After 12 years of little darlings and plenty of missteps, here are a few lessons learned:
8. I will never win a power struggle with a teenager. I’ve tried and failed. It’s way easier to win them over before there’s an issue. I’ve learned that being proactive beats reactive every time. Sometimes when it’s too late, “Let’s worry about this later” works pretty well to diffuse a tense situation.
7. Asking a little stinker “How can I help you?” is a great way to start a conversation about their behavior. It totally disarms them and catches them off guard. The stinkers expect to get in trouble, they’re used to lectures and threats. They don’t expect a teacher to offer help. It’s my favorite way of showing a kid, “look, I’m on your side. Help me help you.” It really changes both of our perspectives. “Can you help me out?” is also an effective tool. You’re such a funny guy and the class loves you, but the problem is that The Sra. Chase show is turning into the Jack Miller Show. Can you help me out? It would really help me out if you could encourage your classmates to stay focused”. Who doesn’t want to be asked for help?
6. Anticipate everything. This is one that has gotten easier with the years…I’ve developed a sort of Super Hero Teacher Radar…I know the kids who are going to drive me crazy before they start to drive me crazy. I make it my mission to win them over before they even know I’m on to them. Years ago, I had a conversation with a little stinker that went like this:
Sra. Chase: Stick around after class, I want to chat with you. Little Stinker: Why am I in trouble? Why am I always in trouble? Sra. Chase: You’re not in trouble. I wanted to talk to you before you get into trouble.
5. In real estate they say location, location, location are the 3 most important things. In the classroom I say relationships, relationships, relationships are the most important. I have a secret goal to make everyone one of my little darlings think they’re my favorite student. It’s a pretty effective strategy…until I get overwhelmed by letter of recommendation requests for scholarships and college applications. Totally worth it. I read a quote (I think in Teaching with Love & Logic, incredible read, one that I go back to every year!) that went something like this: If a kid likes himself, he will work regardless of if he likes his teacher. If a kid doesn’t like himself, he will work only if he likes his teacher”. I want my little darlings to like me…it makes my job so much easier. And they like me because I like them. Get to know your precious little ones in your care.
4. Sometimes manipulation works…. When I have a class that is kind of lame, I’ll casually mention “you are my funniest class”. Sometimes when I get a class that that sucks at singing, I tell them “You guys are my best singers”. Every once in a while I get a class that is an uphill battle…and I tell them “You are my favorite class”. It’s some sort of a freaky reverse psychology trick but it works! They work harder at being funny or singing or not being such trolls. I can’t explain it…it works like magic. Every class wants to be the best/funniest/most creative/ kindest. Create yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. You know on those days when they are just WILD ANIMALS? You know, there’s a pep rally and Spring Break is two days away and of course, we just had a fire drill and it’s a full moon too. You can just feel the energy brewing and if you turn your back on them, they may start crawling up the walls. (Please tell me it’s not just my little darlings!?) Turn the lights off and carry on as usual. It’s another freaky psychology trick I’ve discovered. It just brings their energy to manageable levels and gives us just a touch of zen.
2. Meet them at the door. I know it’s important but I wasn’t very consistent with it until I started implementing class passwords last year. The password ritual is about so much more than making a kid say the phrase of the week…it gives me a chance to look every one of my little darlings in the eye. It gives be a preview of who is on top of the world and who’s having a crummy day. It gives me a chance to address any dress code violations before they walk into my classroom. (Oh honey, your tummy looks cold! Zip your sweatshirt up!). I like to give my little darlings high fives on their way into class as a way to connect with each one of them. No one can slip in unnoticed.
1. I have to pray. A lot. When I pray for the ones that are hard to like, something changes inside me and I start liking them more. I know one thing for sure, this job is too hard to do without the Lord.
Mostly all my ramblings are summed up best by this quote. This hangs in my closet at school and reminds me every morning that the only thing I can really control is myself: