"If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape one hundred days of sorrow." Chinese proverb
This is the fourth in a series of five articles about dealing with high proportions of students suffering from poverty; if you missed the first 3 articles, click on the following links:
- Part I; The Culture of Poverty - Does it Make Classroom Management More Difficult? ...Income maps of the country as well as the state of Alabama are featured here along with several resources dealing with socioeconomics.
- Part II; The Culture of Poverty - Does it Make Classroom Management More Difficult? ...Art teachers were surveyed and asked various questions, including what their main concerns were related to classroom management.
- Part III; The Culture of Poverty - How Student Behavior Is Effected ...More results from the teacher survey are illustrated in this article.
- Part V: What We Can Do, the final article in this series, will feature a collection of resources and strategies.
|**7th grade Cubist tempera painting|
Here is the story of my middle school experience in 1985: several of my teachers at that time exemplified "what not to do" when frustrated. The summer before my 7th grade year, my parents could no longer afford to send my brother, sister, and me to the private school where we had gone since kindergarten. So, my siblings and I were enrolled in a small, rural, public school where the behavior of the teachers and the students shocked me, to say the least. A few weeks before school started, my neighbor warned me about that middle school. She was also going into 7th grade and I will never forget her statement, "You don't want to go to that school - it's a BAD school! The kids get into fights every day!"
I was not from a (financially) rich family even though my parents did own their own home and my dad held a college degree. As a matter of fact, when we transferred to the public school my siblings and I qualified for "reduced lunch." However, for the first time in my life, I met truly "poor" kids (they all thought I was poor, too!) and was confronted with a secular culture in extreme contrast to my own. The culture shock that I experienced was characterized by several variables: church school vs. public school, educated families vs. uneducated, city vs. rural, middle class vs. poverty. It seemed as though the kids and the teachers were in a constant power struggle - kids vs. teachers and kids vs. kids.
Several of these teachers used to scream at the children (daily) in attempts to discipline unruly behavior. My science teacher would regularly break down into tears when the kids wouldn't be quiet, and my home-room teacher would get so angry with the students that he literally threw a desk across the room. That same teacher used to rip his whistle off of his neck and throw it AT the students, screaming the whole time. My social studies teacher used to kick metal trash cans across the room to put on an intimidating show of power, yelling and lecturing whomever happened to be in trouble. I had the same teachers again in 8th grade; why they were still employed is beyond me!
The kids at my middle school also sought to prove how powerful they were and would get into fist fights. They teased each other mercilessly, were well-versed in the language of sex (in 7th and 8th grades) - some smoked, some drank and did drugs and made no effort to hide their lifestyle. Kids glorified fighting, bullying, and persecuting teachers. They cheated on tests, copied each others' homework, and ridiculed kids (like me) who made good grades. They would laugh when others were disciplined, and to me this was shocking. They all thought I was pretty strange because I did not laugh (and for other reasons - people still think I'm an odd duck!)
I have been watching teachers all my life, learning from the best and from the worst. I think it is human nature to take the actions of others personally, and it is instinctive to get angry and upset. However, this is guaranteed to undermine everything a teacher is trying to do in the classroom:
"A single flash of anger can undo weeks of rapport building with your students. When you yell, scold, use sarcasm, or otherwise lose your cool, you distance yourself from your students and undermine their trust and respect of you. You become less approachable, less likeable, and less influential—all critical keys to creating a well-behaved classroom." 6 Teacher Personality Traits That Make Classroom Management More Difficult, by Michael Linsin
|**8th grade Cubist interpretation - tempera paint|
After I started researching classroom management techniques last year, I came upon this jewel from expert Fred Jones at educationworld.com:
"It takes roughly 27 minutes for adrenaline to clear the bloodstream. During that time, your brain 'downshifts' to the brainstem. Even with mild upset, you are in 'survival mode.' In 27 minutes, you'll be back into your cortex. Then you can think and reason again....Now, let me give you a piece of advice about managing a classroom. You will do a much better job with a cortex. When you downshift, a classroom suddenly becomes thirty cortexes manipulating one brainstem. Those are not even odds."
Also, educator and author Michael Linsin has a lot to say about self-control and classroom management: "Frequent sighs, rolling eyes, red-faced lectures. Outward signs of frustration can cause enveloping, knife-cutting tension in your classroom. When you allow students to get under your skin, it not only makes your classroom unnerving and unpleasant, but it causes students to challenge your authority and test you whenever they get the chance." 6 Teacher Personality Traits That Make Classroom Management More Difficult, by Michael Linsin
"Taking poor student behavior personally: revenge isn't sweet, it's self-sabotage. Letting your emotions get involved in classroom management will cloud your judgment, make you do things you will regret, and alienate your students." The 9 Biggest Classroom Management Mistakes Teachers Make, by Michael Linsin
"Adrenaline increases your metabolism producing 'nervous energy;' it takes 27 minutes for adrenaline to leave the bloodstream. Translated into everyday terms, two 'squirrelly' student behaviors per class period will keep you 'wired' all day. Most teachers think being on your toes just goes with the territory. Running on adrenaline all day, however, builds up an energy debt, just as athletes build up an energy debt when they compete. You will feel that energy debt about 27 minutes after the students go home; it's the letdown that has you muttering, 'Boy, what a day!' You'll take that exhaustion home to your family. You'll feel like sitting rather than being active. You'll have little tolerance for more stress, and normal family demands will make you want to scream, 'Give me a break!' Regardless of your pay scale, you are paying too high a price for earning a living." Meaning Business Part I; Calm is Strength, Upset is Weakness, Fred Jones, education world.com
"When you react emotionally to misbehavior you undermine true accountability—because it causes students to blame you, direct their simmering anger at you, and justify for their misbehavior. In other words, it replaces healthy reflection with excuses." 11 Reasons Why You Should Never, Ever Lose Your Cool, by Michael Linsin
"'What about students from disadvantaged backgrounds?' The question never ceases to knock me back on my heels because, truth be told, every strategy on (smartclassroommanagement.com) has been developed in classrooms with students living in among the most challenging circumstances. Disadvantaged, crime-ridden, poverty-stricken, you name it. The fact is, it doesn’t matter where you teach or who shows up on your roster, the well-behaved classroom you long for is within your grasp. But there is an obstacle blocking the path of so many teachers in their quest for a dream class. It’s a negative attitude. For if you don’t believe it’s possible to transform your class, if your default setting is to point the finger at outside circumstances, if you’re in the habit of bemoaning the make up of your classroom or the neighborhood you teach in, then it will never happen for you." Are You Sabotaging Your Classroom Management Success?, by Michael Linsin
"My life is in the hands of any fool who can make me angry." Fred Jones, Tools For Teaching
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." James 1:19-20
"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1
*"Bullying is not about anger. It's not even about conflict. It's about contempt - a powerful feeling of dislike toward somebody considered to be worthless, inferior, or undeserving of respect. Contempt comes packaged with three apparent psychological advantages that allow (people) to harm another human being without feeling empathy, compassion, or shame:1. A sense of entitlement - the privilege and right to control, dominate, subjugate, and otherwise abuse another human being.2. An intolerance toward differences - different equals inferior and thus not worthy of respect.3. A liberty to exclude - to bar, isolate, and segregate a person deemed not worthy of respect or care. In other words, bullying is arrogance in action." The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, Barbara Coloroso, 2003
**All student paintings from Mrs. Nichols' classroom. We do this semi-annual project based on art history; students choose an artist to research and design an original painting based on that artists' style. Students combine a modern cartoon with the style. I call it, "Cartoon Art History."
article by Mrs. Anna Nichols