When I was first teaching, I worked with a highly accomplished musician. He had a doctorate from Julliard (I went to Juilliard, by the way- I even have a sweatshirt to prove it). He was a phenomenal piano player, rivaling the likes of one Dr. R, my college choir director who I swear was able to play the piano while using both hands and her head to conduct us. It’s one of the reasons I am certain I will never be a college professor. But I digress. This gentleman was hired to teach middle and high school choir. And while I admit being as impressed as everyone else with his PhD from Juilliard (I went there too, did I mention that?), it soon came to light that teaching was not his ‘thang.’ He had never had an education course. He had never taken classroom management or even observed a music class in action. I’m quite certain he never read ‘The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher.’ Because he wasn’t. He yelled and screamed; he threatened and stomped. There was a lot of storming from the room, both by him and his pupils. He didn’t understand how to set reasonable expectations and then how to get the kids to meet or exceed them. In fact, once during a fine arts department meeting, he was complaining (again) about the kids and how they didn’t know how to sing. The band teacher scoffed, “So teach them!” To which Mr. PhD replied, “That’s NOT my job!” Dumbfounded, we all wondered who’s job it was.
I never questioned my own classroom management skills after working with him. Sure, you have days that are a little off- the kids are nosier, more excited, more animated than others. Today, for example, the last day before winter break… oh hell, I’m a Christian and it’s my blog- before CHRISTMAS break, the kids are nutty. But I have rules set in place for how students should behave in my room. It might take a minute or two longer for them to remember those rules on a day like today, but they do remember them and we’ve had fun playing two drama games without getting out of control.
Classroom management can make or break a classroom. Heck, it can make or break a teacher. Some people understand it and are made to enforce it. Some people… (insert BIG sigh here)… are not. Those people not only make their own lives difficult, they make it hard for others too. No matter the expectations from one classroom to another, students who get worked up and riled up during one class find it hard to get control immediately for another. They are just kids, after all. And you know that you remember being a little naughtier than usual when you had a substitute, especially for a particularly strict teacher. Try to imagine having that substitute every day- one who seemed to shuffle their way through each class, who’s discipline was inconsistent at best, and who had no follow through except, “Go to the office!” without even an explanation of what you’d done.
It makes me tired just thinking of it… by the way, I realize this post is slightly unfinished. I did start with a purpose in mind but then remembered that it’s the interwebs and anyone can find anything on here. I decided to refrain from the specific example that got me started on this rant in the first place. So I apologize for the disjointed feeling and the rather sudden ending. I guess the good Southern girl is coming out. Because, as I learned on a TV show the other night, “If you’re going to talk about people, you have to whisper!”
Did I mention I went to Juilliard?