While I was scrolling through Facebook one day, I came across an interesting post published on the Scary Mommy website entitled 10 Things Mean Moms Have in Common. There were a lot of truths posted in that article that really made me think and analyze my life as a parent — and it helped me realized that I am doing a pretty good job getting my own children ready to become independent adults. It’s a role you take on for a lifetime – ups & downs, bumps & bruises, triumphs & tribulations… as a parent you are in it for the long haul.
Towards the end of the article, I began to think about how the ideas presented in the Scary Mommy article pertain to my life as a teacher. Then, just yesterday while teaching a math lesson, I had a student pull the middle finger on me while saying under his breathe, “I hate you”. Did it hurt my heart? Not at all. As I turned around to write on the Smart Board and smile to myself, I knew that I was acing my job as an educator – and it gave me the motivation I was looking for to write this blog post. True teachers take on their roles of educators for approximately 10 months a year but the effects of those 10 months last a lifetime. Ups & downs, bumps & bruises, triumphs & tribulations… as a teacher you are in it for the long haul.
Taking inspiration from Meredith Ethington’s wonderful post, here are 10 things mean teachers have in common.
1. We make our students clean up their messy work.
Nothing irritates my students more than when I ask them to redo an entire essay, project, or series of notes because of messy printing, handwriting, colouring, or failure to respect grammar conventions that were taught in class. I have had children cry, pout, and even stomp their feet when I demand that they try again and put their best effort forward. I am not looking for perfection but when I see a student give me less than his/ her best, I make them restart. I want my students to feel pride not only in their final products but in the process that they have to go through in order to get there.
2. We make them take responsibility for their actions.
Inside the classroom or outside on the playground, mean teachers take the negative moments and turn them into teachable moments. I have had students blame their parents for not putting their homework in their school bags, blame other students for their negative actions (ex. hitting or kicking classmates), and not be truthful in different situations. Mean teachers take the time to teach their students that blaming others is counterproductive. They give them hints on how to be more responsible. Mean teachers explain how their actions affect others. They show their students how and when to give an apology. They teach them that there are both positive and negative consequences for all actions they take. Mean teachers also teach their students that there are certain behavioural expectations that are needed to be maintained inside classrooms and within the school environment and that when those expectations are not met, consequences will ensue. And of course, mean teachers follow through on those consequences… even if it means giving up their recess or lunch breaks to do it.
3. We make them wear clothing that will protect them from the weather.
Canadian teachers like me know the struggle of getting children to get properly dressed for recess and dismissal times during the winter. Yes, I am talking about the dreaded snowsuit season. Every year it becomes a power struggle to get my students dressed properly for the -30 degree celsius weather. There are always a few that try to get out without putting their snow pants on and then there is always a few that can’t find a mitten, a hat, or a scarf. Mean teachers like me do checks every recess and dismissal time to make sure that our students are well dressed and protected from the cold. We are met with grunts of disapproval but I would rather hear that than have to deal with frostbitten fingers or cold, wet jeans any day.
4. We don’t plan every single minute of the school day.
There are times when I have students who finish their assignments quickly and they ask me what they can do. I tend to deflect this exact question by asking them to do something quietly. At the beginning of the school year, I am usually looked at with stunned looks because my third graders have no idea how to go about finding something quiet to do all by themselves. It’s as if they need to be told what to do, have the attention of an adult at all times, or having something entertaining ready for them in a moment’s notice. Life if not like that at all and in today’s technology filled world, children haven’t learned to occupy their time when an adult or an iPad isn’t around.
5. We make them earn their rewards.
This is a touchy subject now-a-days as a lot of people, parents, schools and organizations have adopted an “everyone gets a prize” mentality. However, there are a lot of teachers out there that teach their students that if they want a special privilege or recognition, they must work towards it. If a teacher is targeting behaviour and sets an clear expectation for a student or a whole class, the target for that behaviour must be met in order to receive the reward. Some students follow behaviour trackers with clear expectations and goals. If a student doesn’t meet those expectations or goals then he/ she does not deserve the reward. Plain and simple. And just in case you are wondering, teachers get no satisfaction out of saying no to students when they do not merit a special mention or reward. In fact, it probably hurts teachers more when we have to withhold a reward. But to give them away for nothing may make the student feel good in the short term but does more harm than good in the long run.
#6. We make them work when they don’t want to.
Most of the time, students will refuse to work when they are facing something new and difficult for them. Our jobs as educators is to push them through that mental wall. We use compassion, humour, authority, puppets, high fives, threats, and whatever else we have in our arsenal of tricks to get our students to attempt and, for the most part, complete their work. If you look back throughout the course of an entire academic year, with all the different subject material, assignments, projects, and evaluations, and you see just what you were able to get your students to accomplish, you understand your influence as a teacher and motivator. Not every child comes to school every single day and wants to be there and give 100% all of the time. Face it… as a teacher you can’t even say the same – but we do it, we get our students to do it, and we are all the more better for it.
#7. We have rules and we stick to them.
As teachers, we are the ones who set the tone and expectations for our classrooms. We are also the ones who must make sure our classroom and school rules are being followed. This is not always easy when you have 25 students in your class who come from 25 different family situations and within those 25 different families there are values and mores that might be different from yours. Behaviours that might be allowed or tolerated at home might not exactly be the same as what we allow or tolerate in our classrooms. Mean teachers set their behavioural expectations right from the first day of school and reinforce them throughout the school year. Students, and even some parents, might not like it but mean teachers are in control of all aspects of their classes.
#8. We make sure they choose healthy options for snacks.
While I cannot control what parents choose to put in their child’s lunch boxes for snacks and meals, I do have a certain amount of control over when my students eat specific snacks. My rule is that for the morning snack, my students must eat something that comes from a cow, is grown in the ground, or is grown on a bush or tree. Fresh fruit, veggies, and dairy products are what my students must choose for their morning snack. This makes me highly unpopular some mornings as some students really look forward to opening their rice crispy squares or chocolate covered granola bars but I stick to my rule of no processed foods or cookies during morning snack time. I encourage them to save those types of snacks to eat as a dessert AFTER they finish eating their main course at lunch.
#9. We ignore them sometimes.
One thing I have learned as a parent and as a teacher is that children will do just about anything to gain your attention at the most inappropriate times. This happens on a daily basis in our classrooms. Have you ever been speaking or listening to someone and have a student jump in and interrupt you? Have you had a student try to pick a fight with you in class? Have you been witness to an epic meltdown because a student didn’t like something you have asked him/ her to do? Of course you have! Mean teachers don’t try to defuse the situation by acting all soft and giving in to the negative behaviours. Mean teachers tend to ignore students when they are exhibiting behaviours like this. Why? In some situations, by giving students attention during these types of situations validates the behaviour and encourages the behaviour to escalate. By directing attention to the students who are behaving properly, students learn to be patient, wait their turn, and they also learn that their teachers just don’t accept behaviour like that.
#10. We teach them that the world does not revolve around them.
Being a student in a room of 20 + students can be difficult for some. Most of our students come from families of 2 or 3 children so trying to find their place within a large classroom setting is not the easiest thing to do. We come into contact with children who lack the life experience that tells them that the attention of the single teacher in the room has to be shared with multiple children at the same time. Mean teachers teach their students to wait, to be patient, to stand in lines, to stay quiet when necessary, to share, to walk on the right side of the hallway and the stairwell, to use please and thank you appropriately, to think of their personal space and the personal space of others, and so on and so on because quite frankly, that is what society expects them to know. Yes, our students should feel that they are the centre of their parent’s world…. but that sentiment doesn’t transfer well into the classroom. So sometimes, ignoring a student when he/ she is exhibiting less than appropriate behaviour is the most effective way get a student to change a negative behaviour.
One thing is for certain, these 10 items I have listed here are NOT included in the current educational curriculum of any school board I know of. Mean teachers add them to their daily teachings because they are important life lessons that, when introduced and re-inforced at a young age, become the foundation in which students base their future behaviour on.
Have a great day!