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Who's Your Mommy?

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On Monday I gave the best lecture ever to my students. I’m calling it the “Mother’s Day Speech” from now on. I had them trembling, cowed, even a little afraid of me. Here’s what happened:

I had to leave one of my classes in the hands of a substitute teacher. The students knew there was going to be a sub, and I had reviewed the assigned tasks to them ahead of time. I was attending a meeting during this class, and students knew I was in the building. Still, they reverted to toddlerhood in my absence, apparently forgetting any rules or manners.

When I returned to my classroom later that day, I found tiny globs of red and white sticky stuff EVERYWHERE. Apparently there had been a breakfast battle in my classroom. I found the note from the sub telling me which students had thrown the pastry, and at whom. I learned that right after this class a fight broke out between two students, apparently a carryover of tensions that had built up. I had to report three students for throwing food (when they’re not even allowed to eat in the room), one for name-calling/bullying, and one for using foul language. I gave three detentions to clean up my room. I apologized to the custodial staff for the mess. I picked up trash.

The next day I was having a VIP visitor to observe these ninth graders. I had been, up until that morning, very proud of this class.

So on Tuesday morning I refused to open the doors to the class until it was time for class to begin. I sat in silence for two minutes and then quietly began to speak. Here’s the gist of it. “If you were at home, and your Mommy had to go to work, would you go into the kitchen and start throwing food around? If you did, when your Mommy came home, what would she do? I suspect she would yell, make you clean it up, and ground you. She certainly would not leave you alone again, because you could not be trusted. But she would still love you, because she is your Mommy.

“I am not your mommy. And I am not feeling any love right now. I am your teacher, and I need your respect in order to give respect back to you. I am sorry I invited this visitor today, because I am no longer proud of this class. Now let’s get to work.”

You can guess how it ended. The visitor came, the students worked like they have never worked before, and I was proud of them. I am proud of them. On this Mother’s Day I am thinking about my speech, and the fact that I do feel a bit like a parent to all of them. I am sad when they disappoint, and extremely proud when they rise to a challenge. I am looking back at what they were like when they arrived in my world in August, and I am looking ahead to where I hope they are going. OK, I’ll admit it. I am feeling the love

11 Comments

That brought me back. I taught for 10 years and loved it. You actually do feel like they are your children in a way. You sound like a great teacher!!!

You go girl. I work in SPED middle school and it is a constant battle when I leave and a sub comes in. I see gains and become so proud of my kids until the time comes that I have to leave.. I think they are afraid I will move them up and out if they are good and they will lose me.
Cooperative and Co teaching are wonderful...I have been doing it for years and for most of my kids it works...
Congrats on working toward your masters.. I think it was the best thing I ever did and am not working on my EdD..

Kris

Teaching is an act of love and courage. It's purpose is to change lives, to inspire, to open doors to knowledge and skills for independence. It's not always easy...and sometimes very difficult...bless you for having the maturity and wisdow to care, to never give up and the will to address each issue as they arise

Yesterday I left my class of fourth graders with a sub. He will be with them for the next eight school days as I recover from achilles surgery. It was ironic to find and read your note today. I am hoping that my class will not resort to toddler like behavior. I love you analogy to being a mom. And the idea that respect is earned by their perfomace in the classroom. It is a great feeling to watch your students do well soically as well as academically. AND it hurts to see them fail in either of those areas.

Yesterday I left my class of fourth graders with a sub. He will be with them for the next eight school days as I recover from achilles surgery. It was ironic to find and read your note today. I am hoping that my class will not resort to toddler like behavior. I love you analogy to being a mom. And the idea that respect is earned by their perfomace in the classroom. It is a great feeling to watch your students do well soically as well as academically. AND it hurts to see them fail in either of those areas.

What a great idea!!! Letting them know you are hurt, rather than angry, is a more valuable lesson. They already know you're going to be angry!!!

I enjoy your blogs!!!!

A snair for many teachers (parents) seems to be having the students (children) become too dependent on them, which causes a fear to be independent and to move on. A good lesson is always "I love you very much, however this behavior is NOT acceptable." They need to learn that behavior is chosen, but love is unconditional. When students learn they have control over their own learning and behavior, as well as the resulting consequences, great strides can be made!

Hanne:

Ah, the "mother rule"! (If your mother was here, would you act this way/ do what you're doing?) I taugt for 16 years, and applied this single rule for the last 14 of that stretch - it does solve more than a few problems - great application!

I taught for 11 years before going into Administration and I've always found that children want to please you and are more upset when they disappoint you than when they make you angry. (even though they know you will be angry!) Keep up the great work! You have to love the children you work with, or you can't do it for long!

Good Talk. All kids need to know love and be able to openly talk about it in a healthy environment.
A principal in a neighbouring school has introduced calling substitute teachers to their school as 'guest'teachers.

I've been teaching in HK since 1976. Your blog always inspires me. I love it. Cheers.

John

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