among his classes. I think it really irritated him that I shared 1st and 2nd place in every poll with Ms. Curtis (I’d come in 1st in one class with Ms Curtis 2nd; then she’d come in 1st in another class with me 2nd). I run a tight goal oriented classroom [see: Goal Oriented] and I have been known to employ what I call, ‘foot in ass technique’ [see: Educational Expert for this technique to be explained] and yet I did well with students. But this time… I cursed my kids!
This (doing well with my students) was made plain to me, not by some goofy popularity contest, but in the Assistant Principal’s (aka: AP’s) office. I was passing by on my conference period and the AP called me into his office. He had a student in there. I knew the kid. He was a rudy poot little kid (according to the Urban Dictionary: a rudy poot is someone who is more or less a wannabe, poser, loser, or something to that effect) who wanted to be seen as a tough guy. The AP said to him, “I’ve got referrals from all your teachers except Mr. D.. Why is that?”
The kid shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, “Mr. D. come at you with respect.”
I’m not saying these things to boast or to excuse any of my behaviors. I just want you to know that I was successful using respect and kindness more often than not. But this time… I cursed my kids!
The Immature Class from Hell
Be honest. Sometimes it seems like nothing works. They don’t tell you that in teacher school (Educational Methods Classes). We are always told platitudes like, ‘Don’t shout’ or ‘If the student isn’t learning look at your own practice,’ or ‘Each child is a unique flower in the garden of humanity’. All of these have a ring of truth and some validity. But I also say, “You’re unique! Just like everybody else!” So get over it. Admit it, sometimes nothing works.
I had just such a class.
They were mostly giggly girls. I’ve written about them before, several times. The few guys in class were totally intimidated and they kept their heads down and their mouths shut. Not my ladies. They’d argue with me about everything.
The Dinosaur Stamps
I instituted a warm up lesson (on district orders) that I figured all the kids could do while I took attendance. I had a variety of rubber stamps that I bought when I taught second grade. I had dinosaur stamps carrying signs saying ‘Well Done’, a stamp with a dragon giving a kiss to a kid, and a stamp with a windsurfer sailing away. Those who were struggling got a stamp of a kitty cat hanging from a sign which read ‘Hang In There’ (of course). That was for my second grade class.
These girls were all high school age and wanted to be treated like adults. They dressed like adults [see: Naive Sophistication], but they insisted on acting like little kids. Not only did they giggle, and smirk and make weird hand gestures at each other [see: Stranger than Fiction], but they went wild when I gave a ‘Hang In There’ stamp to a kid who was working below grade level but really trying. They ALL wanted a stamp from then on.
I don’t mind a little immaturity.
I expect some immaturity in every class. They’re teenagers! They are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit in to, or, out of the general scheme of things. But sometimes we teachers get a classroom roster that is just a bad combination of personalities. Sometimes it’s all gangstas’ with rivals and enemies all in the same room. Sometimes teachers get the seriously dysfunctional without the time or support to be of help [see: When You can’t Fix Stupid #2]. And finally, all of us get classes of immature teens. There is usually an ebb and flow of behaviors in those classes. Things can go well and you’d call it a good day. When things don’t go well, it is a frustration difficult to withstand. It was just such a day when I cursed my kids!
A Gift from Teacher
I was trying to tell them about a computer program with which they could finish High School in a shorter amount of time [see: Don’t Shout]. This was a great gift to them because many were far behind in credits and in serious danger of not graduating. They refused to quiet down or listen or take what I was saying seriously. I figure, it’s one thing to not take the class or the algebra requirement seriously. I get that. I tried to make my classes as interesting and as relevant as I could within the constraints set by my school district (and yes, there were times when I said, “To Hell with the district mandates, I’m teaching what is needed.”). I had been around long enough to know that what is interesting to one student is boring to another, so I wasn’t fazed by the usual disrespect.
This was different. This was a real bonus for them. I didn’t make any more money or gain any prestige. I was simply trying to help them and they would not listen. So, I cursed my kids!
Call me, Mr. King Lear!
The bell rang and they were waiting to be dismissed. I had a rule that if I needed to make an announcement and they weren’t quiet before the bell, I’d keep them after the bell to make it. I finally had their attention. I remembered what a mother had once told me about having a 14 year old daughter [see: The Two worst Times]. So I used it.
I said, “I’ve had it with the behavior I’ve had to endure. You may not notice it, but I’m about to lay a curse on you. Remember this day and what I’m saying.” My arm swept the room as I said, “May you all grow up and have daughters. May your daughters show you the same amount of courtesy and respect you’ve shown me today.
Then you may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!”