I can see myself and my philosophy on pedagogy slowly shifting. I used to be fine with the word “rules” and “orders.” Then I went to grad school and after the initial attitude of “well, that’s weird – why is everything about rhetoric?”, the words “norm” and “barn-raising” and “classroom culture” glibly slid off my tongue.
So on Tuesday, uttering the words, “You do what I say. When I give orders, you follow,” definitely broke a few …I don’t know, philosophies? Resolutions?
I’m thankful that I think out loud. I’m thankful that I’m in a class of middle school kids who not only listen to what I say but keep me honest. In a sense, their natural penchant to absorb what I say as truth (simply because I’m an authority figure) balanced with their (just as natural) tendency to chafe against that authority really keeps me accountable and makes me try to phrase what I say in ways that are simple, interesting, and real.
It felt strange telling the kids straight up to “listen to my orders.” I’ve been hemming around that for a while now. But I felt strangely better explaining as I thought out loud.
For now, they have to listen to me because I am their authority figure to whom they go to for (educational) guidance. When they become my lawyers, doctors, and consultants, I’ll listen to them. If they tell me to shut up and sit down, I’ll do that. But until then, they need to listen and obey – regardless of whether or not they agree.
Logically that makes sense. Emotionally, it hurt. I guess I always wanted them to listen and obey because they could see that I was being reasonable and that I have their best in mind. But in the same sense, they’re middle school kids. They’d still rather play video games after I wax eloquent about social change that they could effect.
One more thing. I realized that I need to get the idea that I’m nagging out of my head. As a middle school teacher, it’s part of my job description to urge, cajole, remind, and tell them the same freaking thing over and over and over again. Because they will forget. This isn’t me discounting what they bring to the table or devaluing their worth in the conversation. This is me realizing that even though I see the glimpse of amazing adults that these kids could be, they’re not there yet. I am (well, as close to it as I can). So I have to be that person. The witchy, strict, unreasonable teacher first, and the funny, approachable, intellectual educator second.
Does this separation make sense?
This is why I loved and miss grad school. I got to learn things without feeling the pain of experience. At least though, unlike the first time around, I have more artillery and support in the areas of theory and shared experiences. The first time teaching was so bewildering. This second time is just as scary.. but I feel more prepared. Will I ever be a veteran? Do I even want to be?