Thursday, December 07, 2006

Guess who's not going to the Omaha zoo?

A friend of mine tells the story of her sister driving her family a couple of hours from Des Moines (please don't pronounce the "s", people) to Omaha to go to the Henry Doorly Zoo- a wonderful place. Her children kept behaving poorly in the car, bickering and snarking and sniping at each other at every turn. She of course gave the obligatory "Stop that!" and "If you guys don't shape up, I am turning this car around and we will not go to the zoo at all!" That threat is the one that is sooo lose-lose, and we all make that threat, yet few have the cajones to actually follow through. But, those who do get their reward later, because all it takes is once and your kids know you mean business. This woman? She had the cajones and later called my friend to tell her "Guess who didn't go to the Omaha zoo?". It has since become a catch phrase for us to mean "I carried out a threat I made and now I kind of feel crappy about it even though I know that fundamentally I am right."

In my Spanish 4 class I have the kids do a required number of "Anuncios". This is where they have to tell the class something in Spanish, of course, about any topic of their choice. It does not have to be long, but they do need to be intelligible and try and use current vocab and grammar structures as much as possible. They must also be able to answer some simple questions/carry on a short conversation. I am really a hard ass about them talking during this time. I have the rule that if they are talking during someone else's anuncio, I will give them a zero. Usually, I just give them the fish eye or perhaps "shush" them in a particularly bitchy tone and that seems to do the trick. But, I have several students who think if they are whispering about what's going on in class that it's ok. It's not- I can't hear as well, it's distracting, not to mention rude as hell. Well, today the kids started class in jackass mode- all ready to do a bunch of nothing and I reined them in pretty well and warned them that if they were at all talking during anuncios, they would get a zero and I wasn't going to warn them or tell them, I was just going to give them a zero. One pair of girls had to push it, I gave them zeros. Then another couple of kids. That was all. 2 of the girls are lovely young ladies, smart, good skills, good students, nice families, beautiful. I can't help but think they've gotten away with a lot because of this. One of them approached me after class- she was really upset, almost in tears. "I hope I didn't get a zero." I told her that she certainly did and that she talks all the time and I'm tired of it. She got kind of huffy and said that she was talking about what was going on in class and that she did NOT talk all the time and that she didn't understand why she had to get a zero for something stupid. I told her that I'd already explained it to her and that the conversation was over. I see no point in engaging them when they act like that.

Then, I felt like an ass. What to do? They didn't get to go to the zoo. Should I give them another chance? Or am I a part of the problem then?


Blogger Adeline said...

teacher problems.
In my hopeless job interview this summer (the one where she decided she wasn't going to hire me before she even interviewed me) she asked me if I ever thought about my disciplinary action after the fact.

What is the right answer to that question?

I said yes. I think it is smart to do so. But the thing is this: what is done is done. If she acts petty about it, I might consider a comment like

"Oh, you're still upset about that?"

It seems that would fall into the category of "okay". (?)

Every teacher has to come down to the nitty gritty sometimes and call the hard shots. Either one is a push over or one is a bitch. I didn't start teaching so I could make friends with high schoolers.

Everything I do in class should be justifiable on the basis of the goals for the class, as near as I can tell. Sometimes the behavior just has to stop. I am willing to bet she won't do it again, but she may not be your biggest fan. Oral practice is HARD. You are absolutely doing the right thing, I believe.

12/08/2006 1:30 AM  
Blogger harpo the dog said...

I agree, you did do the right thing. You can't give empty threats, what good does that do? I know we all do it, and sometimes they do fall into place with it, but not always. I bet next time they will think twice about breaking the rules.

12/08/2006 10:21 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Please, please, please, on behalf of all college instructors everywhere, stick to your guns! I would like it if students come to college understanding the concept that not all rules are meant to be broken and that some teachers mean what they say. And - finally - if your instructor tells you to do (or not do) something, do NOT think, "She doesn't mean me." Because yes, we mean YOU!

12/09/2006 11:38 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

I've found that if you don't actually do what you say you're going to do, you'll end up with chaos. My Fifth Period class is very bright but they can't shut up. When one of my students decided he couldn't control himself and had to whisper during a quiz, I had him bring his quiz up to me. By this time every kid is looking at me wondering what's going on, so I (with much flair) tear his quiz up and then wad it up and tossed it in the trash. There wasn't a peep out of them the rest of the period. Ironically, the whisperer is the son of one of my best friends and a fellow teacher in our building. She thanked me for following through on my threat.

12/09/2006 8:18 PM  
Blogger Wendy Boucher said...

You are my idol. Don't ever change.

12/12/2006 8:47 PM  
Blogger marsha_tm said...

(The sound of me clapping.)

You absolutely did the right thing. Do not take those badasses to the zoo!

You know, my daughter just had a similar experience. She is always well behaved, and the teachers love her, but they were practicing for the holiday show and were given strict instructions that anyone talking out of turn would NOT get to be in the dance portion of the program.

Guess who was talking, and didn't get to GO TO THE ZOO?

She was pretty upset, but confessed that she was, in fact, talking when she wasn't supposed to. I think it was a good wake-up call for her that she can't always slide by on her 'reputation.' The teacher was very apologetic to me, but I told her I admired her for standing her ground. Out of earshot of my daughter, of course.

12/14/2006 2:21 PM  

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